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  1. says:

    Aesthetic experience is extraordinary in the sense that it is always ours alone uniuely ours And some aesthetic experiences hit us right between the eyes with a knockout punch these are encounters we will never forget One such encounter was my reading this collection of stories by Jorge Luis Borges some thirty years ago The images of the book of sand with its infinite pages the hermit looking for a one sided disk an author's pristine lovemaking with a beautiful woman for me all aesthetic knockout punches I would encourage anybody who would like to expand their horizons expand their inner universe and exercise their imagination to pick up and read this most wonderful collection As a way of providing a sample here are my top ten uestions on the title story – The Book of Sand And below my uestions the actual story1 In what way or ways can any short work of fiction be true?2 What would be your initial thought and feeling if someone handed you the book of sand?3 What book in your personal library would you trade for the book of sand?4 Is the book of sand a metaphor for all great works of literature in the sense those works have no end or bottom? 5 What book comes to mind for you as one where the you reread the uestion arise? 6 Are all works of literature infinite since they expand in different directions each time they are read by a different reader? 7 Are you inextricably bound to a certain book or in other words is there any book holding you as prisoner? 8 What is it about certain books that they refuse to be mastered by anybody? 9 Would you feel uneasy owning the book of sand?10 Where would you hide the book of sand if you never wanted the book to be discovered?THE BOOK OF SAND by Jorge Luis Borges The line is made up of an infinite number of points; the plane of an infinite number of lines; the volume of an infinite number of planes; the hypervolume of an infinite number of volumes No unuestionably this is not— geometrico—the best way of beginning my story To claim that is it true is nowadays the convention of every made up story Mine however is true I live alone in a fourth floor apartment on Belgrano Street in Buenos Aires Late one evening a few months back I heard a knock at my door I opened it and a stranger stood there He was a tall man with nondescript features—or perhaps it was my myopia that made them seem that way Dressed in gray and carrying a gray suitcase in his hand he had an unassuming look about him I saw at once that he was a foreigner At first he struck me as old; only later did I realize that I had been misled by his thin blond hair which was in a Scandinavian sort of way almost white During the course of our conversation which was not to last an hour I found out that he came from the Orkneys I invited him in pointing to a chair He paused awhile before speaking A kind of gloom emanated from him—as it does now from me I sell Bibles he said Somewhat pedantically I replied In this house are several English Bibles including the first—John Wiclif's I also have Cipriano de Valera's Luther's—which from a literary viewpoint is the worst—and a Latin copy of the Vulgate As you see it's not exactly Bibles I stand in need of After a few moments of silence he said I don't only sell Bibles I can show you a holy book I came across on the outskirts of Bikaner It may interest you He opened the suitcase and laid the book on a table It was an octavo volume bound in cloth There was no doubt that it had passed through many hands Examining it I was surprised by its unusual weight On the spine were the words Holy Writ and below them Bombay Nineteenth century probably I remarked I don't know he said I've never found out I opened the book at random The script was strange to me The pages which were worn and typographically poor were laid out in a double column as in a Bible The text was closely printed and it was ordered in versicles In the upper corners of the pages were Arabic numbers I noticed that one left hand page bore the number let us say 40514 and the facing right hand page 999 I turned the leaf; it was numbered with eight digits It also bore a small illustration like the kind used in dictionaries—an anchor drawn with pen and ink as if by a schoolboy's clumsy hand It was at this point that the stranger said Look at the illustration closely You'll never see it again I noted my place and closed the book At once I reopened it Page by page in vain I looked for the illustration of the anchor It seems to be a version of Scriptures in some Indian language is it not? I said to hide my dismay No he replied Then as if confiding a secret he lowered his voice I acuired the book in a town out on the plain in exchange for a handful of rupees and a Bible Its owner did not know how to read I suspect that he saw the Book of Books as a talisman He was of the lowest caste; nobody but other untouchables could tread his shadow without contamination He told me his book was called the Book of Sand because neither the book nor the sand has any beginning or end The stranger asked me to find the first page I laid my left hand on the cover and trying to put my thumb on the flyleaf I opened the book It was useless Every time I tried a number of pages came between the cover and my thumb It was as if they kept growing from the book Now find the last page Again I failed In a voice that was not mine I barely managed to stammer This can't be Still speaking in a low voice the stranger said It can't be but it is The number of pages in this book is no or less than infinite None is the first page none the last I don't know why they're numbered in this arbitrary way Perhaps to suggest that the terms of an infinite series admit any number Then as if he were thinking aloud he said If space is infinite we may be at any point in space If time is infinite we may be at any point in time His speculations irritated me You are religious no doubt? I asked him Yes I'm a Presbyterian My conscience is clear I am reasonably sure of not having cheated the native when I gave him the Word of God in exchange for his devilish book I assured him that he had nothing to reproach himself for and I asked if he were just passing through this part of the world He replied that he planned to return to his country in a few days It was then that I learned that he was a Scot from the Orkney Islands I told him I had a great personal affection for Scotland through my love of Stevenson and Hume You mean Stevenson and Robbie Burns he corrected While we spoke I kept exploring the infinite book With feigned indifference I asked Do you intend to offer this curiosity to the British Museum? No I'm offering it to you he said and he stipulated a rather high sum for the book I answered in all truthfulness that such a sum was out of my reach and I began thinking After a minute or two I came up with a scheme I propose a swap I said You got this book for a handful of rupees and a copy of the Bible I'll offer you the amount of my pension check which I've just collected and my black letter Wiclif Bible I inherited it from my ancestors A black letter Wiclif he murmured I went to my bedroom and brought him the money and the book He turned the leaves and studied the title page with all the fervor of a true bibliophile It's a deal he said It amazed me that he did not haggle Only later was I to realize that he had entered my house with his mind made up to sell the book Without counting the money he put it away We talked about India about Orkney and about the Norwegian jarls who once ruled it It was night when the man left I have not seen him again nor do I know his name I thought of keeping the Book of Sand in the space left on the shelf by the Wiclif but in the end I decided to hide it behind the volumes of a broken set of The Thousand and One Nights I went to bed and did not sleep At three or four in the morning I turned on the light I got down the impossible book and leafed through its pages On one of them I saw engraved a mask The upper corner of the page carried a number which I no longer recall elevated to the ninth power I showed no one my treasure To the luck of owning it was added the fear of having it stolen and then the misgiving that it might not truly be infinite These twin preoccupations intensified my old misanthropy I had only a few friends left; I now stopped seeing even them A prisoner of the book I almost never went out any After studying its frayed spine and covers with a magnifying glass I rejected the possibility of a contrivance of any sort The small illustrations I verified came two thousand pages apart I set about listing them alphabetically in a notebook which I was not long in filling up Never once was an illustration repeated At night in the meager intervals my insomnia granted I dreamed of the book Summer came and went and I realized that the book was monstrous What good did it do me to think that I who looked upon the volume with my eyes who held it in my hands was any less monstrous? I felt that the book was a nightmarish object an obscene thing that affronted and tainted reality itself I thought of fire but I feared that the burning of an infinite book might likewise prove infinite and suffocate the planet with smoke Somewhere I recalled reading that the best place to hide a leaf is in a forest Before retirement I worked on Mexico Street at the Argentine National Library which contains nine hundred thousand volumes I knew that to the right of the entrance a curved staircase leads down into the basement where books and maps and periodicals are kept One day I went there and slipping past a member of the staff and trying not to notice at what height or distance from the door I lost the Book of Sand on one of the basement's musty shelves

  2. says:

    This is one of Borges' last books and many of the pieces here are less than his best The Congress however is a tale of the microcosm as powerful and effective as The Aleph and The Book of Sand is also one of Borge's finest stories The Sect of Thirty is an excellent short piece and the theological implications of this account of heresy are both disturbing and illuminating Don't expect too much and you will enjoy watching an old master at work

  3. says:

    There's something really sensory and textured about JLB's fiction writing Reading his work always invokes the distinct smell of dusty leather bound books the creaking sounds of flawed wood floors lightly tread upon by anonymous figures in the corridors of giant empty houses the odors of burnt coffee and blackened toast a wind gust through a broken and off kilter porch chime A little stuffy at times but in that charming uirky professor sort of way the one who always wore mod colored tweed smelled like shoe polish and mothballs and would incessantly delicately blow his nose with an actual silk handkerchief This is what I find most immediately appealing about Borges I can not only read and enjoy his stories but see them detect their various scents feel the ambient temperature of the room hear the distant inconseuential noises inside them He manages to use a light hand to paint great detailUnlike the compilation Labyrinths with its pockets of occasionally dense hinting at impenetrable storylines The Book of Sand finds Borges wholly in his later years the retired Gentleman spinning fantastical tales of dreamlike scenarios involving a dozen different manifestations of the aging author looking back on love nightmares hallucinations goals both met and shamefully forgotten and literary and spiritual worlds invoked at various points throughout his conscious awareness Of my favorite stories in the collection the majority were arguably a little bit Lynchian in their not uite placeable eeriness In fact both There Are More Things with its surreal and terrifyingly barren setting and A Weary Man's Utopia with its spooky ooky wise man frozen in time are downright Black Lodge y in the best of waysAnother gems is The Other which deals with a young Borges coming face to face with the older version of himself or vice versa or both or who is really the conscious one here and is now actually now or some other time? etc You know Borges stuff Others deal with sacred manuscripts and elusive texts secret or alien societies rare artifacts with magical powers mythologies re embraced and mutated High Literature dead languagesyou know other Borges stuff Ulrikke is a gorgeous ode to both the fleeting nature of passion and the echoing impact people can have on you through even brief entanglements or maybe it's just Borges trying to romanticize one night stands? and was probably the most emotionally potent for little old me personally as someone who has lost a lot of people over the years in a number of ways I think there is something here for everyone though assuming they have even the tiniest bit of imagination and human emotions Book not for robotA short visceral and subconscious strumming collection Even if you don't like the stories you'll definitely at least be able to smell them and they may continue to sneak into your head at night for some time afterward

  4. says:

    “It’s not the reading that matters but the rereading”So true of all JLB’s worksI have the Collected Fictions but am splitting my review of that into its components listed in publication order Collected Fictions all reviews The Book of Sand is the eighth published in 1975 After the generally uite straightforward stories of Brodie's Report this is a welcome return to mystical metaphysical tales This review does NOT include the four stories published as Shakespeare’s MemoryThe Other 6“The encounter was real but the other man spoke to me in a dream”How often have you wondered what you would tell your younger self if you had the chance? Would your younger self take any notice? What else would you talk about? More importantly would you give them a glimpse of “my past which is now the future that awaits you” and if you did would you be constraining that future by doing so?So many of JLB’s stories have semi fictionalised aspects of himself or a person meeting another version of themselves; this has both See also “August 25 1983” below and “Borges and I” in Dreamtigers But although it is described in pleasant terms JLB says it was “almost horrific while it lasted” and mentions “elemental fear” and the “sleepless nights that followed” view spoilerThey talk about literature of course and family Young JLB has recently read Dostoyevsky’s The Double which is apt It’s awkward though “We were too different yet too alike We could not deceive each other and that made conversation hard Each of us was almost a caricature of the other”JLB realises “There was no point in giving advice because the young man’s fate was to be the man that I am now” He concludes that the meeting was real for him but merely a dream for his younger self hide spoiler

  5. says:

    By The Book of Sand Jorge Luis Borges continues his lifelong trek through the paradoxical land of human mindIn The Other he meets himself in person but his doppelganger is younger and they have a grand intellectual discussion Well I too meet myself every day in the mirror but so far we have no conversations – God forefend“I find my sadness over the death of that man who most emphatically was never my friend to be curiously stubborn I know that I am alone; I am the world's only custodian of the memory of that geste that was the Congress a memory I shall never share again I am now its only delegate It is true that all mankind are delegates that there is not a soul on the planet who is not a delegate yet I am a member of the Congress in another way – I know I am; that is what makes me different from all my innumerable colleagues present and future It is true that on February 7 1904 we swore by all that's sacred – is there anything on earth that is sacred or anything that's not? – that we would never reveal the story of the Congress but it is no less true that the fact that I am now a perjurer is also part of the Congress That statement is unclear but it may serve to piue my eventual readers' curiosity”The idea of a world congress presenting the delegations and interests of all humankind turned out to be too absurd because the world congress of this kind can only be the world itself“It was a clothbound octavo volume that had clearly passed through many hands I examined it; the unusual heft of it surprised me On the spine was printed Holy Writ and then Bombay I opened it at random The characters were unfamiliar to me The pages which seemed worn and badly set were printed in double columns like a Bible The text was cramped and composed into versiclesAt the upper corner of each page were Arabic numerals I was struck by an odd fact the even numbered page would carry the number 40514 let us say while the odd numbered page that followed it would be 9991 turned the page; the next page bore an eight digit number It also bore a small illustration like those one sees in dictionaries an anchor drawn in pen and ink as though by the unskilled hand of a child”And The Book of Sand the infinite book in an unknown language which never could be read to the end how about it? Well I open a reader on my computer and every time there is a different book and I will never read them all

  6. says:

    So much of how we react to the books we read is determined by circumstance and expectation When I read Borges' Fictions at the beginning of this year I had heard a lot about the author and had very high expectations I did enjoy Fictions but in all honesty it didn't uite match my expectations and I didn't appreciate it as much as I should haveNow reading The Book of Sand and Shakespeare's Memory the circumstances are different After having consumed so much Beckett with his abstract intentions and long and rambling paragraphs this collection of short stories with its direct and simple structure is so welcome and refreshing This time my expectations have been tempered and as a result have been vastly exceeded Although The Book of Sand and Shakespeare's Memory is generally considered a lesser work I enjoyed this much than Fictions which of course I will now need to rereadBorges writes such interesting stories He is not afraid to transport the reader to distant locations in both time and place and although he freuently distorts reality into fantasy the stories always feel very grounded and authentic The prose feels light not at all dense and yet he fits so much into so few pages It's interesting that he writes here almost exclusively in the first person often with himself or someone who shares his name as the protagonist Some of these stories are deeply personal like The Other and August 25 1983 Others are abstract fantastical and allegorical like The Mirror and the Mask and Blue Tigers All are wonderful The Borges who wrote these stories was a man approaching the end of a long and full life It's difficult to ignore this fact when assessing these stories just as it is easy to overstate its significance There is a sadness to the stories a sense of something lost or undiscovered but there is also an expression of reverence and wonder for the great possibilities of the world Maybe the point is that these are not necessarily distinct and opposing perspectives

  7. says:

    While I did enjoy a couple of these stories for the most part I was left feeling uite bored by this collection I don’t know if it’s because I was reading in French which isn’t my first language or because the book is a translation and the magic got lost in translation either one is entirely possible I am still glad I read it though it’s something I never would have read before and I’m enjoying pushing my reading comfort zone a bit

  8. says:

    Books are made to be reread says Borges in one of his short stories I definitely have to reread this oneX maybe in one year maybe in ten or maybe one short story a month short story is not completely accurate Borges has the power to create whole universes in just a few pages there are so many motives and themes in this book it is simply overwhelming He talks about love about alterego about writing about infinity about death about words about heresy His erudism is overwhelming his views about life are so humble and so clear One need to read such books at least once in a lifetime or once in a while to appreciate the real value of literature

  9. says:

    In this short story you can find a Scotsman a discussion on bibliophilism and on a not very famous but known to every reader feeling that some books take over your soul I had books like the book of sand in my life Some I had to stop for a period They took over too much of my imagination and of my life too if I'm honest I loved those books and felt sad when I finished it This story is about these feelings You should read it It's so small And so significant it could only be the seminal work of Jorge Luis Borges He's a gem 5 stars

  10. says:

    Once upon a time once upon a long time when I was in high school we read one of Borhes’ stories I don’t remember which one but I remember liking it a lot And ever since that day I got it into my head that I would like his other stuff—don’t ask me why I just did—albeit it took me years to get my hands on something of his and to actually see if that’s trueSadly I didn’t feel much while reading this I liked The Other A Weary Man’s Utopia The disc and The Book of Sand but at the same time I wasn’t wowed by them; there were two or three stories that intrigued me a little I think the reason is that in class we analyzed the story we tried to understand it but now it would seem I forgot how to do that to dissect and look deeper into the story The books I’ve been reading didn’t need much thinking maybe that’s the reason I have been reading them

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El libro de arena El primero de los cuentos reunidos auí retoma el tema del doble los protagonistas de El otro son lo bastante distintos para ser dos y lo bastante parecidos para ser uno Ulrica es la historia de un amor efímero El Congreso describe una empresa tan vasta ue se confunde con el cosmos y con la suma de los días Undr y El espejo y la máscara son relatos sobre literaturas seculares ue constan de una sola palabra mientras ue otras piezas imaginan objetos inconcebibles como un libro de infinitas páginas; un volumen impredecible y a la vez monstruoso el libro de arena