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The Library of Babel

4.44  ·  Rating details ·  5,621 ratings  ·  294 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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Vit Babenco
Apr 16, 2015 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, Prometheus).
“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.
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
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
Sep 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Hey, you. Yea, I am talking to you! Do you want to get freaked out by the sheer magnitude of an idea that's right in front of you? Step right in!

In this short story, Author Jorge Luis Borges envisions a universe in the form of a vast library, a library of meticulous pattern and structure. In this library, you can find an incomprehensible number of hexagonal rooms with a specific number of books: Books that contain all knowledge of the universe. But here is the catch: All this knowledge is mix
Sep 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
So, this is a short story, but there is so much in it that I reread it a half dozen times, found a few audio readings and looked up summaries trying to grasp the whole story. Basically its weird, but cool.
In this guys universe the world is made up of libraries. Each room is a hexagon with two small closets. One is a bathroom and the other is a room to sleep standing up. People are born, live and die in these rooms.
Now here is where it gets really bad. There are only four shelves of books in
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
Mar 10, 2012 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
Steven Godin
Jul 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Borges's philosophical short-story describes the universe in terms of an infinite library constructed in a series of hexagon galleries in which the books contain every possible combination of letters, spaces and punctuation marks providing a metaphor for thinking about knowledge and truth. As a paradox of infinite possibilities, some of the volumes within turn out to be what appears to be complete gibberish, Some go nuts from the despair of trying to logically understand and catalogue every book ...more
Vimal Thiagarajan
Oct 30, 2016 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
Sep 02, 2015 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
John Wiswell
Sep 19, 2007 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
Ramona Arsene
Jul 04, 2015 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."
Jun 11, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: audiobooks
Uh, what? Order randomly arises from chaos because of repetition? Why was this title on my TBR again?
Aiden Heavilin
This story is not fiction. The library of babel exists. You can view it here:

At present, the site has catalogued every possible combination of 3200 characters. You can read how its done on the site – its really incredible. You can type in any paragraph, from the opening of your own novel to the end of your favorite thriller, and find that it already exists in a specific page of a specific book on a specific shelf in the library.

Navigating the site is an eerie experie
Mohammed Amarnah
Jul 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Before you read this book, drink a cup of coffee and solve a math problem or two (preferably a geometrical problem, and it would be great if it involved hexagons).

This is definitely not an easy book. At least not for me. But it is amazing, full of imagination and wonder! :)
Patrick St-Amand
Oct 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Excellent collection of stories with meditation on life, chance and the universe.
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
Jun 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
I’m not sure I’m smart enough to understand this story completely but I loved the idea of an infinite library even if the majority of books are incomprehensible because every combination of characters is printed and yet there’s no key or index so you can’t find anything. It reminded me a bit of genetic codes, the library in Interstellar and I had visions of monkeys at typewriters writing the books. Themes of infinity, and understanding reality, and finding meaning in life. Gets you thinking defi ...more
RJ from the LBC
Mar 12, 2019 rated it liked it
Works best as a philosophical exercise contemplating the nature of the infinite and the human process for decoding reality.
Jun 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Remarkable ! !
Sal Majak
Jun 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
I felt like I was in another universe, floating in the most surreal way. Watching events unfold before me like a 3D TV through time and space.

I saw the history of a collective civilization, their peak and demise, their wars and pilgrimages. Seeking to find meaning in a chaotic world.

It was so weird, yet so peaceful and nostalgic at the same time... Nostalgic for something I've never known before.

That's Borges for you.
Jul 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
All books that will ever be written exist, we have just not created them yet. This is what Borges postulates with this short story. My initial reaction to reading this is that it is a mildly arrogant viewpoint. But then again, is it really less arrogant than us saying that we were the ones that wrote the book, that it was generated by the human mind? I don’t think we can answer for certain either of these things. What I do know is that this is a damn good short story.
May 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
Interesting allegory written in 1941 about a library that seems to be an entire universe. Glad it wasn't longer because it was pretty crunchy. Apparently there has been much intellectual discussion about it over the years.

Try it! I found it online here for free here: https://maskofreason.files.wordpress....

Added 5 28--Here's an interesting Wikipedia argument about the story and some of the concepts within--
Oct 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
The concept of infinity never fails to perplex me. Previously, my visions of infinity were focused mainly on the idea of outer space. I imagined swirling galaxies of nebulas and planets and dark matter. Each time, I was filled with this overwhelming feeling of being a tiny insignificant speck in the cosmos. Perhaps that’s why, when I first read The Library of Babel, I was so perplexed by this new idea of infinity.

Jorge Luis Borges' The Library of Babel describes the universe as an infinite lib
Jordan Taylor
It has been a year or two since I have last read anything by my favorite author of all time, Jorge Luis Borges.
"The Library of Babel" was always one of the short stories that stayed with me, and I am glad that I decided to re-read it last night.
Here, the Universe and the Library are one and the same, and the world is made up of shelves upon shelves of countless, infinite numbers of books.
The books, however, do not contain stories and histories and vast knowledge. Or, perhaps they do. In fact, ma
David Lafferty
Jan 15, 2013 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! ...more
Aug 03, 2016 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.
Sandra Ramirez
Jul 16, 2014 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!!!
Angie (Literary Labors)
Aug 08, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2018
All these four-star ratings for The Library of Babel! Y’all are either high af or just lying. I don’t buy it for a minute.
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Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo, usually referred to as Jorge Luis Borges (Spanish pronunciation: [xoɾxe lwis boɾxes]), 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 literary journals. He also wo ...more

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