JORGE LUIS BORGES: Google Doodle celebrates 112th birthday of influential Argentinian writer

August 24, 2011

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A byzantine scene, beckoning and beguiling like a virtual reality, today honors a legendary architect of magical realities.

Google’s latest “Doodle” logo celebrates the 112th anniversary of the birth of great Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges.

The home-page artwork reads like a maze of magical realism, as an aging man in a well-stocked library, steadying himself with a cane, looks upon labyrinths and staircases and “forking paths.”

Borges the multilinguist wrote the ‘40s short story “The Library of Babel,” in which his library is so vast — constructed of countless hexagonal galleries — that it can be rendered almost useless, while Man is the imperfect librarian of this universe. (And if you care to co-opt this world for ready and modern Internet metaphors, you would not be the first to do so, nor the first to cast the gentleman in the role of search engine — the Book-Man as Google. Fitting, no?)

“Library of Babel” was among the stories in the Borges collection “El Jardín de senderos que se bifurcan (The Garden of Forking Paths).” And to many, Borges is best known for such ‘40s works as “Ficciones” and “The Aleph.” During this period, some scholars contend, Borges the visionary created the “hypertext” novel.

Borges — author and essayist, professor and poet — also wrote the ‘70s short story “The Book of Sand,” about an infinite book, each page of which can never be glimpsed a second time. Borges was blind by this point, but in his blending of worlds and epochs, fantasies and realities, he could be said to be glimpsing a fully digital future of infinite downloading. Borges died in 1986.

Of libraries and labyrinths, infinity and infinite books, sanity and surrealism, mirrors and mythical creatures. For decades, Borges could make most all of it mesmerizing and intricate and magical.

Borges, the weaver of worlds, said that “a labyrinth that folds back upon itself in infinite regression ... [so we] become aware of all the possible choices we might make.”

Happy 112th, Mr. Borges — even if such calendar numbers mean little in your labyrinth not of space, but time.

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Writer/artist/visual storyteller Michael Cavna is creator of the "Comic Riffs" column and graphic-novel reviewer for The Post's Book World. He relishes sharp-eyed satire in most any form.
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