Libraries in pop culture: The Library of Babel by Jorge Luis Borges

International Librarians Network

Originally published in Spanish in 1941, The Library of Babel  was part of  Argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges’ book of stories El Jardín de senderos que se bifurcan (The Garden of Forking Paths).  Borges imagined a world made up of a library that contained every book that ever was and ever will be:

The Library is arranged non-hierarchically; all of the volumes — from the most rudimentary to the most inscrutable — are equally important in this infinite space. Its rooms are hexagons. Its staircases are broken.

The Library’s many visitors — elated, dogmatic and anguished types are all represented — strangle one another in the corridors. They fall down air shafts and perish. They weep, or go mad. Desperate characters hide in the bathrooms, “rattling metal disks inside dice cups,” hoping to mind-read the call number for a missing canonical text. Others, overcome with “hygienic, ascetic…

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