The Library of Babel by Jorge Luis Borges


The Library of Babel by Jorge Luis Borges Opens with a quote from the anatomy of Melancholy part 2 section 2 MEM 4 “By this art you may contemplate the variation of the 23 letters…” The Library of Babel, The [universe] which others call the library is composed of an indefinite perhaps infinite number of hexagonal galleries with enormous Ventilation shafts in the middle encircled by very low railings from any hexagon the upper or lower Storeys are visible interminably The distribution of the galleries is invariable 20 shelves 5 long shelves per side Cover all sides except to their height which is that of each floor scarcely exceeds that of an average librarian? One of the free sides gives upon a narrow entrance way which leads to another

? Identical to the first and to all the others to the left and to the right of the entranceway are two miniature rooms one allows standing room for sleeping The other the satisfaction of fecal necessities through this section passes the spiral staircase Which plunges down into the abyss [and] rises up to the heights in the [entranceway] hangs a mirror? Which faithfully duplicates appearances? People are in the habit of inferring from this mirror that the library is not infinite if it really were why this illusory duplication I? Prefer to dream that the polished surfaces feign and promise infinity Light comes from some spherical fruits called by the name of lamps there are two running transversely In each hexagon the light they emit is insufficient Incessant like all men of the library I have [traveled] in my youth I Have journeyed in search of a book perhaps of the catalogue of Catalogues now that my eyes can scarcely decipher What I write I’m preparing to die a Few leagues from the Segen in which I was born Once dead there will not lack pious hands to hurl me over the banister my sepulchers shall be the unfathomable [air] My body will sink lengthily and will corrupt and dissolve in the wind engendered by the fall which is infinite [I] affirm that the library is interminable the idealists argue that the hexagonal halls are a necessary form of absolute space or at least of our intuition of space They contend that a triangular or pentagonal hall is inconceivable the mystics claim that to them ecstasy reveals a round chamber containing a great book where the Continuous back circling the walls of the room, but their testimony is suspect their words obscure That cylindrical book is God Let it suffice me for the time being to repeat the classic dictum the library is a sphere whose Consummate centre is any hexagon and whose circumference is inaccessible Five Shelves Correspond to each one of the walls of each hexagon each shelf contains 32 books of a uniform format each book is made up of [410] pages each page of 40 lines each line of some 80 black letters 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 such a lack of relevance at one time seemed mysterious Before summarizing the solution whose disclosure despite its tragic implications Is Perhaps the capital fact of this history? [I] want to recall certain axioms first the library exists ab ab [tare] no No reasonable mind can doubt this truth Whose immediate corollary is the future eternity of the world? Man the imperfect librarian may be the work of chance were malevolent Demiurges the universe with its elegant endowment of shelves of enigmatic volumes of indefatigable ladders for the voyager and of privies for the seated librarian can only be the work of a God in Order to perceive the distance which exists between the divine and the human it is enough to compare the rude Tremulous symbols which my fallible hand scribbles on the end pages of a book with the organic letters inside Exact delicate intensely black Inimitably symmetric [II] the number of orthographic symbols is 25 a strict the original manuscript of the present note does not contain digits or capital letters the Punctuation is limited to the comma and the period these two signs plus the space sign and the 22 letters of the alphabet Make up the 25 sufficient symbols enumerated by the unknown author this bit of evidence Permitted the formulation 300 years ago of a general theory [of] the library and the satisfactory resolution of the problem Which no conjecture had yet made clear the formless and chaotic nature of almost all books? One of these books which my father saw in a hexagon of the circuit number 15 94 was composed of the letters MCV Perversely repeated from the first line to last another very much consulted in the Zone is a mere labyrinth of letters but on the next elapsed page one may read [oh] time your pyramids as is well known for one reasonable line or one straightforward note there are leagues of insensate cacophony of verbal [Fairy] goes and incoherencies I know of a wild region whose librarians repudiate the vain Superstitious custom of seeking any sense in books and compare it to looking for meaning in dreams or in the chaotic lines of one’s hands They admit that the inventors of writing imitated the [25] natural symbols But they maintain that this application is accidental, and that books in themselves mean nothing this opinion We shall see is not altogether False For a long time it was believed that these impenetrable books belonged to past or remote languages It is true that the most ancient men the first Librarians made use of a language quite different from the one we speak today It is true that some miles to the right the language is dialectical and that ninety stories up it is incomprehensible All this I repeat is true, but [410] pages of unvarying [MCV] [s] do not correspond to any language However dialectical or Rudimentary it might be some librarians Insinuated that each letter could influence the next and that the value [of] m CV on the third line [of] page 71 was not the same as that of the same series in another position on another page, but this vague. Thesis did not prosper Still other men thought in terms of cryptograph S– this conjecture has come to be universally accepted though not in the sense in which it was formulated by its inventors 500 Years ago the Chief of an upper Hexagon asteroth Formally for each three hexagons there was one man suicide and pulmonary diseases have destroyed this proportion my memory recalls scenes of Unspeakable Melancholy there have been many nights when I have ventured down corridors and polished staircases without encountering a single librarian and Astrid Came upon a book as confusing as all the rest, but which contained nearly two pages of homogeneous lines he showed his find to an Ambulance decipher who told him the Lines were written in portuguese Others told him they were in yiddish in less than a century the nature of the language was finally established. It was a samoyed Lithuanian dialect of [Geron] II with classical arabic inflections the contents were also deciphered notions of combinational analysis illustrated by 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 however diverse are made up of uniform Elements the period the comma the space the 22 letters of the alphabet he also adduced a Circumstance confirmed by all travelers there are not in the whole vast library two identical books from all these Incontrovertible premises he deduced that the library is total and that its shelves contain all the possible combinations of the 20 Orthographic symbols whose number though vast is not infinite that is everything which can be expressed in all languages Everything is there the minut history of the future the autobiographies of the ARc angels the faithful catalog of the library thousands and thousands of False [Catalogue] a demonstration of The fallacy [of] these catalogs [a] demonstration of the fallacy of the true catalog the gnostic gospel of bas sillies The commentary on this gospel the commentary on the commentary of this gospel the veridical account of your death a version of each book in All languages the interpolations of every book in all books When it was proclaimed that the library comprised all books the first impression was one of extravagant joy all men felt themselves lords of a secret intact treasure There was no personal or universal problem whose eloquent solution did not exist in some hexagon the universe was Justified the universe suddenly expanded to the limitless dimensions of hope at that time there was much talk of the vindications books of apology and prophecy which vindicated for all time the actions of every man in the world and established a store of Prodigious Arcana for the future Thousands of Covetous persons abandoned their dear native hexagons and crowded up the stairs urged on by the vain aim of finding their vindication These pilgrims disputed in the narrow Corridors hurled Dark maledictions strangled each other on the divine Stairways flung the deceitful books to the bottom of the tunnels and died as they were thrown into space by men from remote regions some Went mad the vindications do exist I myself have seen two of these books which were concerned with future people people who were perhaps not imaginary But the searchers did not remember that the calculable possibility of a man’s finding his own book or some perfidious variation of his own book is close to zero the clarification of the basic mysteries of humanity the origin of the library and of time was also Expected it is credible that those grave mysteries can be explained in words if the language of the Philosopher’s does not suffice the multiform Library will have produced the unexpected language required in the necessary Vocabularies and grammars for this language it is now four centuries since men have been wearing the hexagons There are official searchers inquisitors. I have observed them carrying out their functions They are always exhausted They speak of a staircase without steps where they were almost killed They speak of galleries and stairs with the local librarian from time to time They will pick up the nearest book and leaf through its pages in search of infamous words obviously No one expects to discover anything The uncommon hope was followed naturally enough by deep Depression the certainty that some shelf in some hexagon contained precious books and that these books were inaccessible seemed almost intolerable [a] blasphemous sect suggested that all searches be given up and that men Everywhere shuffle letters and symbols until they succeeded in composing by means of an improbable stroke of luck the canonical books The authorities found themselves obliged to issue severe orders the sector disappeared, but in my childhood I still saw old men who would hide out in the privies for long periods of time and with metal discs in a forbidden dice Box Feebly Mimic The Divine disorder Other men inversely thought that the primary task was to eliminate useless works They would invade the hexagons exhibiting credentials which were not always false Skimmed through a volume with annoyance and then condemned entire bookshelves to destruction their ascetic Hygienic theory is responsible for the senseless loss of millions of books their name is Execrated, but those who mourn the treasures destroyed by this frenzy overlooked two notorious facts one the library is so Enormous that any reduction undertaken by humans is infant is mille to each book is unique irreplaceable But in as much as the library is total there are always several hundreds of thousands of imperfect facts similes of works which differ only by one letter or one comma contrary to public opinion [I] dare suppose the consequences of the depredations Committed by the purifiers have been exaggerated by the horror which these fanatics provoked They were spurred by the delirium of storming the books in the [Crimson] hexagon books of a smaller than ordinary format omnipotent Illustrated Magical We know [-] of another superstition of that time the man of the book in? Some shelf of some hexagon men reasoned there must exist a book which is the cipher and perfect compendium of all the rest Some librarian has perused it and it is analogous to a god vestiges of the worship of that remote functionary still persist in the language of this zone many Pilgrimages have sought him out for a century they trod the most diverse routes in vain how to locate the secret Hexagon which harbored it Someone proposed a regressive approach in order to locate book a first consult Book B Which will indicate the [location] of a in order to locate book b first consult book C. And so on ad infinitum? I Have squandered and consumed my years and adventures [of] this type to me It does not seem unlikely that on some shelf of the universe there lies a total book Asteroth I repeat it is enough that a book be possible for it to exist only the impossible is excluded for example no book is also [a] stairway though doubtless there are books that discuss and Deny and demonstrate this possibility and others whose structure corresponds to that of a stairway and astrid I Pray the Unknown gods that some man even if only one man And though it have been thousands of years ago may have examined and read it if honour and wisdom and happiness are not for me let them be for others may heaven exist though my place be in hell let Me be outraged and annihilated, but may thy enormous library be justified for one instant in one being the Impious assert that Absurdities are the norm in the library and that anything reasonable even humble and pure coherence is an almost miraculous exception they speak I know of the febrile Library whose hazardous volumes run the constant risk of being changed into others and in which everything is affirmed denied and confused as by divinity in delirium These words which not only denounce disorder but exemplify it as well manifestly demonstrate the bad taste of the speakers And [they’re] desperate ignorant Actually the library includes all verbal structures all the variations allowed by the [25] orthographic symbols But it does not permit of one absolute absurdity It is pointless to observe that the best book in the numerous hexagons under my [administration] is entitled combed clap of thunder Or that another is called the plaster cramp and still another ax ax ax ax ax is no Such propositions as are contained in these titles at first sight incoherent Doubtless yield of cryptographic or allegorical justification since they are verbal these justifications already figure x Hypotheses in the library [I] cannot combine certain letters as d Hcmr l Ch [TD]. [J] Which the divine library has not already foreseen in combination in which in one of its secret languages does not encompass some terrible meaning No one can articulate a syllable which is not full of tenderness and fear and which is not in one of those Languages the powerful name of some God To speak is to fall into tautologies this useless and wordy epistle itself already exists in one of the 30 volumes of the five shelves in one of the Uncountable hexagons and so does its refutation and N Number of possible languages makes use of the same vocabulary in some of them the symbol library admits of the correct definition ubiquitous and everlasting system of hexagonal galleries the library is bread or Pyramid or anything else and the seven words which define it possess another value you who read me. Are you sure [you] understand my language? methodical writing distracts me from the present condition of men but the certainty [that] everything has been already written nullifies or makes phantoms of us all I know of districts where the youth Prostrate themselves before books barbarously [kiss] the pages though they do not know how to make out a single letter epidemics heretical disagreements the pilgrimages which inevitably Degenerate into banditry have decimated the population [I] believe I have mentioned the suicides more frequent each year perhaps I am deceived by old age and fear, but I suspect that the human species the unique human species is on the road to extinction while the library will last on forever illuminated solitary Infinite perfectly immovable filled with precious volumes useless incorruptible secret Infinite I have just written. I have not interpolated this adjective merely from rhetorical habit it is not illogical [I] say to think that the world is infinite those who judge it to be limited Postulate that in remote places the corridors and stairs and hexagons could in conceivably cease a manifest absurdity Those who imagined it to be limitless forget that the possible number of books is limited I? dare insinuate the following solution to this [ancient] problem the library is limitless and Periodic if an eternal voyager were to traverse it in any direction he would find after many centuries That the same volumes are repeated in the same disorder which repeated would constitute an order order itself my solitude rejoices in this elegant hope Mar Del Plata 1941 Asteroid [Lidia] Alvarez de Toledo has observed that the vast library is useless strictly speaking one single volume should suffice a single volume of Ordinary Format printed in 9 or [10] type body and Consisting of an infinite number of infinitely thin pages at the beginning of the 17th century [cavalieri] said that any solid body is the superposition of an infinite number of planes? This Silky vade [Beckham] would scarcely be handy Each apparently of the book would divide into other analogous leaves the inconceivable central leaf would have no reverse you

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22 thoughts on “The Library of Babel by Jorge Luis Borges”

  1. James Collins says:


  2. Big, Not Good says:

    The Black Iron Prison never ended.
    (This guy, along with PKD, really got IT)
    ((Read VALIS by PKD))

  3. I Love Mountains says:

    Excellent reading . Thank you.

  4. 123 I'm a King says:

    This is the worst story I have ever heard it was so boring and it just dragged on

  5. Nathan Guerrette dit Latulippe says:

    I'm sorry but your pacing is way off and your voice doesn't match the atmosphere of the text.

  6. Thomas Saliou says:

    Needed this for an essay Thanks! Definitely more practice needed though keep it up!

  7. King's Empire says:

    This feels like an SCP reading

  8. Mr PumperKnuckles says:

    The library of Babel could be referenced to many things.
    1.after life
    2. The legendary library of alexandria
    3. The library of Atlantis.
    4. Etc. There is a lot of different references .
    5. Some say could be reference to the Vatican archives…

  9. Rubenxx322 says:

    Really enjoyed the reading, any info on who did the drawing

  10. Seeing Dragons says:

    The reading is terrible. Way off on the temperament of the words. It sounds like he's giving a sixth grade book report.

  11. d mar says:

    pulsars have periods!! its messy out there!!

  12. Sentado Sama says:

    I'm glad that you read in english an spanish book of an argentinian writter, nice to know that some one did this, also the character that tells the story is an old man who is about yo die, thats why some tell u ure reading it wrong, it has to be slower, but stills being great !

  13. Harlock Aznable says:

    This is a website really right.

  14. David Piechowiak says:

    type this in and search it

  15. Nunnuv Yorbizniz says:

    Narration needs practice but I'm just pleased that SOME of Borges work is audioized on the internet. Whys it so hard to find his stuff in audiobook format online?!

  16. Gabriel Gonzales says:

    I love your readings!

  17. Onus Cronus says:

    The Libary of Babal is the past future.

  18. Brian Kimble says:

    Everything you say or can say or will say has already been said.

  19. Conor Drake says:

    Amazing reading, it encapsulated the tone of the story perfectly. A couple flubbed words here and there, a bit of editing would fix that. But otherwise it was wonderful 🙂

  20. Swick says:

    Absolutely fascinating

  21. WhizzBang says:

    This is a pointless as it is useless. About the same as writing a program that will generate every possible combination of the numbers 0000 0000 0000 0000 to 9999 9999 9999 9999, then saying you have the Credit card numbers of every human on Earth. As useless as it is pointless……

  22. Mugi Robert says:

    read ,geuss and write.

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