Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Orientation of Babel

I am beginning to think the Librarian is deranged. Not only does he construe what must be a tower as a sphere, he claims also that "a few miles to the right the tongue is dialectical and ninety floors farther up, it is incomprehensible."

At first I let this draw my tower hypothesis into question, suggesting as it does a vast horizontal distribution of hexagons, but then I realized that it is nonsense to talk of "a few miles to right". To the right of what?

Even compass directions would be hard to imagine in this "universe".

In Borges's "The Secret Miracle", Jaromir Hladik's play The Enemies (or Vindication of Eternity) is set in a library and "the drama never [takes] place; it is the circular delirium that Kubin lives and relives endlessly."


Nicholas Manning said...

Beautiful, classic Borges . . . Of course, eventually, what is "to the right" of "the right" is . . . the right. Circularity of reference like the circularity of geography. What is true north in a dictionary?

Thomas Basbøll said...

Hi Nicholas, yes, raising these concerns, I'm not sure I'm a critic of Borges so much as a character in the story (his implied readers are often almost characters themselves.) On the other hand, I'm still not entirely convinced that what I'm talking about is not simply a defect of the story itself, or its translations. That is, I'm not sure that this is "classic" Borgesian obscurity. It may be an error.

The translation used by Andy Wilkins was done by Borges's second wife (printed in a collection called The Mirror of Ink). I still haven't found a copy of it here in Copenhagen.