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scrambledeggs
07-03-2008, 03:48 AM
""The Library of Babel" (Spanish: La biblioteca de Babel) is a short story by Argentine author and librarian Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986), conceiving of a universe in the form of a vast library containing all possible 410-page books of a certain format."

Anyone read this? I just came across it--it is still profound, but must have been even more shocking when it was published, decades ago.

Does anyone have any criticism (good neutral or bad) about this book? What is the meaning of it--that we are all nothing in the scheme of things? Or that our universe is different, and we ARE something? Uniqueness is bad or good?

http://jubal.westnet.com/hyperdiscordia/library_of_babel.html

Summary:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Library_of_Babel

Sage Rat
07-03-2008, 04:09 AM
My reading would be that it is a defense of reasoned investigation, saying that it is a method of learning more about what God has left us, rather than an opponent of religion.

It's pro-religious, pro-science, anti-superstitious, anti-censor.

Panurge
07-03-2008, 05:13 AM
Disclaimer: I have read many of Borges' short stories several times, and they all come across differently each time. This is a wonderful capacity of these tales - they are closed enough to set limits for the imagination but open enough to let the mind roam freely within these limits.

Borges wrote a lot of stories that centre around the Infinite in one way or the other. True knowledge is often shown as at best an impossibility and at worst as an agglomeration of facts so large as to render it unusable and maddening. I read this short story - and many others by him - as Borges' attempt to show the world itself and our knowledge of it as a small part of a Great Mystery which consists of every being, thing, thought, etc. Man's place in all of this is noble but futile: we attempt by force or reasoning to make sense of it all, to dominate or merely to understand it (which could be thought of as being the same thing). Hence it is a tale of man and the great, meaningless unknown universe that surrounds him, the great Mystery of the world and our lives' in it, a mystery unsolveable but endlessly fascinating.

tomndebb
07-03-2008, 06:46 AM
Off to Cafe Society.

Maastricht
07-03-2008, 09:09 AM
..his book? What is the meaning of it?...One could argue that a book has no meaning. Literature studies used to try and decipher meaning in literature as if the author had written the book in code, with "symbols" strewn throughout the pages. That way of looking at literature is now considered by many to be obsolete. Many authors, reading such reviews about the "meaning" of their novels, have rolled their eyes and said: " If I wanted to have said all of that, I would have written a short essay and be done with it, instead of troubling myself writing al those darned pages.".

Sage Rat
07-03-2008, 09:41 AM
One could argue that a book has no meaning. Literature studies used to try and decipher meaning in literature as if the author had written the book in code, with "symbols" strewn throughout the pages. That way of looking at literature is now considered by many to be obsolete. Many authors, reading such reviews about the "meaning" of their novels, have rolled their eyes and said: " If I wanted to have said all of that, I would have written a short essay and be done with it, instead of troubling myself writing al those darned pages.".
Depends on the author really.

Analyzing prose like poetry, where you're supposed to consider every word and sentence, was pretty much always stupid (though again, perhaps not for some authors.) But most "literary" literature does have basic topics that it is discussing via the story. Most professors that I've met, though, don't seem to be able to go this middle ground of analysing a story instead of word-choice and "symbolism" of various items in the book and whatnot, but maybe I went through college at the end of the phase.

But in the end it depends on how the author writes. Just as often as not it might be that the author had no intent of making any particular point in his work, but his own politics and beliefs makes him choose heroes and villains and methods of resolution that will seem natural to him, and so those politics come out for anyone who can analyse such things.

Gadarene
07-03-2008, 10:35 AM
That story is made of pure awesome.

Lamar Mundane
07-03-2008, 01:10 PM
That story is made of pure awesome.
Yes, I read it in college and it made my head asplode.

ultrafilter
07-03-2008, 02:29 PM
I had to read that for a math class. Is it really fair to call it a story?

Frylock
07-03-2008, 02:42 PM
I had to read that for a math class. Is it really fair to call it a story?

I can see what you mean--there's not a clear plot in the thing. (There kind of is, but you have to read into it to get one.)

But is there another established term for the kind of thing it is? Or is it its own kind of thing? Or is it a kind of thing that there is no established term for?

I'm actually using it (and The Lottery in Babylon) in the Intro to Philosophy course I'm teaching. I'm treating it as a sort of extended thought experiment. Maybe that's the right term for the thing?

-FrL-

ianzin
07-03-2008, 02:55 PM
Given that this thread is about Borges, can anyone help trace a quote?

I believe there's a Borges quote that runs along the lines of 'rules are all well and good for beginners, because they need them, but after that they just get in the way'.

Can anyone track down the exact quotation for me? I've done a lot of web searching to no avail.

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