Study Guide

The Library of Babel Exploration

By Jorge Luis Borges


Like all the men of the Library, in my younger days I traveled; I have journeyed in quest of a book, perhaps the catalog of catalogs. (1)

What kind of quest do you go on in a Library? Why, a quest for a book, of course.

It is true that the most ancient peoples, the first librarians, employed a language quite different from the one we speak today; it is true that a few miles to the right, our language devolves into dialect and that ninety floors above, it becomes incomprehensible. (6)

Despite the uniformity of the Library itself, it seems there's some diversity among its human inhabitants. This might help to make exploration of the Library a little less boring.

Thousands of greedy individuals abandoned their sweet native hexagons and rushed downstairs, upstairs, spurred by the vain desire to find their Vindication. (8)

Explorers are always super excited and optimistic at the beginning of their journeys. But these warm fuzzy feelings don't usually last too long – questing is hard work, yo.

At that same period there was also hope that the fundamental mysteries of mankind – the origin of the Library and of time – might be revealed...For four centuries, men have been scouring the hexagons.... (9)

Hold up a minute. They've been searching for <em>four centuries?</em> This quest isn't going so well… maybe they should just give up and go home.

They were spurred on by the holy zeal to reach – someday, through unrelenting effort – the books of the Crimson Hexagon – books smaller than natural books, books omnipotent, illustrated, and magical. (11)

This sounds like a quest for the Holy Grail type of scenario. The trouble with this kind of quest is, who knows if the Crimson Hexagon is even real? It might just be the stuff of legend.

Many have gone in search of Him. For a hundred years, men beat every possible path – and every path in vain. How was one to locate the idolized secret hexagon that sheltered Him? (12)

Another holy quest, only this time the explorers are searching not for a place or a thing, but a person. The trouble with people is, well, they die. So what if this dude is already dead? What if someone has already thrown his body over the air duct railings?

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