Friday, April 15, 2011

"The Library of Babel" by Jorge Louis Borges

Source: (mp3)
Length: 21 minutes
Reader: George Guidall

The story: I've always dreamed of a massive home library, with books lining every wall and shelves reaching up multiple stories. In this story, one of his most famous, Borges extends this book-love into an entire universe of books. Each of these books is different, but where did they come from and what is their meaning?

In a story stripped down to just a setting without plot or characters, Borges still manages to keep my interest and introduce some thought-provoking themes. Throughout his work, Borges is obsessed with religion, perception vs. reality, and the power of the written word. In this story, the books, some of them unintelligible, are thought by some of the residents of this universe to have a hidden meaning, and by others to be completely random, having meaning only by chance.

In our own universe, we likewise have natural feature of great complexity, but also with randomness embedded in them. Are they created by a greater Intelligence or the result of a series of random events, replicated and built up over time to build complexity? I don't think this is a necessary dichotomy. I believe that it is possible, like the people of the Library of Babel, to have things arise from random events, but still contain meaning for an observer with the intelligence to interpret it.

Rating: 8 / 10

The reader: Guidall is a professional voice actor who reads this story with a calm, scholarly tone that fits this story perfectly. With little of plot or characters, this would be an easy story for a reader to fall into a drone. Instead, Guidall uses pauses and changes in pitch to emphasize his words and changes in thought. This is a great reading of a classic story. Note: This is a commercial recording under copyright. It is unclear whether the hosting website has permission to post it.

(etching by Erik Desmazieres)


mel u said...

I just listened to this based on your suggestion-really great reader-thanks

Listener said...

Thanks, Mel. I love Borges.

Anonymous said...

Great author, wonderful story, amazing narrator. Thanks!

Just two notes:

- It's Guidall with an A, not Guidell.

- I'm not sure this recording counts as "free" in the sense that the people who made it intended it to be given for free. It looks like a rip from this audiobook.

Listener said...

Thanks, Anon. I'll put a correction in the original post.