The Library of Babel
by Jorge Luis Borges
Our narrator, a lonely librarian, is the story's only character. He has no friends, no enemies, and no family, as far as we can tell, except for a father that he mentions just once. In fact, he sometimes wanders the halls for days on end without ever seeing a single soul. It makes sense that he has so few neighbors, seeing as how the human race is on the verge of extinction.
Poor guy. At least he has his books.
On second thought, none of those books are legible. And to make matters worse, the librarian is going blind. Man, this guy's life kinda sucks.
Okay, so how does the narrator console himself in his loneliness? Well, he searches for meaning in the universe. In fact, that's been the mission of his life's work – to find some sort of order to the Library that would explain the Big Questions in Life. Why are we here? Where did we come from? What does it all mean?
In the process of this "quest," the narrator learns a whole lot of history and becomes a pretty knowledgeable, academic type of guy. Now, in his old age, he's able to give us a scholarly history of the ideas about the Library, along with an explanation of the various philosophies and religious movements that have sprung up over the years.
But the narrator's interest in religion isn't purely academic. As it turns out, there's a part of him that wants to believe in something greater than himself. Toward the end of his narrative, the narrator prays (to whom? It's not really clear) for understanding to be granted to just one person in the Library – someone, anyone, even if it's not him. Ultimately, the narrator's peace of mind rests on his final "hope" that the universe is an orderly place.Timeline