Monday, December 29, 2008

Quote of the Day: Borges, "Library of Babel"

It seems like I am thinking about Babel/Babble lately with my last post and just (re)reading "Library of Babel" by Borges. I had read this short story in college, and it has persisted in my memory ever since. This library is eternal and infinite. Each room is a hexagon with the same number of shelves and books on each wall (except two). Two walls lead to adjacent hexagons, while a spiral staircase infinitely moves up and down to different floors with ever new hexagons. There are no two books alike in the library, but the books contain all possible combinations of twenty-five symbols, with all possible syntaxes, languages, books, writing, and, well, babble. As such, this same blog posting will be already found somewhere in the library (as well as any past and future postings I may write and miswrite). The inhabitants of this library are called librarians. The main character is a librarian who has been searching for the book of books, the catalogue of catalogues, all of his life...and has failed. This character reflectively writes:

In adventures such as these, I have squandered and wasted my years. It does not seem unlikely to me that there is a total book on some shelf of the universe; I pray to the unknown gods that a man--just one, even though it were thousands of years ago!--may have examined and read it. If honor and wisdom and happiness are not for me, let them be for others. Let heaven exist, though my place be in hell. Let me be outraged and annihilated, but for one instant, in one being, let Your enormous Library be justified. (trans. James E. Irby)

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