Borges’ ‘The Library of Babel’ comes to life…online


He wrote about a fantastical library, a paradise of books; author Jorge Luis Borges' famous “The Library of Babel” gave world literature an unparalleled story of a vast treasury of books. Published in 1941, “The Library of Babel” is the story of a library in which every work is composed of “spaces, commas, and an alphabet made up of 22 letters.” In the meantime, American author Jonathon Basile was inspired by this remarkable work of Borges' and has created an Internet version of what the Argentinian author describes. The web address is www.libraryofbabel.info and visitors to this site are carried off on a visual journey through a virtual world of books.

Borges describes the hexagon-shaped passageways of his library: “Twenty-five shelves, covering the entire expanse of the walls, with the shelves going from the ceiling to the floor… a narrow passageway from the side of the bookcase, each passageway opening up into another corridor. To the right and the left of the passageway [are] two very tiny chambers.” Borges' philosophical work has been an inspiration to many writers and thinkers through the years; not only does it proffer up meanings so deep that it's difficult to extricate oneself, it transports its readers to the edge of the corridor of some sort of eternal library.

Basile himself reportedly decided to create the Internet version of the Library of Babel one night when going to bed. Basile started researching whether or not anyone had already had the idea to do so, and realized shortly thereafter that no one had been crazy enough to try it. The library is one in which no two books are the same, just as in Borges' imaginary library. As Borges himself wrote: “On the hexagon shaped walls, there are five shelves apiece. Every shelf generally has 32 books; each book has 410 pages. Each page has 40 lines, and each line has around 80 black letters. Also, the spine of each book has letters on it; but these letters do not reflect at all what is written in the books.”

A visual representation of the Library of Babel

What Basile has essentially done is to try to produce a virtual, visual version of the library described by Borges. And using special programming techniques, Basile makes it possible for a visitor to this library to search for a certain word in the library while looking at the visual representation of the hexagon-shaped shelves that Borges describes.

Interestingly, it took Basile only six months to get this project up and running. While one's first visit to the site might be a bit confusing, after some time spent perusing its corridors, it begins to make more sense. As Borges notes at the end of his story: “The library is endless, and convoluted. No matter which direction you take in this perpetual journey, you will see in 100 years the same books with their orders realigned (and this renewal will change the order)… My solitariness takes consolation from this one hope.” Before spending much time on this interesting new website, one is strongly advised to read Borges' “The Library of Babel” in order to understand more easily what you have gotten yourself into!



Musa İğrek, London
Today's Zaman
9 May 2015

http://www.todayszaman.com/arts-culture_borges-the-library-of-babel-comes-to-life-online_380224.html

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