Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Read it and weep

Jorge Luis Borges' 1941 short story 'The Library Of Babel' finds the Argentine author positing a library stocked with books that collectively contain every possible combination of the letters of the alphabet plus full stops, the commas and spaces - and thus every single coherent book ever written, and indeed (assuming no new letters are introduced in the future) every single book that could ever be written. The conceit itself is mindboggling enough - so the discovery that the Library is now a (virtual) reality is quite extraordinary.

Jonathan Basile is finding his creation both compelling and frustrating - the latter because of the inability to unlock the secrets and treasures tantalisingly contained within: "The desire produced in most visitors to the site, as it was for Borges’s librarians, is to discover what they do not already know – to find the lost gospels, or the cures of diseases, or the true story of one’s own death. All of it is contained on one of the library’s pages – and the fact that one can find anything one looks for only makes it more frustrating. What we want is to find what we don’t know how to look for."

(Thanks to Matt for the link.)

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