Tuesday, 3 November 2009

The Book of Sand

by Jorge Luis Borges

It was more than 20 years ago that I first read (in Russian) this short story by Jorge Luis Borges. Now, I took the book (Хорхе Луис Борхес) where I thought I first saw the story. I couldn’t find it in the table of contents though.

But why should I bother with that if I always can look it up on the web? In a couple of minutes, I found the original Spanish El libro de arena, Russian Книга песка, French Le livre de sable and Italian Il libro di sabbia. One also can read it in more Borgesian style: the English version (translation by Norman Thomas di Giovanni) appears as a hypertext puzzle by Maximus Clarke and Java application by Ariel Malka.

It was at this point that the stranger said, “Look at the illustration closely. You’ll never see it again.”
Venice is exactly like the Book of Sand. Once you see something that you really really like, you better buy it straight away. Otherwise you may never see it again. This is a proven fact.
In the upper corners of the pages were Arabic numbers. I noticed that one left-hand page bore the number (let us say) 40,514 and the facing right-hand page 999. I turned the leaf; it was numbered with eight digits.
That is also very similar to house numbering in Venice.

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