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object:The Library of Babel
class:short story
author class:Jorge Luis Borges
The Library of Babel, by Jorge Luis Borges (1941)
By this art you may contemplate the variations of the 23 letters...
The Anatomy of Melancholy, part 2, sect. II, mem. IV
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.
Like all men of the Library, I have traveled in my youth; I have wandered in
search of a book, perhaps the catalogue of catalogues; now that my eyes can
hardly decipher what I write, I am preparing to die just a few leagues from the
hexagon in which I was born. Once I am dead, there will be no lack of pious
hands to throw me over the railing; my grave will be the fathomless air; my body
will sink endlessly and decay and dissolve in the wind generated by the fall,
which is infinite. I say that the Library is unending. The idealists argue that the
hexagonal rooms are a necessary form of absolute space or, at least, of our
intuition of space. They reason that a triangular or pentagonal room is
inconceivable. (The mystics claim that their ecstasy reveals to them a circular
chamber containing a great circular book, whose spine is continuous and which
follows the complete circle of the walls; but their testimony is suspect; their
words, obscure. This cyclical book is God.) Let it suffice now for me to repeat the
classic dictum: The Library is a sphere whose exact center is any one of its
hexagons and whose circumference is inaccessible.
There are five shelves for each of the hexagon's walls; each shelf contains
thirty-five books of uniform format; each book is of four hundred and ten pages;
each page, of forty lines, each line, of some eighty letters which are black in
color. There are also letters on the spine of each book; these letters do not
indicate or prefigure what the pages will say. I know that this incoherence at one
time seemed mysterious. Before summarizing the solution (whose discovery, in
spite of its tragic projections, is perhaps the capital fact in history) I wish to recall
a few axioms.
First: The Library exists ab aeterno. This truth, whose immediate corollary is
the future eternity of the world, cannot be placed in doubt by any reasonable
mind. Man, the imperfect librarian, may be the product of chance or of malevolent
demiurgi; the universe, with its elegant endowment of shelves, of enigmatical
volumes, of inexhaustible stairways for the traveler and latrines for the seated
librarian, can only be the work of a god. To perceive the distance between the
divine and the human, it is enough to compare these crude wavering symbols
which my fallible hand scrawls on the cover of a book, with the organic letters
inside: punctual, delicate, perfectly black, inimitably symmetrical.
Second: The orthographical symbols are twenty-five in number.1 This finding
made it possible, three hundred years ago, to formulate a general theory of the
Library and solve satisfactorily the problem which no conjecture had deciphered:
the formless and chaotic nature of almost all the books. One which my father saw
in a hexagon on circuit fifteen ninety-four was made up of the letters MCV,
perversely repeated from the first line to the last. Another (very much consulted
in this area) is a mere labyrinth of letters, but the next-to-last page says Oh time
thy pyramids. This much is already known: for every sensible line of
straightforward statement, there are leagues of senseless cacophonies, verbal
jumbles and incoherences. (I know of an uncouth region whose librarians
repudiate the vain and superstitious custom of finding a meaning in books and
equate it with that of finding a meaning in dreams or in the chaotic lines of one's
palm ... They admit that the inventors of this writing imitated the twenty-five
natural symbols, but maintain that this application is accidental and that the
books signify nothing in themselves. This dictum, we shall see, is not entirely
For a long time it was believed that these impenetrable books corresponded
to past or remote languages. It is true that the most ancient men, the first
librarians, used a language quite different from the one we now speak; it is true
that a few miles to the right the tongue is dialectical and that ninety floors farther
up, it is incomprehensible. All this, I repeat, is true, but four hundred and ten
pages of inalterable MCV's cannot correspond to any language, no matter how
dialectical or rudimentary it may be. Some insinuated that each letter could
influence the following one and that the value of MCV in the third line of page 71
was not the one the same series may have in another position on another page,
but this vague thesis did not prevail. Others thought of cryptographs; generally,
this conjecture has been accepted, though not in the sense in which it was
formulated by its originators.
Five hundred years ago, the chief of an upper hexagon2 came upon a book
as confusing as the others, but which had nearly two pages of homogeneous
lines. He showed his find to a wandering decoder who told him the lines were
written in Portuguese; others said they were Yiddish. Within a century, the
language was established: a Samoyedic Lithuanian dialect of Guarani, with
classical Arabian inflections. The content was also deciphered: some notions of
combinative analysis, illustrated with examples of variations with unlimited
repetition. These examples made it possible for a librarian of genius to discover
the fundamental law of the Library. This thinker observed that all the books, no
matter how diverse they might be, are made up of the same elements: the space,
the period, the comma, the twenty-two letters of the alphabet. He also alleged a
fact which travelers have confirmed: In the vast Library there are no two identical
books. From these two incontrovertible premises he deduced that the Library is
total and that its shelves register all the possible combinations of the twenty-odd
orthographical symbols (a number which, though extremely vast, is not infinite):
Everything: the minutely detailed history of the future, the archangels'
autobiographies, the faithful catalogues of the Library, thousands and thousands
of false catalogues, the demonstration of the fallacy of those catalogues, the
demonstration of the fallacy of the true catalogue, the Gnostic gospel of
Basilides, the commentary on that gospel, the commentary on the commentary
on that gospel, the true story of your death, the translation of every book in all
languages, the interpolations of every book in all books.
When it was proclaimed that the Library contained all books, the first
impression was one of extravagant happiness. All men felt themselves to be the
masters of an intact and secret treasure. There was no personal or world
problem whose eloquent solution did not exist in some hexagon. The universe
was justified, the universe suddenly usurped the unlimited dimensions of hope.
At that time a great deal was said about the Vindications: books of apology and
prophecy which vindicated for all time the acts of every man in the universe and
retained prodigious arcana for his future. Thousands of the greedy abandoned
their sweet native hexagons and rushed up the stairways, urged on by the vain
intention of finding their Vindication. These pilgrims disputed in the narrow
corridors, proferred dark curses, strangled each other on the divine stairways,
flung the deceptive books into the air shafts, met their death cast down in a
similar fashion by the inhabitants of remote regions. Others went mad ... The
Vindications exist (I have seen two which refer to persons of the future, to
persons who are perhaps not imaginary) but the searchers did not remember that
the possibility of a man's finding his Vindication, or some treacherous variation
thereof, can be computed as zero.
At that time it was also hoped that a clarification of humanity's basic
mysteries -- the origin of the Library and of time -- might be found. It is verisimilar
that these grave mysteries could be explained in words: if the language of
philosophers is not sufficient, the multiform Library will have produced the
unprecedented language required, with its vocabularies and grammars. For four
centuries now men have exhausted the hexagons ... There are official searchers,
inquisitors. I have seen them in the performance of their function: they always
arrive extremely tired from their journeys; they speak of a broken stairway which
almost killed them; they talk with the librarian of galleries and stairs; sometimes
they pick up the nearest volume and leaf through it, looking for infamous words.
Obviously, no one expects to discover anything.
As was natural, this inordinate hope was followed by an excessive
depression. The certitude that some shelf in some hexagon held precious books
and that these precious books were inaccessible, seemed almost intolerable. A
blasphemous sect suggested that the searches should cease and that all men
should juggle letters and symbols until they constructed, by an improbable gift of
chance, these canonical books. The authorities were obliged to issue severe
orders. The sect disappeared, but in my childhood I have seen old men who, for
long periods of time, would hide in the latrines with some metal disks in a
forbidden dice cup and feebly mimic the divine disorder.
Others, inversely, believed that it was fundamental to eliminate useless
works. They invaded the hexagons, showed credentials which were not always
false, leafed through a volume with displeasure and condemned whole shelves:
their hygienic, ascetic furor caused the senseless perdition of millions of books.
Their name is execrated, but those who deplore the "treasures" destroyed by
this frenzy neglect two notable facts. One: the Library is so enormous that any
reduction of human origin is infinitesimal. The other: every copy is unique,
irreplaceable, but (since the Library is total) there are always several hundred
thousand imperfect facsimiles: works which differ only in a letter or a comma.
Counter to general opinion, I venture to suppose that the consequences of the
Purifiers' depredations have been exaggerated by the horror these fanatics
produced. They were urged on by the delirium of trying to reach the books in the
Crimson Hexagon: books whose format is smaller than usual, all-powerful,
illustrated and magical.
We also know of another superstition of that time: that of the Man of the
Book. On some shelf in some hexagon (men reasoned) there must exist a book
which is the formula and perfect compendium of all the rest: some librarian has
gone through it and he is analogous to a god. In the language of this zone
vestiges of this remote functionary's cult still persist. Many wandered in search of
Him. For a century they have exhausted in vain the most varied areas. How
could one locate the venerated and secret hexagon which housed Him?
Someone proposed a regressive method: To locate book A, consult first book B
which indicates A's position; to locate book B, consult first a book C, and so on to
infinity ... 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
universe3; 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. The impious maintain that
nonsense is normal in the Library and that the reasonable (and even humble and
pure coherence) is an almost miraculous exception. They speak (I know) of the
"feverish Library whose chance volumes are constantly in danger of changing
into others and affirm, negate and confuse everything like a delirious divinity."
These words, which not only denounce the disorder but exemplify it as well,
notoriously prove their authors' abominable taste and desperate ignorance. In
truth, the Library includes all verbal structures, all variations permitted by the
twenty-five orthographical symbols, but not a single example of absolute
nonsense. It is useless to observe that the best volume of the many hexagons
under my administration is entitled The Combed Thunderclap and another The
Plaster Cramp and another Axaxaxas mlo. These phrases, at first glance
incoherent, can no doubt be justified in a cryptographical or allegorical manner;
such a justification is verbal and, ex hypothesi, already figures in the Library. I
cannot combine some characters
which the divine Library has not foreseen and which in one of its secret
tongues do not contain a terrible meaning. No one can articulate a syllable which
is not filled with tenderness and fear, which is not, in one of these languages, the
powerful name of a god. To speak is to fall into tautology. This wordy and
useless epistle already exists in one of the thirty volumes of the five shelves of
one of the innumerable hexagons -- and its refutation as well. (An n number of
possible languages use the same vocabulary; in some of them, the symbol
library allows the correct definition a ubiquitous and lasting system of hexagonal
galleries, but library is bread or pyramid or anything else, and these seven words
which define it have another value. You who read me, are You sure of
understanding my language?)
The methodical task of writing distracts me from the present state of men.
The certitude that everything has been written negates us or turns us into
phantoms. I know of districts in which the young men prostrate themselves
before books and kiss their pages in a barbarous manner, but they do not know
how to decipher a single letter. Epidemics, heretical conflicts, peregrinations
which inevitably degenerate into banditry, have decimated the population. I
believe I have mentioned suicides, more and more frequent with the years.
Perhaps my old age and fearfulness deceive me, but I suspect that the human
species -- the unique species -- is about to be extinguished, but the Library will
endure: illuminated, solitary, infinite, perfectly motionless, equipped with precious
volumes, useless, incorruptible, secret.
I have just written the word "infinite".' I have not interpolated this adjective out
of rhetorical habit; I say that it is not illogical to think that the world is infinite.
Those who judge it to be limited postulate that in remote places the corridors and
stairways and hexagons can conceivably come to an end -- which is absurd.
Those who imagine it to be without limit forget that the possible number of books
does have such a limit. I venture to suggest this solution to the ancient problem:
The Library is unlimited and cyclical. If an eternal traveler were to cross it in any
direction, after centuries he would see that the same volumes were repeated in
the same disorder (which, thus repeated, would be an order: the Order). My
solitude is gladdened by this elegant hope4.
Translated by J. E. I.

The original manuscript does not contain digits or capital letters. The punctuation has been
limited to the comma and the period. These two signs, the space and the twenty-two letters of the
alphabet are the twenty-five symbols considered sufficient by this unknown author. (Editor's
Before, there was a man for every three hexagons. Suicide and pulmonary diseases have
destroyed that proportion. A memory of unspeakable melancholy: at times I have traveled for
many nights through corridors and along polished stairways without finding a single librarian.
I repeat: it suffices that a book be possible for it to exist. Only the impossible is excluded. For
example: no book can be a ladder, although no doubt there are books which discuss and negate
and demonstrate this possibility and others whose structure corresponds to that of a ladder.
Letizia Alvarez de Toledo has observed that this vast Library is useless: rigorously speaking, a
single volume would be sufficient, a volume of ordinary format, printed in nine or ten point type,
containing an infinite number if infinitely thin leaves. (In the early seventeenth century, Cavalieri
said that all solid bodies are the superimposition of an infinite number of planes.) The handling of

this silky vade mecum would not be convenient: each apparent page would unfold into other
analogous ones; the inconceivable middle page would have no reverse.

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The Library of Babel
The Library Of Babel 2
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--- DICTIONARIES (in Dictionaries, in Quotes, in Chapters)

--- QUOTES [2 / 2 - 3 / 3] (in Dictionaries, in Quotes, in Chapters)

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   2 Jorge Luis Borges


1:I pray to the unknown gods that some man-even a single man, tens of centuries ago-has perused and read that book. If the honor and wisdom and joy of such a reading are not to be my own, then let them be for others. Let heaven exist, though my own place be in hell. Let me be tortured and battered and annihilated, but let there be one instant, one creature, wherein thy enormous Library may find its justification. ~ Jorge Luis Borges, The Library of Babel ,
2:From these two incontrovertible premises he deduced that the Library is total and that its shelves register all the possible combinations of the twenty-odd orthographical symbols (a number which, though extremely vast, is not infinite): in other words, all that it is given to express, in all languages. Everything: the minutely detailed history of the future, the archangels' autobiographies, the faithful catalogue of the Library, thousands and thousands of false catalogues, the demonstration of the fallacy of those catalogues, the demonstration of the fallacy of the true catalogue, the Gnostic gospel of Basilides, the commentary on that gospel, the commentary on the commentary on that gospel, the true story of your death, the translation of every book in all languages, the interpolations of every book in all books. ~ Jorge Luis Borges, The Library of Babel ,

*** NEWFULLDB 2.4M ***

1:Let heaven exist, though my place be in hell.

- The Library of Babel ~ Jorge Luis Borges,
2:short work of fiction by Jorge Luis Borges, “The Library of Babel.” Imagine an infinite number of rooms, stacked atop one another, in which are stored not only all the books ever written but also all the books that ever will be, each of them in every dialect of every language known to mankind and of every language yet to be learned or formed in days to come. In addition, there is a book of the life of everyone who has ever lived or will live, and an infinite number of other volumes of all genres and purposes that could be imagined. There are books that make no sense and books that seem to make sense but perhaps do not. And the sheer quantity ensures that no one can read a sufficient percentage of it to arrive at an explanation of the library, life, or anything else. Bibi ~ Dean Koontz,
3:For almost all astronomical objects, gravitation dominates, and they have the same unexpected behavior. Gravitation reverses the usual relation between energy and temperature. In the domain of astronomy, when heat flows from hotter to cooler objects, the hot objects get hotter and the cool objects get cooler. As a result, temperature differences in the astronomical universe tend to increase rather than decrease as time goes on. There is no final state of uniform temperature, and there is no heat death. Gravitation gives us a universe hospitable to life. Information and order can continue to grow for billions of years in the future, as they have evidently grown in the past. The vision of the future as an infinite playground, with an unending sequence of mysteries to be understood by an unending sequence of players exploring an unending supply of information, is a glorious vision for scientists. Scientists find the vision attractive, since it gives them a purpose for their existence and an unending supply of jobs. The vision is less attractive to artists and writers and ordinary people. Ordinary people are more interested in friends and family than in science. Ordinary people may not welcome a future spent swimming in an unending flood of information. A darker view of the information-dominated universe was described in the famous story “The Library of Babel,” written by Jorge Luis Borges in 1941.§ Borges imagined his library, with an infinite array of books and shelves and mirrors, as a metaphor for the universe. Gleick’s book has an epilogue entitled “The Return of Meaning,” expressing the concerns of people who feel alienated from the prevailing scientific culture. The enormous success of information theory came from Shannon’s decision to separate information from meaning. His central dogma, “Meaning is irrelevant,” declared that information could be handled with greater freedom if it was treated as a mathematical abstraction independent of meaning. The consequence of this freedom is the flood of information in which we are drowning. The immense size of modern databases gives us a feeling of meaninglessness. Information in such quantities reminds us of Borges’s library extending infinitely in all directions. It is our task as humans to bring meaning back into this wasteland. As finite creatures who think and feel, we can create islands of meaning in the sea of information. Gleick ends his book with Borges’s image of the human condition: We walk the corridors, searching the shelves and rearranging them, looking for lines of meaning amid leagues of cacophony and incoherence, reading the history of the past and of the future, collecting our thoughts and collecting the thoughts of others, and every so often glimpsing mirrors, in which we may recognize creatures of the information. ~ Freeman Dyson,

--- IN CHAPTERS (in Dictionaries, in Quotes, in Chapters)


   3 Jorge Luis Borges

The_Library_Of_Babel_2, #unset, #Sri Aurobindo, #Integral Yoga
  object:The Library of Babel 2
  class:short story
  translator:Andrew Hurley
  The Library of Babel
  , By this art you may contemplate the variation of the 23 letters ....

The_Library_of_Babel, #unset, #Sri Aurobindo, #Integral Yoga
  object:The Library of Babel
  class:short story
  author class:Jorge Luis Borges
  The Library of Babel, by Jorge Luis Borges (1941)
  By this art you may contemplate the variations of the 23 letters...

The_Lottery_in_Babylon, #unset, #Sri Aurobindo, #Integral Yoga
  A further interpretation is that the Lottery and the Company that runs it are actually an allegory of a deity or Zeus. Like the workings of a deity in the eyes of men, the Company that runs the Lottery acts, apparently, at random and through means not known by its subjects, leaving men with two options: to accept it to be all-knowing and all-powerful but mysterious, or to deny its existence. Both theories have supporters in this allegory.
  In many other books, Borges dealt with metaphysical questions about the meaning of life and the possible existence of higher authorities, and also presented this same paradoxical vision of a world that may be run by a good and wise deity but seems to lack any discernible meaning. This view may also be considered present in "The Library of Babel" ("La biblioteca de Babel"), another Borges story.
  Borges makes a brief reference to Franz Kafka as Qaphqa, the legendary Latrine where spies of the Company leave information.

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