Photo Of The Day

Pitcher plant (one of the few carnivorous plants)

Mount Wilson, NSW

The Rubaiyat : Quatrain XI


Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse--and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness--
And Wilderness is Paradise enow.

This is the eleventh quatrain of Fitzgerald's The Rubaiyat. It seems continuation of the previous two quatrains where poet implores him to let go of the glories of the past and come with him to the edge of the settlement, where the complications of civilization would not be there. Khayyam says here at this place, far from the trials and tribulations of life, we will with a loaf of bread beneath a large tree and with a bottle of wine and also a book of poems, we will sing in the wilderness and this wilderness would be our small paradise. Away from the society of men, away from the charm of a home, we will take refuge on the margins of the desert and there we will take out our loaf of baked bread in shade of a tree. We will cherish the food we have with a flask of wine doing the rounds between us and singing songs from a small book of poems. In this wilderness, in this what we call as paradise we will live in careless abandon with whatever little we have! A piece of bread, some wine, a song, a dear friend and a tree to rest on, what else does a man wish for in this small life! isn't this what paradise is?

Borges : The Library Of Babel - Part I (Summary)

This is another of Borges more famous works - The Library of Babel, a true Borgesian construct if I may say. This is a small brief on a fascinating story. I will try to analyse it in my next write up.

In this story there exists a Universe, which is called a Library and is composed of infinite number of hexagonal rooms with air shaft in between surrounded by low railing from where one can see the other hexagons on all other floors up and down. The Library is said to be unending. These hexagons had five book shelves on four sides of the room (which cover the walls up to the low roof). One free side had a hallway that leads to another identical hexagon and two small closets for sleeping and bodily functions. There is a spiral stairway which allows to move vertically to all places in this vast conundrum. Also present in this minimalist room was a "mirror which faithfully duplicates all appearances". The mirror to narrator is a sign of the infinite extent of the Library. The narrator says that he has traveled widely in his youth amid this Library to search for meaning of all these books or for a catalog of books to decipher the meaning of this enormity, but now that he is old,near blind and preparing to die (not far from where he was born though). Once dead, he would be flung over the railing and his grave would be the unfathomable air in a fall that will be infinite. Some says the Library is infinite, some others claim that "The Library is a sphere whose exact center is any one of its hexagons and whose circumference is inaccessible." some others say the universe is incomprehensible in any other form (like triangle) other than hexagon for any other concept of space is inconceivable. Other still claim it as a circular chamber containing a circular book, whose spine follows the complete circle of the walls. The circular book being God.

Each shelf has 35 books of similar format (i.e. each is of 410 pages and each page of 40 lines and each line of 80 black letters). Each book has a title that does not say what the book actually contains. After countless centuries, they come up with two broad canons about this Library. Foremost being that the Library exists from times immemorial. Second that all the text in the books is made of 25 symbols (including space comma and period). From these two axioms was demonstrated the fact that Library will exist in foreseeable future. A implication from above was that Man can be a product of chance, but this vastness of order, of its perfectness, of symmetry can only be work of a God."To perceive the distance between the divine and the human, it is enough to compare these crude wavering symbols which my fallible hand scrawls on the cover of a book, with the organic letters inside: punctual, delicate, perfectly black, inimitably symmetrical.". Also known was the fact (from the knowledge of these symbols), the books are formless and mostly random. For each sentence that made sense, there were countless others that lacked clarity. Some even swore that books meant nothing, and finding sense in them was like understanding disorderly lines of one's palm.

Such grandeur led to lot of speculation on the Library and its origins. Some believed that the language of the books had gone extinct as the first librarians used a language quite different from today and language spoken elsewhere in this maze is radically different from what's spoken here. However many said that any language however primitive can not meaningfully write 410 pages of just "MCV" to present a narrative or meaningful text. Some even hinted ciphers. But ages after ages of analyzing, a genius librarian came up with the fact that the building blocks of all books was essentially same (i.e. those 25 symbols). It was also speculated that there are no identical books. So the Library was "total" and had all books written, or will ever be written or were not written. It has all the truth, all the falsity, all the evidence of the falsity and everything that was to be said or unsaid. It is 'Complete' and all encompassing.
"Everything: the minutely detailed history of the future, the archangels' autobiographies, the faithful catalogues of the Library, thousands and thousands of false catalogues, the demonstration of the fallacy of those catalogues, the demonstration of the fallacy of the true catalogue, the Gnostic gospel of Basilides, the commentary on that gospel, the commentary on the commentary on that gospel, the true story of your death, the translation of every book in all languages, the interpolations of every book in all books."
The feeling of it being total, made the existence of Library seem vindicated to many. Some seemed euphoric. There was no problem whose solution could not be found in those books. The Library gave happiness for men felt overlords of such knowledge and it saddened some for it extinguished the "unlimited dimensions of hope". Also existed in the midst of these was book of Vindications for each man that has the story of their lives and wisdom for their future. Men set out like crazy to find them in the Library. Lot were killed. Others went mad in search of that elusive book of Vindications. A sense of despair followed the optimism. Such enormity, such vastitude and yet almost certainly meaningless and gibberish, except a small hope of finding a meaningful book made men mad. Now no one expects to find anything useful here. Deception was practiced. Some went to great length to create orderly books by creating disorder. Some argued that it is possible, to come up with a meaningful book by endlessly juggling the characters. A sect arose that went around destroying works that did not seem meaningful to them (to sanctify the library) though this did not actually made much of an impact given the size of the library.

Another persistent belief was born that there existed a "Man of the Book" who has found a book that was a catalogue of catalogue. A key to all other books. Many wandered to search for him. The human soul was exhausted and battered and conflicts, suicide and pillaging have ravaged the Library. Such meaningless adventures have consumed and wasted his (narrator) whole life as well. And yet in this despair, the author rejects that any book is this Library was meaningless. For him, the Library contained all variations of those 25 characters, but it does not contain a shred of nonsense. Any text must have a meanings that we're not aware of. The seven letters "Library" here means this, but it could mean different in another language. It has to have meaning is some hidden language of the Library. Do we even understand the language? Do we even know that language? I beg that such a "Man of the Book" existed for he will be understand the beauty of the scheme. If the honour was not mine, then let it be of someone else. Let the Library be justified for at least someone. I do not pity the Library for it will forever exist, ever perfect and secret and Infinite and random. I pity the human race. The burden has brought our decimation. I say Library "Infinite" for even with limited number of books, it will be never-ending It will just repeats itself. This universe is periodic. The repetition of disorder here creates an Order. And This belief gives me hope.
"I say that it is not illogical to think that the world is infinite. Those who judge it to be limited postulate that in remote places the corridors and stairways and hexagons can conceivably come to an end -- which is absurd. Those who imagine it to be without limit forget that the possible number of books does have such a limit. I venture to suggest this solution to the ancient problem: The Library is unlimited and cyclical. If an eternal traveler were to cross it in any direction, after centuries he would see that the same volumes were repeated in the same disorder (which, thus repeated, would be an order: the Order). My solitude is gladdened by this elegant hope."