Borges’ “Babel Library” in brief

The universe – some call it the Library – consists of a huge number of hexagonal galleries, with wide ventilation wells, enclosed by handrails. The arrangement of the galleries is invariable: five shelves on each wall… To one of the free sides there is a corridor leading to another gallery, the same as all the others. To the left and to the right of the corridor are two tiny rooms. In one you can sleep standing, in the other you can satisfy your natural needs. Nearby the spiral staircase goes up and down. Never extinguishing light gives round glass fruits, which are called lamps.

The librarian, who tells us about the Library, traveled a lot in search of a book of books. He has aged, but his work has not been crowned with success. When the librarian dies, his body will be thrown across the railing into the bottomless grave of the ventilation shaft.

The idealists claim that the hexahedron is an absolute form. Mystics in ecstasy is a ball-shaped room with a huge circular book, which is God. But there is also a classical definition: A library is a ball, the center of which is in one of the hexagons, and the surface is inaccessible. There are 20 shelves in each hexagon, 32 books on each shelf, 400 pages in each book, 40 pages on each page, about 80 letters in each line. There are letters on the back of the book, but on them, as a rule, it is impossible to determine its content.

The library exists forever, and is the creation of God. Evidence of this is the perfect letters of the books. The number of all characters is 25: 22 letters of the alphabet, space, comma and period. This allowed three hundred years ago to formulate a general law of the Library and its books, which are a chaotic set of signs, so that one meaningful line has thousands of nonsense. In one part, librarians have at all refused to search in books for the meaning, believing that the letter merely imitates 25 natural signs.

For a long time it was believed that books are written in ancient or exotic languages, but 400 pages of unchanged MCV can not correspond to any language. Others considered writing a cryptogram, and this guess was universally accepted.

All this enabled one brilliant librarian to discover the law of the Library: all books consist of the same elements, and there are no two identical books in the entire Library. And the conclusion was drawn: The library is comprehensive, that is, it contains everything that can be expressed in all languages.

And when the law of the Library was proclaimed, unrestrained joy seized everybody. The universe has become meaningful. At that time, much was said about Excuses: books that justify the deeds of each person. Thousands of people thirsted from their native hexagons, driven by a vain desire to find their justification. These pilgrims argued in narrow galleries, strangled each other...

on the stairs, hurled deceived books, died, went insane… Even at that time, everyone was waiting for the disclosure of the main secrets of mankind: the origin of the Library and time.

For four hundred years now people have been wandering around hexagons… There are official searchers, inquisitors. They come, always tired, talk with the librarian, sometimes leaf through the nearest book in search of unholy words. It is evident that no one hopes to find anything.

In place of hopes, of course, came despair. One blasphemous sect called for a search and shuffling of signs, until the canonical books were accidentally recreated. Others thought that we should destroy useless books. The names of these “cleaners” are damned, but mourning the lost “treasures” forget that the Library is infinite, and any damage will be negligible. And let each book is unique, but there are hundreds of thousands of copies of it, differing by one letter. In fact, the “cleaners” led an insane desire to capture the magical, all-powerful books of the Purple Hexagram.

There is also another superstition of the time: Man of the Book. Supposedly there is a book containing a brief account of all the others, and a librarian read it and became like God. Many of them undertook an unsuccessful pilgrimage to find Him, until a regressive method was proposed: to find book A, one should turn to book B, which will indicate the place of A; to find the book B should go to book C… In such adventures the old Librarian and squandered his years…

Atheists say that for the Library, nonsense is common, and meaningfulness is a wonderful exception. There are rumors of a hot Library, in which distraught tomes continuously turn into others, confusing and denying everything that was affirmed.

In fact, the library includes all languages, all combinations of 25 characters, but not nonsense. Any combination of letters, for example “dhtsmrlchdj”, in one of the languages ​​of the divine Library will contain some formidable meaning; and any word, for example “library”, will have the opposite meaning. And this work of the old Librarian is already contained on one of the shelves, as is his refutation. And you, reading these lines, are you sure that you understand exactly what was written?

The certainty that everything is already written, destroys or turns into ghosts. There are places where people worship books and kiss pages with passion without even knowing how to read. Epidemics, heretical strife, predatory raids, suicides have greatly reduced the number of librarians. The human race may even fade away and the Library will be preserved: uninhabited, useless, imperishable, mysterious, infinite.

Infinite… Absurd is the assumption that hexagons can end anywhere; It is also absurd that the number of possible books is infinite. The library is rather boundless and periodic. And if an eternal wanderer set out on a journey in any direction, he would be able to make sure that the same books were repeated in the same disorder. This gives hope.


Borges’ “Babel Library” in brief