The Library of Babel

The Library of Babel

Lockdown Reading.

Last year, a few of my 7th grade students made a request to allow them to sit in one of my philosophy classes. I warned them that they might not enjoy it as much as they presume.

S - "No sir, please let us sit with you".
M - "Alright then. The pre-reading for the next session is The Library of Babel by Jorge Luis Borges"
S - "Is it long?"
M - "Not at all"
S - "Is it easy?"
M - "That's relative. Come to class."

And that is how I never saw them in my class again...

If you want to begin reading Borges and get a sense of his genius, I recommend starting with The Library of Babel. Borges is at his "meta" best. A master of symbolism and allegory, you can't help but think in two planes simultaneously while reading the story.

The Library of Babel is "Total".  It contains:

All-the detailed history of the future, the autobiographies of the archangels, the faithful catalog of the Library, thousands and thousands of false catalogs, the proof of the falsity of those false catalogs, a proof of the falsity of the true catalog, the gnostic gospel of Basilides, the commentary upon that gospel, the commentary on the commentary on that gospel, the true story of your death, the translation of every book into every language, the interpolations of every book into all books, the treatise Bede could have written (but did not) on the mythology of the Saxon people, the lost books of Tacitus."

His writing is magical. Short, clear and utterly mild-boggling. Read the book here:

And then go to:

A marvellous website complementing the beauty of the book and translating it into code. This site contains: "every book that ever has been written, and every book that ever could be - including every play, every song, every scientific paper, every legal decision, every constitution, every piece of scripture, and so on. At present it contains all possible pages of 3200 characters, about 104677 books."

Yes, that's correct. It also contains the story of your life. Your past, your future. Can you find it?

Warning: This road leads to strange places, where you lose sense of time. I have been there. Maybe I am there right now! If you do come, I hope to find you there. It may take a few millennia. Along the way, we will find the book of longevity. See you there.

Show Comments