Life inside the Library

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    While reading the story of the Library of Babel, I noticed one discrepancy, or something Borges probably forgot to consider. It’s said that a common way to despose of waste (eg. dead bodies or books considered useless by the Purifiers) is to throw it over the reiling so that it will fall through the ventilation shaft infinitely:

    Once I am dead, there will be no lack of pious hands to hurl me over the railing. My grave will be the bottomless air; my body will plummet for a long, long time, decaying and dissolving in the wind generated by my fall, which will be infinite.

    The world is also believed to be as good as infinite in height. That means there are an seemingly infinite number of people living higher up who are doing the same. If all (or just many) of the infinite people higher up have the same custom of throwing stuff down the shaft, the shaft will at all times be full of objects falling down. How is this possible?

    The quote above also describes that the body will dissolve to dust after a while, but with the speed of free fall, he will still travel many miles downwards before that. Also it means that most of the waste falling past each floor is already half decomposed and smell very badly. Maybe the concentration is so high that it can no longer fall freely, but only slowly flow down.

    I know that there are a lot of minor discrepancies in the story if you think about it realistically, but this one intrigued me especially.

    #15248 Reply


    Perhaps my old age and fearfulness deceive me, but I suspect that the human species—the unique species—is about to be extinguished, but the Library will endure: illuminated, solitary, infinite, perfectly motionless, equipped with precious volumes, useless, incorruptible, secret.

    The narrator’s reference here to the possibility of humanity going extinct seems to mean that while the library itself may be infinite, the number of people inhabiting it is finite.

    Of course this still leaves plenty to think about. If a finite number of people were spread among an infinite library you wouldn’t expect them to ever come into contact with one another, so either the people are infinite or they are entering this world in a similar location.

    #15273 Reply


    the library is not infinite, just huge.

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