The Library of Babel and the Net

The story begins with this quote –

By this art you may contemplate the variations of the 23 letters … The Anatomy of Melancholy, part 2, sect. II, mem. IV

Just finished reading the Library of Babel. It is a short story by the Argintinean writyer and lbrarian Jose Luis Borges. Originally written in Spanish – La biblioteca de Babel. The story is about a library or rather a network of libraries that is well the Universe. The library was composed of interlocked hexagonal rooms and had books constantly of the same size, shape and number of pages. The total knowledge and information of the Universe.

One could spend a lifetime wandering across the different rooms of the library. People did and died. Well, it was an infinite library. And … Well it would be best dear friend and reader if you would read it and enjoy the product of Borge’s mindseye.

James Irby’s Translation = The Library of Babel

Borge’s tale of the library sort of reminded me of the Internet and how it has evolved or transformed into our present version of the Library of Babel. With so much information, data, and knowledge uploaded every second,every minute, every hour of every day one can just imagine the size of this … Our digital library.

It may not be infinite …. But we are getting there. And when we do then perhaps we will have people wandering the nearly endless library. Meandering would probably be a better term.

Then we would understand the true meaning of information overload. Something like a man looking for fresh water in th sea. Something like the frustration and hopelessnes the librarian of the library felt. In this sense the title The Library of Babel seems a most apt title for the short story and the library. Babel or the Tower of Babel was in the Bible:

And so God scattered them upon the face of the Earth, and confused their languages, and they left off building the city, which was called Babel “because God there confounded the language of all the Earth. – Genesis 11:5-8

I wonder when will the “Purifiers” appear destroying information while looking for the “Crimson Hexagon” or the belief that somewhere out in the vast digital wilfderness is the supreme catalog of all things. And out there is someone who has read the supreme catalog of all things.

And the means of seeking these things in this Library is through the the search engines and through tweets, post and status messages.

For Librarians, and Borges was a Librarian, the Internet has provided them new tools for accessing the Internet and doing Reference service via social and emerging media.

Just a thought.

Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo
24 August 1899 – 14 June 1986

This entry was posted in Stories and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply