An Examination of the Work of Herbert Quain  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
An Examination of the Work of Herbert Quain (original Spanish title: Examen de la obra de Herbert Quain) is a 1941 short story by Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges. It was included in the anthology Ficciones, part one (The Garden of Forking Paths). The title has also been translated as A Survey of the Works of Herbert Quain.

Plot summary

The "story" is simply a description of the literary works supposedly written between 1933 and 1939 by a deceased English author named Quain. The review of fictional books is a favorite device of Borges.

  • The God of the Labyrinth (1933), a detective story in which the solution given is wrong, although this fact is not immediately obvious
  • April March (1936), a novel with nine different beginnings, trifurcating backwards in time
  • The Secret Mirror, a play in which the first act is the work of one of the characters in the second act
  • Statements (1939), eight stories which are deliberately calculated to disappoint the reader; The Circular Ruins is supposedly an extract from the third story, "The Rose of Yesterday"

The piece is amazingly similar in tone and method to Vladimir Nabokov's The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, a full-length novel published in the same year, although the writers were then unaware of each others' existence.


In his 1984 novel, The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis (Original Portuguese title O ano da morte de Ricardo Reis), José Saramago's protagonist, Ricardo Reis, spends much time considering the work The God of the Labyrinth by Herbert Quain. Ricardo Reis is also a heteronym of twentieth century Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "An Examination of the Work of Herbert Quain" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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