Tuesday, 4 August 2009


At a shamefully late stage in my reading life, I have finally read Labyrinths by Borges. While finding a few of the stories less interesting than I'd anticipated, I thought that most of them were brilliant, thought-provoking exercises in the literature of ideas, particularly in their discussion of language, meta-fiction and meta-reality. My favourite is The Library of Babel, which begins:

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.......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.

The story goes on to explore various aspects of the Library and the books within, including the notion that the Library contains all the possible books of which one could conceive, and '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 is analogous to a god. In the language of this zone vestiges of this remote functionary's cult still persist.

The themes of religion, philosophy, language and existential meaning are all woven through this story in a manner which is both intellectually dazzling and highly readable, and it has lodged firmly in my mind, already nagging me to re-read it.

I'll be writing about other books in books over the next couple of days.


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