Short Story Review: Ibn-Hakam al-Bokhari, Murdered in His Labyrinth

Ibn-Hakam al-Bokhari, Murdered in His Labyrinth by Jorge Luis Borges is less than seven pages long, yet I remember it more vividly than entire novels I’ve read.

It starts on a blustery English coast with two young literary gentlemen discussing a local legend, and unfolds from there into a story that is part fairy tale, part murder mystery, part friendship chronicle, and part fever dream. The main location and central image is a labyrinth, constructed on a hilltop in England by an exiled king as a home and a refuge from a terrible vengeance.

The story shifts on every page, in nearly every sentence, like jewel in a ray of light. Just when you think you’ve seen every facet, another one slides into view, betraying the incompleteness of what you saw before. Like Iain Pear’s masterpiece of misdirection, An Instance of the Fingerpost, this little tale delightfully puts you off balance from the first word to the last.

I mention it here because I reread it as part of my short fiction binge this autumn. It falls solidly into the category of stories which seem to achieve as much as novels, and which also achieve what only short stories can, relying on a density of sensory impression and a strangeness it would be impossible to sustain for more than a few pages.

And for me, the spooky season is pretty much year-round, though my craving for the gothic is strongest from the autumn to the spring equinoxes.

Any good spooky short story recommendations?

One comment

  1. Why not a collection of a dozen or so or more of this hybrid fiction. Seems like you’ve already got a very good start. I will start looking for these gems.

Comments are closed.