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Jorge Luis Borges: Book of Sand

NoelK

New Member
I'm reading! Hard when you guys make suggestions like the Salman Rushdie book this month. I started Satanic Verses once but can't recall what all the hooplah about the jih*d was all about.
 

Heteronym

New Member
"The Book of Sand" is one of the best short-stories Jorge Luis Borges wrote. But it's also an example of how the master's life was an exercise in returning to and perfecting the way of expressing the same favorite themes.

The idea of a space that contains all written possibilities, all letter sequences, is already present in "The Library of Babel", which some have read as a prefiguration of the Internet. It's a vast, endless library that contains everything that has been and can be written.

Borges condenses this idea in "The Book of Sand". And also remains the idea that knowledge is simultaneously close and unreachable; like the endless library that you can search for a lifetime without finding the book you want, you can browse the book forever without ever finding the pages that contain what you want.

A monstrous book indeed!
 

CRead

New Member
Kinds of infinity and the Book of Sand

The "Book of Sand" is one of the most accomplished Borge's stories about one of his favorite themes: how we, finite beings, can ever hope to grasp an actual infinity. The infinite quality of this book goes further than the intuitive notion that most persons have of the infinite: the counting numbers 1,2,3...

If you read the story carefully, you'll come across passages that imply the infinity of the book is "larger": despite being infinite, you can name, in principle, all the counting numbers and you can always find a particular one, however large, just by counting up to it; but the book in the story has an infinity of pages that cannot be named or, even if you come across it once, you'll never be able to find it again: it's a "higher" infinite (ok, for the mathematically inclined, the book's infinity is the one that associated with the real numbers, which is provably larger than the one associted with the counting numbers).

This story is probably the best non-mathematical description of this kind of infinity; the second best is, in my opinion, another one from Borges: The garden of forking paths.
 

Peder

Well-Known Member
Yes, there is that higher order infinity, but in reading Borges I've never quite been able to decide whether he is being profound (and repeating Cantor independently) or just dabbling with the notion he has heard of -- and particularly in the stories mentioned. I sense a shallowness that leaves me not quite impressed with his mathematical playing.
 

CRead

New Member
I don't think Borges rediscovered Cantor independently, or even had the technical background to study the theory (he was definitely not a mathematician), but there were many popular expositions at the time, by Russell, for example, and he almost certainly read some of those.

But I don't think that this implies that his use of the said concepts in his stories are shallow: they are just used to build a short story around them and I don't read Borges because of the mathematical content of his stories.
 

Heteronym

New Member
Borges was a well-read man with interests in scientific books. He certainly read mathematical books, and the charm of his short-stories is that he managed to give these ideas a literary form.
 

joderu95

New Member
This story reminds me of a show I just watched about the possibility of parallel universes. No beginnings, no ends, endless copies of everything and so forth. My first Borges story. Thanks Libra.
 

Peder

Well-Known Member
Maybe I should revisit Borges. Book of Sand sounds interesting.

I'm surprised this thread is so short. His work is not that uninteresting or difficult. I hope this bump provokes some interest in one of the masters.
 

Peder

Well-Known Member
Also picked up last night Selected Non-Fictions by Borges, edited by Elliot Weinberger, hopefully to see what the man himself says about his writings. We shall see.
 

Gita V.Reddy

Active Member
I am trying to get the story 'The Book of Sand'; unfortunately the link in this thread is no longer working.
I've read some other stories by Borges and have liked them very much. The Circular Ruins remains a favorite. I love the ending where the creator/ dreamer realizes and accepts that he himself is the dream of another Creator.
I've found Borges to be different from other writers. He does not make any effort for the reader to share what he is seeing by handing out snapshots.
He finds a breathtaking view which is only visible from some remote, difficult to reach mountain peak; you have to take the trouble to join him. And if you do, the trouble is well worth it.
Many writers say, and mean it too, that they write primarily for themselves. I think Borges writes exclusively for himself which is not a bad thing at all.
 

Peder

Well-Known Member
Have read the short story The Book of Sand. Sorry to say I'm going to have to read further to raise my level of interest in his stories. He must be an acquired taste.
Which I am willing to try acquiring, but so far he continues to disappoint.
 
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