Aug 24, 2011
I jumped at the opportunity to illustrate a doodle commemorating Jorge Luis Borges, the fantastical Argentine writer who had long been one of my all-time favorites.
I first read The Library of Babel in college, and its imagery had stuck with me ever since. In it, the narrator inhabits a library that contains every possible permutation of a particular template of book, which contains 410 pages and 40 lines per page. Though most of the books are random gibberish, there are some that – by chance – contain coherent words, or even fragments of nonsensical sentences. The citizens of the Library are fixated on finding books that carry actual messages or directives.
This parable fascinated me, and as I explored the rest of Borges's work as research for the doodle, I continued to uncover striking passages. Whether the Borgesian protagonist was exploring labyrinths, temples, or his own mind, these stories always touched upon the same themes – the overwhelming complexity of the world's information, the incomprehensible machinations of memory, and the deep mysteries of dreams. These are the elements that I tried to convey visually in the doodle by drawing a vast and circuitous theoretical library.
I worked with fellow Googler Matt Werner, a Borges enthusiast who has written a book on the author, to develop concepts for this doodle. His blog post, over on the Google Books blog, has many more interesting facts on Borges and how he relates to the modern age of information technology. Borges's uncanny foreknowledge of the internet has also been addressed by Douglas Wolk in a Salon.com article. Though Borges's work seems steeped in mythology and tradition, it continues to have a profound relevance to modern civilization.
It was a great honor to have the chance to celebrate Borges, and it's my deepest hope that this doodle has inspired you to experience his work for yourself.
Posted by Sophia Foster-Dimino