Szyzygy's Blog

The Impossible Library: Borges, Time and Evanescence

In time, there will inevitably be a library which encompasses everything, the sum and totality of human experience and understanding. This library may have already existed at one time in history. It may yet exist again.

 The blind Argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges has already written, in his own inimicable fashion, of the pitfalls and potentials of such incomprehensible and impossible repositories of human knowledge. Although Borges worked exclusively, in terms of his fictional output, in the medium of the short story, like Doctor Who’s Tardis these short stories are inevitably bigger on the inside than they appear from the outside. The subject matter of his short stories, more accurately described as narratives, ultimately revolve around paradox, and their physical manifestations, labyrinths. This complexity is of course ineffable, and I am necessarily constrained by the limitations of language in expressing the true and utter metaphysical absoluteness of such conceptions; Borges, never one afraid of a sudden steep descent into melodrama, characterised this ineffability as horror, the horror of the sort voiced by the dying Kurtz of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness: vast, impossible and irreducibly nameless.

 At the very heart, then, of this particular darkness, this impossible totality of knowledge, in which every thought and pattern of thought has, without exception an opposite and antithetical expression, there are such sublime and delicate works as those of Borges, rubbing shoulders with those of his obvious antecedents, the sombre reveries of Franz Kafka, the satirical burlesques of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. Against these delicacies we can set any number of dubious atrocities, many of them of a nationalistic or religious bent.

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