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The Library of Babel

4.48  ·  Rating Details ·  3,869 Ratings  ·  175 Reviews
Jorge Luis Borges's famous 1941 meditation on language, alphabets, and the library that contains all knowledge is an allegory of our Universe, and in this edition is complemented and enhanced by the etching of the French artist, Érik Desmazières
Hardcover, 39 pages
Published August 1st 2000 by David R. Godine Publisher (first published 1941)
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In Borges's short story, the world consists of a gigantic library which contains every possible book that can ever be written. So, somewhere, there must logically be the book, the one that reveals the Library's secret! Unfortunately, there is no filing system, and no one has any idea of how to find the elusive book. In fact, it's challenging even to locate one which contains a meaningful sentence: most of them are gibberish from beginning to end.

Well, our own world isn't quite as bad - but it's
For a book to exist, it is sufficient that it is possible. Only the impossible is excluded.”

Paradoxes abound in this allegory that has aspects of The Blind Watchmaker, especially DNA, and also the Infinite Monkey Theorem.

I have the Collected Fictions (with copious translator's notes), but am splitting my review of that into its components, in publication order: Collected Fictions - all reviews. This is one of the the longer stories in The Garden of Forking Paths, published in 1941.

The universe
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
I read "The Library of Babel," one of Jorge Luis Borges’ most famous stories, as part of the Ficciones collection. “The Library of Babel” posits a universe in the form of a library made out of connected hexagonal rooms, each room filled with books and the barest necessities for life. Each book contains 410 pages, with 40 lines of 80 letters each. There are 25 letters and punctuation marks in the alphabet. The Library contains every possible combination of those letters. Most of the books are com ...more
Mar 10, 2012 Capsguy rated it really liked it
Shelves: argentina
Found this to be a great analogy to the world we live in. Everyone seems to have the answer to all of life's problems, but the issue is it's not so simple to sort through all of the variables when you have little to no means of measuring each option. That's pretty much how I read this short story, in life it is feasible to live the 'perfect' life, since the variables are there, however since there is no distinctive guide to do so, we are forced to do our best to sort through the gibberish (in th ...more
Feb 20, 2017 Nesrazmerni rated it it was amazing
Možda Borhes i nije sa ove planete.
Oct 28, 2016 Sarah rated it it was amazing
بورخس رو خيليا دوست ندارن، و خيلي بيشتر از اون خيليا، بار اول دوستش ندارن. دو بار خوندمش پشت هم تا فهميدم چي شد، شايدم هنوز كامل نفهميدما! از شدت پست مدرني گاهي شبيه به مقاله ميشه، از اون مقاله ها كه خط بعدو ميخوني خط قبلو يادت ميره، بي نظير بود.

Borges! Welcome to favorite zone!
Vit Babenco
Apr 16, 2015 Vit Babenco rated it it was amazing
In the brief prose piece The Four Cycles Jorge Luis Borges wrote that there are only four stories in the world: the story of war, the story of return, the story of search and the story of sacrifice (Troy, Ulysses, Jason, Christ).
“Four are the stories. During the time left to us we will continue telling them, transformed.”
And there is no other writer who can retell these four stories the way Jorge Luis Borges does transforming them into intellectual labyrinths and scholarly conundrums.
He turns
Vimal Thiagarajan
Oct 30, 2016 Vimal Thiagarajan rated it it was amazing

You who read me - are you certain you understand my language?

Understanding? Certain? Wouldn't even pretend. A Kaleidoscope of earlier ideas like Borel's dactylographic monkey theorem, Pascal's metaphor and Robert Burton's variations, a mathematical thought experiment with infinities and labyrinths that employs cabalistic reasoning which blurs the infinite and the finite with philosophical implications that puts the Gita in mind, a melting pot of motifs that would influence Eco's influential mast
John Wiswell
Sep 19, 2007 John Wiswell rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Fans of Jorge Borges, fantasy readers, sci fi readers, anyone with an underappreciated imagination
Easily one of the strangest books I've ever read. I actually ordered it by accident, thinking it was an anthology. But actually this entire slender volume is devoted to one Borges short story, complete with beautiful etchings showing that his impossible library is actually possible. While it's not worth the cover price for everyone, anyone who dismissed his fictional library should flip through these pages and see that he wasn't writing flippantly. As "Library of Babel" was possibly Borges' most ...more
Sep 02, 2015 Leonard rated it it was amazing
Jorge Luis Borges, one of the most imaginative writers I have come across, could have been a mathematician, a physicist, a philosopher or a theologian. I can see his influence on Umberto Eco in the manipulation of text and the blending between fiction and reality. To read Borges is to immerse myself in a magical world where the concept of infinity manifests in space and time, where the boundary between dream and reality fades, where the past and the future converge into an instant, where levels ...more
Ramona Arsene
Jul 04, 2015 Ramona Arsene rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
" I am perhaps misled by old age and fear, but I suspect that the human species - the only species - teeters at the verge of extinction, yet that the Library enlightened, solitary, infinite, perfectly unmoving, armed with precious volumes, pointless, incorruptible, and secret-will endure."
Algirdas Brukštus
May 26, 2016 Algirdas Brukštus rated it it was amazing
Tarsi klaidžiotum po žmogaus genomą ar visatos kodą.
Imaginaris Sarah
Feb 12, 2014 Imaginaris Sarah rated it really liked it
Tak mudah mengunyah Borges walaupun kau suka dengan intelegenius yang dia anyam. Perlu berhati-hati menelan patah perkataannya, sedang sekarang adalah zaman pantas yang penuh dengan junkfood melimpah-ruah.
May 05, 2017 AdN added it
Un libro increíble. Una imaginación alucinante. La matemática en muchas direcciones. No me cansaré de leer a Borges.
Cómo quisiera regalarle una biblioteca de babel a cada uno de mis estudiantes.
This is a fantastic and thought provoking book. I first heard of it while reading this essay by Christopher Rowe.

I know that Borges is really discussing the history, and completeness, of human knowledge but his essay, as Rowe suggests, has marked implications for those trying to create a universal library today. Such entities might include Google or Amazon, amongst others. The sheer futility of gathering every last letter of every last book that has ever existed, or that could possibly have exis
Aug 03, 2016 Claudia rated it really liked it
Imagine that the Universe could be a library....and the worlds its books. It's important that we all read this story because it's the story of our shared experiences... of our shared humanity. It's a short story yet an epic. And speaking anymore of it would disturb its outrageously imaginative story line. Read it. You will be glad you did! 4.5 stars.
David Lafferty
Jan 15, 2013 David Lafferty rated it it was amazing
As a fan of Umberto Eco and The Name of the Rose I knew that Borges and Joyce were required reading. This short story by Borges is brilliant and demands many more readings. His influence on Eco is clearly seen. Looking forward to reading more of his work, and then on to Joyce!
Sandra Ramirez
Jul 16, 2014 Sandra Ramirez rated it it was amazing
"When I am dead, compassionate hands will throw me over the railing; my tomb will be the unfathomable air, my body will sink for ages, and will decay and dissolve in the wind engendered by my fall, which shall be infinite."
You who read me, are you sure you’re understanding my language?
Nope, not this time Borges. I still like you!!!
SaBa Ch
Mar 31, 2017 SaBa Ch rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
(Perhaps my old age and fearfulness deceive me, but I suspect that the human
species --the unique species -- is about to be extinguished, but the Library will
endure, illuminated, solitary, infinite, perfectly motionless, equipped with precious
volumes, useless, incorruptible, secret.
You who read me, are You sure of understanding my language?)

Anyone who loves books must read this short story by Jorge Luis Borges, ,It is incredibly, amazing <3
Mar 02, 2017 Clarin rated it really liked it
Shelves: average
Nov 18, 2007 Natalie rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: librarians
Borges's short piece (the entire text is approximately twenty pages) revolves around the conceit of the library as a metaphor for the universe; each room a hexagon lined on four sides with shelves, and then the librarian's quarters (all are librarians) and then the doorway into the next identical room. It is the same both up and down and on all sides, an infinite regression of rooms filled with books, an infinite amount of books, and the sum of the library containing every permutation of letters ...more
Marc Ocana
Sep 18, 2012 Marc Ocana rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
A short story yet vast in its attempt as an allegory of the universe. It explains man's endeavors at understanding the complexities of everything ever created, asking where and how and why our existence came about. The infinite hexagonal galleries signify how intense our universe is, and how it is expanding, both in the sense of space and of knowledge.

The library is said to contain everything that has ever been written, and everything that will be written, in all languages both dead and thriving
May 26, 2013 Darthnixa rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This work of pure beautiful imagination presents a world consisting of endless rooms, in which there are kept endless books. Books contain random letters, but every once in a while, one can find a book where, by pure chance, some of the random letters form a word. In this world, finding a book where every word makes sense, and even forms a story, is incredibly rare. These are the books our characters are after, but it can take lifetimes to find one, as the odds of such word compositions appearin ...more
Literary Ames {Against GR Censorship}
*Cross-posted on Wordpress

Completely confounding. An intriguing idea poorly executed. Even reading slowly didn't improve understanding. Beautifully written sentences were meaningless without much background or context.

I honestly didn't perceive the allegory; the library representing the universe, its books filled with information detailing everything within it, though in an incomprehensible manner - multiple languages represented in each volume.

Unending patience and a generous mood are required
Jan 21, 2009 Asia rated it did not like it
Shelves: wtf
I was terribly disappointed by this book. Granted I did not finish it. I flipped through it. Found it to be mostly mundane and incredibly boring descriptive sentences. (stereo instructions comes to mind) There was nothing that seemed even remotely interesting about this book. I've read some quotes taken from Borges' work and loved them, so I will try to not get jaded about his work and attempt something less existential.
I came across this book in a list of "Books You Must Read Before You Die". I think I would have been fine with missing out on this book. I think I need to create a 'books that people claim are great but I just don't like them' book shelf.
Jul 18, 2008 Rosianna rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourite-books
Anyone who loves books must read this short story. It's sensational, especially if you're philosophical!
May 14, 2007 Tania rated it it was amazing
this is incredible. an amazing story in picture book format. a beautiful book but impossible to find.
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Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo, usually referred to as Jorge Luis Borges (Spanish pronunciation: [xoɾxe lwis boɾxes], Russian: Хорхе Луис Борхес), was an Argentine writer and poet born in Buenos Aires. In 1914, his family moved to Switzerland where he attended school and traveled to Spain. On his return to Argentina in 1921, Borges began publishing his poems and essays in Surrealist l ...more
More about Jorge Luis Borges...

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“You who read me, are You sure of understanding my language?” 115 likes
“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 twenty-five 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.” 14 likes
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