Jorge Luis Borges And The Infinite Library

borges-library

You may know if you’ve been here before how we feel at Grailrunner about blowing out walls in your imagination, squeezing some light into the cracks and crevices where amazing things can happen…if you think differently.

That’s the whole reason for this site, in fact. I mean, read our manifesto.

So just go to Amazon and buy this now if you don’t have it. Then come back. It’s the collected fictions of Jorge Luis Borges. Looks like this below – Start with ‘The Garden Of Forking Paths’ section.

borges-cover

Borges was Argentinian and an earth-shaking writer of fantasy.  In his autobiographical notes, he said, “If I were asked to name the chief event in my life, I should say my father’s library.” You’ll find in this tome a story called ‘The Library Of Babel’ where he carries the idea of a large library to its logical extreme: all possible books in an infinite space.

Here’s wikipedia’s summary:

“Borges’ narrator describes how his universe consists of an enormous expanse of adjacent hexagonal rooms, each of which contains the bare necessities for human survival—and four walls of bookshelves. Though the order and content of the books are random and apparently completely meaningless, the inhabitants believe that the books contain every possible ordering of just 25 basic characters (22 letters, the period, the comma, and space). Though the vast majority of the books in this universe are pure gibberish, the library also must contain, somewhere, every coherent book ever written, or that might ever be written, and every possible permutation or slightly erroneous version of every one of those books. The narrator notes that the library must contain all useful information, including predictions of the future, biographies of any person, and translations of every book in all languages. Conversely, for many of the texts, some language could be devised that would make it readable with any of a vast number of different contents.” (wikipedia article ‘The Library Of Babel’)

Honestly, friend, that’s everything great about Borges right there. He takes a concept, stretches it in every direction to make of it something fascinating, then sneaks around to look at it from the other side. I wish I could drink coffee with him.

He reveled in smacking you with a twist concept at the end, often with his final sentence. Read ‘The Circular Ruins’ to see what I mean. It’s super short, you’ll love it. Also, try ‘The Approach To Al-mu’tasim’ – in that one, the blow comes in the extreme last sentence, in a footnote even! I’m sorry, I just find that kind of cerebral twist fascinating.

In ‘Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius’, the conceit is that of a random quote from a friend. The narrator asks where it came from, triggering a surreal search for the mysterious (maybe fictional?) geographic origin of the guy that said it in the first place. A flip occurs at the end that turns the whole thing on its side. This is why you read Borges.

I won’t go on, because you should be reading him now, not me. The idea, as always for writers, is study him. Read his method, his approach. See how he leads you along with the framework, then pay close attention to how he stretches everything to an extreme or turns it around at the very end. It’s high-minded and a thinking person’s game.

And Borges gets in your head. He’ll stick with you long after.

Let us know what you think!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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