Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Library of Babel

Short Story by Jorge Luis Borges

The universe (which others call the Library)...
Those are the first words of Borges' story "The Library of Babel, which starts off mostly thought experiment about an infinite library which contains all possible books, and therefore most books are nonsense since they are just random assortments of letters without meaning. Of course, there may be languages in which those combinations of letters make sense.

But what really makes this a story is that it becomes, through description of the mostly meaningless books, about the people, the infinitely populous race of librarians, who may soon become extinct through suicide. They search for meaning in the library (and therefore life), they form civilizations, inquisitions, and religions based around finding the book that is an index of the library. Of course, there must also be many more books that look like indices, but are mostly or completely incorrect.

So what is the point? The narrator is kept going by vain hope that there is order in the chaos, that it is only incomprehensible because our lives are finite.

5 shelves per wall, forever.

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