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Posts Tagged ‘The Library Of Babel’

My favorite favorite Jorge Luis Borges stories are the ones in A Universal History Of Infamy.  I love the way Borges plays fast and loose with historical events and cites completely fabricated sources like they’re factual, which is always cool unless you’re doing it for some kind of evil propaganda-like purposes.  I also love how Borges takes stories that could very well be novels and condenses them into a few pages.  They’re more like film treatments than short stories, but they’re still a lot of fun to read.  Every time I steal one of those aforementioned techniques for my own stories, I make sure to say a little prayer of gratitude to Senor Borges.

I can’t seem to find anything from Infamy online, so here’s “The Library Of Babel,” which is still really great, in case you hadn’t heard already.  It’s a heady meditation on language, God, infinity, and some other stuff too, all in under 3,000 words:

The universe (which others call the Library) is composed of an indefinite and perhaps infinite number of hexagonal galleries, with vast air shafts between, surrounded by very low railings. From any of the hexagons one can see, interminably, the upper and lower floors. The distribution of the galleries is invariable. Twenty shelves, five long shelves per side, cover all the sides except two; their height, which is the distance from floor to ceiling, scarcely exceeds that of a normal bookcase. One of the free sides leads to a narrow hallway which opens onto another gallery, identical to the first and to all the rest. To the left and right of the hallway there are two very small closets. In the first, one may sleep standing up; in the other, satisfy one’s fecal necessities. Also through here passes a spiral stairway, which sinks abysmally and soars upwards to remote distances. In the hallway there is a mirror which faithfully duplicates all appearances. Men usually infer from this mirror that the Library is not infinite (if it were, why this illusory duplication?); I prefer to dream that its polished surfaces represent and promise the infinite … Light is provided by some spherical fruit which bear the name of lamps. There are two, transversally placed, in each hexagon. The light they emit is insufficient, incessant.

Read all of “The Library Of Babel”

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