What is The Library of Babel?

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Kristen Lentz | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Librarian Jorge Luis Borges wrote the short story "The Library of Babel" in Argentina in 1941. Naturally it was written in Spanish and later translated to English in the 1960's.

The short story creates a very formulaic universe of hexagonal rooms filled with books that have an exact number of words comprising 25 different symbols. Most books are complete nonsense and a collection of random symbols, but within the framework of that randomness a perfect book of truth must exist. The story describes the quest of the narrator who came to the library in search of a book but is now on the verge of death.  The narrator believes the library is will outlast him and the human race.

The story has been the focus of much philosophical debate and has been influential to many other writers.