When I wrote about Borges last week, I mentioned I was often bowled over by him. “The Library of Babel” is for me another example of why. Borges returns to many of his usual themes: books and literature, infinity, words and their meaning, the universe and its comprehensibility (or lack thereof), numbers and mathematics. He plays with these subjects and arranges them into a pleasing shape with beautiful prose, but my ultimate impression is always that these stories are probably best understood in the context of his whole project, which I have yet to fully absorb.
He’s certainly a reader’s writer; what book-lover wouldn’t love a universe in the form of a massive library, containing every possible book of a specified length? And what numbers-lover wouldn’t love thinking about the permutations of hexagons that would contain the unfathomable number of volumes therein? “You who read me, are You sure of understanding my language?” Ach, so wonderful; I’m gushing.
I’ve found writing about short stories in general on the difficult side, but writing about these is even harder. These are sort of vignettes. Borges gives us the Library of Babel, and it’s in a first-person narrative form so he does give us someone’s life history, but it’s the picture of this universe that dominates. What would this universe be like, and is it different in any way from our own, other than at the most superficial level?
I will head over to Caravana de recuerdos and find out what my fellow bloggers had to say on Friday. Stay tuned for “The South” this Friday to wrap up our Borges readalong.