Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Universal History of Infamy

After browsing my home book shelves this morning and slipping out a thin volume entitled "A Universal History of Infamy" by Borges I began paging through it. While everywhere there were depictions of scoundrels and murderers, I was never able to re-locate the page I had just read, a device that Borges himself used in his story "A Book of Sand." I suddenly realized that the only way such a slim volume could actually hold a Universal history of infamy, which I took to include past and future, would be if the volume contained a near infinite number of pages, which would make for a very unwieldy book indeed. Borges solved this problem by allowing pages to appear and disappear at random, thus allowing a near infinite coverage while keeping the volume slim. Just another of his great fictional devices.

4 comments:

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Leigh said...

As positive infinity becomes negative and negative infinity approaches zero, all that would be required would be zero pages minus an infinitely small amount.

Paul, one of the oddest gifts I've ever received came from a girlfriend, a book of the World's Greatest Disasters. I'm not sure what her intended message was.

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