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The Unimaginable Mathematics of Borges' Library of Babel

3.93  ·  Rating Details  ·  142 Ratings  ·  22 Reviews

"The Library of Babel" is arguably Jorge Luis Borges' best known storymemorialized along with Borges on an Argentine postage stamp. Now, in The Unimaginable Mathematics of Borges' Library of Babel, William Goldbloom Bloch takes readers on a fascinating tour of the mathematical ideas hidden within one of the classic works of modern literature.

Written in the vein of Douglas

Kindle Edition
Published (first published 2008)
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(showing 1-30 of 467)
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Paul Bryant
Feb 17, 2013 Paul Bryant marked it as assorted-rants-about-stuff  ·  review of another edition
Book shelf enlargement is an issue that many men consider at some point during their lives. It is not uncommon for men to feel embarrassed or anxious about the size of their book shelves, from a young age all the way through life. The ladies do not like to see books stacked in corners of rooms, unsightly and hap-hazard. Fortunately, for the many men between the ages of 18-80 who are looking to add inches to their book shelves, there are a number of shelf enlargement products and treatments out ...more
Kane Faucher
Aug 01, 2011 Kane Faucher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author does a very good job of explaining some of the mathematics that are implied from Borges' short story, and thus uses this as a generative point. The section on the manifold may be a bit confusing for many (although the author does give his frequent "advisories"). Perhaps a little too much time is spent in the beginning making qualifying comments / apologies when they may not be necessary. In my view, there were a few other avenues the author could have explored, but that is hardly cons ...more
Angelo Giardini
"The librarian's life and the Library together embody a Turing machine, running an unimaginable program whose output can only be interpreted by a godlike external observer."
Feb 06, 2016 Brixton rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mathematics

As a book of mathematics, this is an absolutely wonderful book! Very fun—very easy to follow for aspiring mathematicians of all calibers! Five out of five!

As a book on the literature of Borges, this is a terrible book. Incredibly reductive in its approach to the importance of mathematics in Borges' work. Very easily a one out of five.

This book was not so much an exploration of the intersection between mathematics and literature as it was a sort of fun excuse to explore some wonderfully co
Jan 09, 2016 to'c rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Borges fans, math fans, and anybody else interested in expanding their mind.
One would have to write like Borges himself to praise this book adequately. I only grant five stars to books that expand my mind in some great and meaningful way and Mr. Bloch certainly succeeded in doing that. In many ways Borges' "Library of Babel" is one of his simplest and most accessible stories. The Universe as a gigantic library. Yet it is full of too much depth to be contained in that very library. Mr. Block now informs us that there is far more depth to be found than you may have imagin ...more
May 09, 2010 Parker rated it really liked it
A clear and straightforward explanation (for laypeople) of the complex and high-level math implicated in Borges' classic short story, "The Library of Babel." Though the story is just a few pages long--a fabulous translation, much better than the one I had previously read, is included in the beginning of this text--it raises questions from all different fields of mathematics, relating to the vastly huge number of books, the possible shape of the Library, and the textual combinations that might ap ...more
Apr 21, 2011 Jonathan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is *awesome*! Why? The author takes a short story, "The Library of Babel," by Jorge Luis Borges and analyzes it along many different mathematical dimensions. The results are stimulating and accessible to non-mathematicians. The story is about a library, which is composed of:

An indefinite number of ... hexagonal galleries. In the center of each gallery is a ventilation shaft, bounded by a low railing. ... Twenty bookshelves ... line four of the hexagon's six sides... One of the hexagon'
Jan 05, 2011 Christopher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Of all the short stories in Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges' masterpiece collection FICCIONES, "The Library of Babel" is one of the most peculiar. This weary narration by an aged caretaker of a library of seemingly infinite expanse involves several exotic mathematical principles, yet ones fairly easily graspable by the layman. The mathematician Bloch has written a fine book about all the thought-provoking concepts in Borges' story.

The complete text of "The Library of Babel" is included here
Therese Arkenberg
Written by a talented creative writer, Borges fan, and mathematician--and any one of those on its own could be a full recommendation--this book delves into the mind-blowing implications of a short story that is already staggering in its implications of scale.
If you have the slightest interest in mathematics, Borges, or glimpsing infinity, I'd suggest you track this one down through a library system at once. I don't think there's another book like it in the world. It's such an unusual that I can
Luke Duncan
May 18, 2015 Luke Duncan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked up this book while working my way through Borges Labyrinths because 1) I've really been enjoying Borges and 2) this books was cited as being as compelling as GEB.

While it didn't quite live up to the GEB plug, it was pretty darn good. As someone with a kinda of mathy background in a technical field, I thought the first few chapters were a little weak but a nice warm up. I especially liked the chapter on Topology, which had the most in depth coverage.

I learned a few new things, got a goo
Mar 10, 2015 Joseph rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pretty neat little book. Uses Borges' Library of Babel as a springboard for introducing some interesting and relevant mathematical concepts in a more or less intuitive way. Though there's definitely some parts that require more concentration, this should be more or less accessible to anybody who's passed high school.
Oct 10, 2011 Gill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Bloch is not only a mathematician, he's also a critic who has reviewed a lot of the literature on the Library of Babel and the life of Borges. So there is a lot in the book besides working out some of the mathematical implications of Borges' inspirations.

If you got as far as calculus in your math studies then you can probably follow most of the math without too much trouble. If you are a fan of Borges, there is a lot here about his math background and interests that you probably didn't know an
Austin Savill
Dec 31, 2010 Austin Savill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is well written and shows many aspects of infinity as well as explaining much of what infinity means and how we can view or believe some things to be infinite. It explains the passage very well and analyzes many of the arguments of how Borgues conveys this library. I enjoyed it thoroughly but don't think many others would unless they enjoy math or explanations of philosophical concepts.
Aug 10, 2014 Jafar rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Library of Babel is the best example of how Borges brilliantly weaved mathematical ideas into his fiction. This book explores some of the mathematical implications of this ingenious short story. Bloch has a great eye for spotting hidden idea in the story and then expanding upon them. The best was using the Library as a universal Turing machine.
Oct 26, 2009 Joegjoeg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book about the maths behind trying to make a library of every book that could ever be written. My favorite part of the book is in the preface when the authors asks "who is the intended audience for this work" and answers his question "Of the more than 6 billion people who are not Umberto Eco, I imagine that those who'd find this work appealing are..."
Aug 31, 2008 Eoin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Borgesean Mathematicians
Ok, so I'm an easy mark for this book. I was concerned that this would be insufficiently mathy or literary or both, but it is a careful balance of readablity and high concept math. What the title promises, the book delivers.
Chris Brownell
Jun 18, 2012 Chris Brownell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
also a very fun read. I actually only read the first part on the Mathematics of the library and not the literary analysis of the story so far.
Jun 05, 2012 Stephen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Fantastic, non-trivial analysis of Borges' story, comes complete with topology, combinatorics out the wazoo, with just a hint of non-linear dynamics.
Jon Gauthier
Jun 26, 2012 Jon Gauthier rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Casual math geeks
Shelves: math
Very accessible; written in a lively and exciting tone that I wish were more common in this genre!
Lane Wilkinson
I just pulled this off the shelf. Reading just the first page makes me feel like Umberto Eco.
dc craig
Jan 13, 2015 dc craig rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An elucidating supplement to the story, and a testament to the greatness of Borges.
Thomas Fackler
Jan 07, 2011 Thomas Fackler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A concise exposition of the mathematics we can employ to orient ourselves in The Library.
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