Jesse Jarnow

the library of babel

Sometimes, when I think of the vastness of the internets — that faith that nearly any piece of information I could ever want can be found behind some URL, some combination of letters, numbers, slashes, and tildes — I think of Jorge Luis Borges’ “http://jubal.westnet.com/hyperdiscordia/library_of_babel.html">The Library of Babel” (available in http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?sts=t&an=borges&y=0&tn=collected+fictions&x=0">Collected Fictions):

When it was announced that the Library contained all books, the first reaction was unbounded joy. All men felt themselves the possessors of an intact and secret treasure. There was no personal problem, no world problem, whose eloquent solution did not exist — somewhere in some hexagon. The universe was justified; the universe suddenly became congruent with the unlimited width and breadth of humankind’s hope. At that period there was much talk of The Vindications — books of apologiœ and prophecies that would vindicate for all time the actions of every person in the universe and that held wondrous arcana for men’s futures. Thousands of greedy individuals abandoned their sweet native hexagons and rushed downstairs, upstairs, spurred by the vain desire to find their Vindication. These pilgrims squabbled in the narrow corridors, muttered dark imprecations, strangled one another on the divine staircases, threw deceiving volumes down ventilation shafts, were themselves hurled to their deaths by men of distant regions. Others went insane… The Vindications do exist (I have seen two of them, which refer to persons in the future, persons perhaps not imaginary), but those who went in quest of them failed to recall that the chance of a man’s finding his own Vindication, or some perfidious version of his own, can be calculated to zero.

Borges was obviously not a Googler.

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