Confusing and nonsensical are the two best words to describe my feeling towards the two short stories I had to read; The Library of Babel by Jorge Luis Borges and The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami. I was expecting something much more focused toward what we have been discussing in class but these stories seemed completely off the wall.
Borges’ story of an infinite, hexagonal library was not really nonsensical, however, it was confusing and even a little intriguing. While reading this story I had one recurring thought; that knowledge is not created but that it is discovered. In an infinite collection, such as the collection in Borges’ short story, all possible information is present somewhere. It is possible that the knowledge is yet to be discovered in the pages of some distant book, but it is still there. It was the librarians who discovered the fundamental law, according to Borges, that all books, no matter how different they are, consist of the same elements or characters. I feel as though Borges was stating that it is the librarian who makes the connections between different works, even when others cannot. The librarians are the gods of knowledge in the Library of Babel and since the Library of Babel is infinite, so is the knowledge of the librarians. I also find it interesting to note that those looking to gain knowledge from this library were described as travelers. They were journeying to find the distant knowledge, hidden away in some far away place. It was as if the data was using the space to make the collection of knowledge difficult for the people trying to find it.
Murakami’s story on the other hand was less confusing and more nonsensical. I found the story very disturbing and bothering. In fact, I could not find the will power to finish reading the story. I made it to the point where the girl enters before I completely lost all desire to finish the story. I could make very few connections to how this story had anything to do with libraries or spaces or the people that inhabit them other than the fact that it was a fictitious story that included all three. From what I read, this story portrays librarians in an extremely poor manner. Murakami’s librarian, the old man in the story, was very greedy. He used the knowledge of the library solely for his personal gain. He used the patrons’ desires to grow in their knowledge, and their lack of knowledge of the space to take advantage of them. After the patrons filled their brains with knowledge, he would eat them. The patrons were not positively impacted by using the library at all; they were punished with death. Keeping in mind that this is only a fictional short story, I still find it disgusting. On a positive note, this story makes me glad that real librarians are not like the old man in this story because if they were, nobody would set foot in a library. Murakami’s story makes me appreciate librarians as they are.
If I learned anything from these two stories it is that I am grateful for the libraries and the librarians we have today.