The Analysis Of Borges’s Book
After reading the story initially I thought it was a commentary on the battle between science and religion since the narrator trades his bible, seen throughout history as a source of knowledge, for a mysterious infinite bible-like book through which he tries and fails to decode. No one man can know or decode the infinite mysteries of science, and so it drives the narrator insane.
The book of sand by Jorge Luis Borges contains a theme of confusion, addiction, anomaly, and curiosity. Borges, or shall we call him the narrator, starts the story by acknowledging its obsession with the infinite with a summarized version of Zeno’s paradox
Lines consist of an infinite number of points; planes an infinite number of lines; volumes an infinite number of planes, hypervolumes an infinite number of volumes… No, this, this more geometrico, is definitely not the best way to begin my tale. Affirming a fantastic tale’s truth is now a story-telling convention; mine, though, is true.
The first paragraph is an arcane statement formed as a mathematical and philosophical problem, though it should be believed regardless. trying to tie it into the veracity of the story when he states “To claim that is it true nowadays the convention of every made-up story. Mine, however, is true.” His position on the truthfulness of the story is by design to set the reader up, but for what?
The narrator best describes himself as a collector of Bibles of variety in literary content and assorted languages. His scholarly experience in reading them also explains his viewpoint in describing Luther’s Bible as the “worst.” As we know the Bible is a guide on how to live life and some may arguably claim that it provides for the meaning of life. He is not alone in trying to find out what does this all mean. The narrator introduces us to an old man who knocks on his door. He is also a collector of Bibles. He is a foreigner who also appears to be in search of the meaning of life. He offers the narrator a Holy book with the words “Holy Writ” inscribed on the spine with the name Bombay written below it. The old man tells the narrator how he had acquired the book from an old illiterate talisman for a few rupees and a Bible. Upon giving up the book, the Talisman refers to the book as The Book of Sand because it appears that the book, like sand, has no beginning nor end.
Upon first inspection, the book appears several hundred years old and unusually heavy. In appearance it has similar qualities of an old Bible, well worn, typographically poor with double columns and ordered in versicles. To add to the puzzling nature of the book, it appeared to be written in Indian with numbers in Arabic that were placed in random order. If that wasn’t perplexing enough, the book never opened to the same page twice. This symbolic mystical nature of the book appears to represent the infinity of time and space as the guest states “If space is infinite, we may be at any point in time.” Is the old man suggesting that the symbolic meaning of the page numbers and what are on the pages are infinite only to be confined within the space they are in? And if this is so does a single page represent a grain of sand so small in time and space that it is limited by its very nature, but still is a part of the whole.
But what then does a grain of sand truly represent? If we are to consider the symbolic meaning of a grain of sand to symbolizing a human life, then as a human does it also signify our limitations? Are we nothing more than a grain of sand taking up space for a limited time? If we are to view humans in a much broader context of the infinity of time and space, what is our role and what is our connection? Are we equipped to know or understand any of it? In other words, are humans capable of understanding all that ever was and all that will ever be in the infinity of time and space? The obvious answer is no! Why? Because as humans we are limited by our very own capacities which in turn also limits our abilities. We are capable of certain things and incapable of others. Without knowing our true potential we are provided with an opportunity to express free will. Based on this freewill our successes and failures will provide boundaries of which we will find our limits.
If this is true, our limitations will prevent us from knowing the purpose of time and space and the role we play in it. Which brings us to our next question, what is the purpose of our existence? If a human nothing more than a grain of sand ill-equipped to understand all there is in the infinity of time and space, then are we not anything more than a piece of that space passing through time. But how much time will we exist and for what purpose? Is it easier to try and ponder our existence and acquire some profound meaning? What is that purpose and why? It is in our nature to question this very thing and seek answers. But if we can accept that we are truly nothing more than a grain of sand, and we are truly limited in our capacity, then we will never findcthe meaning of life. So what we are left with? Getting to know our own limitations and making the best of what we have. We all have been given unique abilities which are limited. Yet we are further limited within those limitations. The narrator provides us with a good example as to what it means to know your limitations. Intrigued by the book he begins to covet it. Unknown to him, the guest’s intention is to get rid of the book, they agree on a price and the book soon becomes an obsession which starts to consume his life. Upon careful inspection of the book, he finds the only thing constant within the book are the illustrations that appear every two thousand pages apart and are never repeated. Also, the book has neither a beginning or an end. His obsession in finding a meaning drives him into a self imposed exile. Upon coming to his senses he realizes that he has lost his friends and more less has becomes a hermit. He has come to recognize that he is unable to crack the meaning of what book is all about. The infinity of the book meant that he could never finish what he had started. He finally figures out that it is time to part with the book. Instead of selling it or donating it to the local library, he decides to hide the book where hopefully no one can find it deep in the bowels of the library where he once worked. There he hoped the book can rest where no one can find it and become consumed with it as he did. The narrator had finally come to terms with his own limitations. Unable to unlock the secret of the Holy Writ, he believes it is best that the book be left alone to exist in its own time and space for infinity.
The Bible symbolizes book ends as the Alpha and Omega of time and space. This is done through the symbolic passing of ownership of the Bibles for the Holy Writ. The beginning of ownership is acquired through purchasing the Holy Writ with a Bible and the selling of the Holy Writ by acquiring another Bible. In a sense we can say that there is an alpha and omega in the passing of time and space in the ownership of the Holy Writ. Through an analysis of the Bible, we can say that the purpose of the Bible is to provide for a way of life. If one chooses to live their life according to the Bible, they will not unlock the meaning of life. However, they will live a meaningful one. The Bible is a guide with boundaries, which are subject to interpretation and in turn, only serves to reinforce our very limitations of existence. At some point in time, we must put aside and bury what it all means and for what purpose, deep down in the recesses of our minds and learn to enjoy what we have and who we are for the limited time we have. If we don’t, we stand a chance of losing what little precious time we have to enjoy the gift of life.
With this gift of life we are also given gifts. We must find nurture and develop them. These gifts that we have been given allow us to do many wonderful things. The gift of life is not only an opportunity to exist, but it is also a chance to become enlightened, creative, and constructive. So what is the meaning of the Story of the Book of Sands and its symbolic gestures of time and space and what is the connection with the buying and selling of the Bibles for the Holy Writ? Do the Bibles in this story symbolize a beginning and an end? Does the symbolic meaning of the Holy Writ represent humanity and its existence as humans pass through time and space? Are birth and death symbolized through the passage of time and space as a page appears and then disappears in the Holy Writ? The purchasing and selling of the Bible appears symbolic of God as the alpha and omega. If God truly is the alpha and the omega, does this in turn mean that God is also Time and Space? If God is time and space, then does that make us a small piece of fabric of God that exists for a fraction of infinity within that time and space? If this is true, then what can be God’s intention be with us? What purpose do we serve God? The search for what it all means will never be answered in our existence as we know it. If Revelations in the Bible is to let us know that life will exist after death, then if we are to follow the guide the Bible sets forth are we to believe that the true meaning of life will be revealed to only those who are worthy and just? Only Time will tell if this is true.
The greater part of “The Book of Sand” story is an unexpected visit by a stranger at Borges’ fourth-floor apartment on Belgrano Street. The stranger, a Scot from the Orkney archipelago who’s a seller of English Bibles, presents Borges with the Book of Sand and explains that he acquired it from an illiterate pariah in exchange for a Bible and rupees. Borges, amazed by the book, proceeds in exchanging his retirement funds and a Wyclif Bible for the Book. just as the Bible is useless to the illiterate pariah, the magic Book, written in indecipherable script, is useless to Borges. He describes it as an old, clothbound, octavo volume of unusual weight, which has the words “Holy Writ” and “Bombay” on its spine. The pages, numbered in Arabic numbers, bore the text ordered in versicles, like the Bible. The Book Of Sand has no first nor last 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 the book. It was as if they kept growing from the book”. The seller says, “the number of pages in this book is no more or less than infinite. None is the first page, none the last”.
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