A Month of Short Stories 2015, Day Twenty One – The Library of Babel

The last two years, for the month of June, I wrote about a short story that was available online each day of the month… you can see the list for 2014 and 2015 in the comments for this page. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My blog readership fell precipitously and nobody seemed to give a damn about what I was doing – which was a surprising amount of work.

Because of this result, I’m going to do it again this year.

Today’s story, for day twenty one – The Library of Babel, by xxxxx

Read it online here:

The Library of Babel

Imagine, if you will, an infinite library. Well, not exactly infinite – because there is a finite number of letters in each book and the library has been demonstrated to not contain duplicates – therefore there is a finite (though very large) possible number of books. Instead of infinite then, it is endless… you will never reach the edge.

Let it suffice now for me to repeat the classic dictum: The Library is a sphere whose exact center is any one of its hexagons and whose circumference is inaccessible.

The galleries are hexagonal, with five shelves each along four walls. There are hallways leading away, these halls contain tiny restrooms and closets where the visitor can sleep standing up. There are vast ventilation shafts that give a good idea of the infinite… I mean endless nature of the library.

Well, you don’t really have to imagine this place, this library, this world, because it is described in detail in today’s plotless story – The Library of Babel. Borges’ works are intellectual and fantastic – yet somehow I find them mysteriously emotional and affecting. It’s a lot of work for a short short story – but it’s worth the effort.

At least I think so.

The methodical task of writing distracts me from the present state of men. The certitude that everything has been written negates us or turns us into phantoms. I know of districts in which the young men prostrate themselves before books and kiss their pages in a barbarous manner, but they do not know how to decipher a single letter. Epidemics, heretical conflicts, peregrinations which inevitably degenerate into banditry, have decimated the population. I believe I have mentioned suicides, more and more frequent with the years. Perhaps my old age and fearfulness deceive me, but I suspect that the human species — the unique species — is about to be extinguished, but the Library will endure: illuminated, solitary, infinite, perfectly motionless, equipped with precious volumes, useless, incorruptible, secret.