August 24, 2022

    The book of sand (El Libro de Arena) is a bizarre yet capturing story, written by yet the same author, Jorge Luis Borges. This is my Analysis and Summary on the story.


    Borges always introduces himself as the main character in his stories. Mixing reality with fiction are some of the most outstanding and mesmerizing details in Borges' work. You could read his story one time, and believe you understood everything. But, once you re-read it, you notice new hidden details you wouldn't have found before. Borges's realistic and fictional stories are those that captures our imagination, thinking what random event or mystery could appear every second you read an book of Borges. I find the Book of Sand a great example for this, mixing an sacred book which as he likes to call it, "infinity", with the ordinary typical life of someone living in the streets of Belgrano.

    In The Book of Sand, Jorge Luis Borges describes how a mysterious book with strange "powers" can alters someone's ordinary life. Borges always references in his literature pieces that human life is a mere point in the vast, infinite expanse of space and time, and that we take up only a slice of the universe.

    The narrator describes his bizarre first experience with the Book of Sand, when he discovers that the pages cannot be found twice: "Me fijé en el lugar y cerré el volumen. Inmediatamente lo abrí. En vano busqué la figura del ancla, hoja tras hoja. " (English: I took note of the page, and then closed the book. Immediately, I opened it again. In vain I searched for the figure of the anchor, page after page.) He also realizes that the Book's pages are infinite; no matter how hard the narrator tries, he cannot find its beginning or end. The Book of Sand is a example of all of time and space and humanity’s place in the large and unexpecting universe. For the narrator, the Book of Sand gives him a new perspective on his place in the universe that renders what he has learned through his Bibles and other literature meaningless. He states that the book was a “monstrous thing…and that it defiled and corrupted reality.” He becomes obsessed with the book, forgetting about his own life, and the people he connected with. Eventually, he realizes that the sacred book had taken over him, and decided to store it away in the library, where no one would ever know or bother looking for it.

    Borges is telling us that human life is but an extremely tiny part of the infinite expanse of space and time. 


    The narrator lives in Buenos Aires. One night, a bookseller appears at his front door, willing to sell Bibles and other antiquities. The narrator invites him in to chat. For nearly an hour, they stopped talking and the bookseller shows him an unusual book, which the narrator finds to be surprisingly heavy, even if it was small in width. On the column of the book are written the words "Holy Writ" and "Made in Bombay", so he knew this was no ordinary book in your library.

    When the narrator opens the book, he finds the words in bizarre lettering, possibly Arabic lettering. These page numbers do not appear to run in the odd and even order, so it's a random number per page. The bookseller told to Borges that he had bought the book for a few rupees and a Bible in an Indian town, from a man who told him the book was known as the Book of Sand,  because "neither the book nor the sand has any beginning or end, as it is both infinite.", the seller told Borges.

    The bookseller tells the narrator to find the first page of the book, or the last page, and bets that he'll never find it again in his lifetime. Borges surprisingly fails to do an simple task as said, since when he goes to the front or back of the book, more pages appear... so he knew that this so called "holy book" truly is infinite. The bookseller offers to sell the book to him, demanding a high price for the sacred item. Borges knew he definitely did not have enough money for the Book of Sand, only his retirement salary. He comes up with a ruse and offers him to give an old copy of John Wyclif’s Bible in bold lettering, which was his heritage from his parents, tied with his retirement funds, in exchange for the book. Astonished by the Bible, the bookseller immediately accepts, with no questions asked, and hands over the Book of Sand. The man takes his leave, with an successful trade. 

    Over time, the narrator becomes purely obsessed by the book, showing it to nobody for safekeeping. Eager to know what power holds the magical book, Borges studies it every day as an hobby, but he can never find the same page as told from the man who gave him the Book. He ignores his friends and becomes a so called ‘prisoner’ of the book, unable to resist looking at it over and over again...  

    Finally waking up to his senses, Borges comes to view the book as "monstrous" and "devilish", and needs to destroy it. At first, he has no clue how to destroy an infinite book. Sooner, he comes up with an idea, by incinerating the book, but fears that if he attempted to burn it, the burning book of infinity might create an infinite fire whose flames would engulf the whole world in just mere seconds. If not, it would pollute the entire world with grey smoke and dead ashes. That would be such a shame. In the end, he disposes of the horrific book by taking it to the Argentine National Library where he used to work as a librarian. Knowing all the alleyways and passageways, he discreetly hid it on one of the shelves in the library’s old basement, stacked with news journals and encyclopedias. No one will ever find it in the dusty shelves, nor will anyone go looking for it.

    Borges felt relieved, but still felt as if he were the cursed prisoner of the book...