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The Book of Sand

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Sophia Gouhin

on 2 June 2014

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Transcript of The Book of Sand

Head of a Man (Diego) (1964) by Alberto Giacometti. Kunsthaus, Zurich, Switzerland/ © 2009 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, ADAGP, Paris.
Six Quotes
"If space is infinite, we are anywhere, at any point in space. If time is infinite, we are at any point in time."
Brief Summary
Sophia Gouhin
The Book of Sand
By Jorge Luis Borges
Analysis of Language and Style
Analysis of Characters
There are two characters in "The Book of Sand": the narrator and the man that sells him the book.
The narrator is very comparable to the author, Jorge Luis Borges. He enjoys books and has a very large collection in his home, including "several English bibles". He accepts the book from the man selling it because he is very curious to the workings of the strange book. However, he then becomes obsessed over it. He develops a fear of losing the book or having it stolen. He can't sleep at night because the mystery of the book drives him crazy. He stopped seeing his friends, and rarely left his house. He realizes that the book is a "monstrous", "nightmare thing, an obscene thing, and that it defiled and corrupted reality." He gets rid of the book by hiding it in the library, but the book still haunts him and he lives in fear, he can't even go near the library. He has an obsessive personality with little self-control.
The man selling the book is very different from the narrator in the beginning. He knows what the book is capable of and is perhaps scared of if himself. He goes to the narrator determined to sell the book, this could mean that he is simply doing anything to get rid of the book or that he expects the narrator to enjoy the magic of the book and take good care of it. This man, was perhaps like the narrator in the past but then saw the danger of the book.
Analysis of Conflict
The narrator of this story suffers from an internal conflict. He struggles with his own curiosity and obsession over the book. The book is so precious to him that he stays up at night studying it. He cuts out his friends from his life because he feels he can't trust them around the book. He hardly even leaves his house after attaining the book. This conflict begins to be resolved in the end when he gets rid of the book by hiding it in the library. However, the conflict is never fully resolved because he still lets the book control part of his life. He will no longer go near the library in which he hid the book. This conflict drives the story's theme that too much of anything is never a good thing.
Analysis of Tone
The author has a diverse tone. He uses formal words that may be unfamiliar to the reader such as pedantic, bibliophile, and misanthropy. He also includes dialogue between the two characters. He studies the book, questioning it's existence, and he shares his emotions and habits with the reader, creating a contemplative and earnest tone. He blends supernatural elements into reality, creating a fanciful and whimsical tone.
Analysis of Setting
This story is set in the narrator's home, "a fifth-floor apartment on Calle Belgrano", in Buenos Aires. The author of the story also lived in Buenos Aires, this draws a parallel between the author and the character he creates as the narrator. The story begins on a normal summer night in the apartment. The story then ends when summer ends because it is then that the narrator realizes that the book is monstrous and is overtaking him. The narrator gets rid of the book at the library where he used to work, which is home to nine hundred thousand books. This contributes to the theme of the story because the change of seasons in the setting represents the realization of the narrator and his change in state of mind.
Analysis of Author's Purpose
In this story the author's purpose is to entertain the reader by appealing to his or her imagination. The author invests the reader in his story by creating a world of fantasy. The story is mysterious, causing the reader to continue to read. In the end the author teaches the reader a moral. The moral of "The Book of Sand" is the importance of self-control, one cannot let themselves become obsessed because even too much of a good thing, isn't good.
Literary Criticism
"To the joy of possession was added the fear that it would be stolen from me, and to that, the suspicion that it might not truly be infinite."
"I felt it was a nightmare thing, an obscene thing, and that it defiled and corrupted reality itself."
"No- this, more geometrico, is decidedly not the best way to begin my tale."

Jorge Luis Borges has a very unique style of writing. He feels that words are powerful and symbolic and uses them in such ways in his writing. His stories often pay little attention to plot and character and instead pay attention to combining fact and fantasy into one story. Paradoxes, statements or situations that contain two seemingly contradictory truths, are a way he does this and are especially prevalent in this story, "The Book of Sand". His use of paradoxes test the readers' intellect in comprehending the story. This
"'Look at it well. You will never see it again.' There was a threat in the words, but not in the voice."
"Only later was I to realize that he had entered my house already determined to sell the book.
"The Book of Sand" is the story of how an ordinary man is faced with something magical and extraordinary. It begins when the man is alone at his home on a summer night when a stranger comes to his door selling bibles. When the narrator informs him that he already has numerous bibles, the man admits that it's not only bibles he sells. He presents the narrator with a "sacred book". The narrator examines the book and notes unique illustrations and strange numberings. When he is unable to find the beginning or end of the book, he discovers that it is infinite. He makes a trade with a man for the book and when the man doesn't haggle, he realizes that he was already determined to sell the book. The narrator becomes obsessed with the book he stays up at night studying it, shows it to no one, stops seeing his friends, rarely ever leaves his house, and lives in constant fear of the book being stolen. As summer ends the narrator realizes what the book has done to him and describes it as a "monstrous", "nightmare thing". He finally gets rid of the book by hiding it in the National Library. He admits to feels better but refuses to "even walk down the street the library's on."
This quote contributes to the poem's theme of infinity. In this story, infinity is portrayed as an unknown and dangerous force. The mystery of infinity is what encourages the narrator to purchase and study the book of sand.
Possession is a very important theme in this story. The book of sand becomes the most valuable and important thing in the narrator's life. The fear that has possession may be stolen from him is enough to make him stay inside his house with no contact to others.
This quote represents the narrator's realization and the beginning of him solving his internal conflict. He finally realizes that he let the book control his life and completely allowed his obsession to overtake his self-control.
This quote is an example of a paradox, which Borges uses often in this story. He states that his opening sentence is not the best way to begin his tale, yet he still uses it to begin his tale. This already creates the theme of mystery in the story.
This quote instills the theme of mystery in the reader. It also signifies the value of the book, because what is seen can never be seen again. The author also explains that even though these words sound threatening, the man didn't mean them in a threatening way.
This quote is significant because it is where the narrator recognizes that the book may be dangerous. The man may have simply wanted to get rid of the book. This contributes to theme of hidden danger.
In a literary criticism by Lois Parkinson Zamora, she describes Borges' work as "magic realism". Borges often uses metaphor and other devices to question perception in reality. He writes with the outlook of philosophical realism both in his poetry and his stories. She writes that Borges' often takes idealism to it's logical extreme, as he does so in "Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius", "The Zahir", and "Funes the Memorious". He uses specific language, which allows him to capture exactly what it is he's discussing in his writing. Borges is fond of a "strategy of indirection"(Zamora), which is "exactly that of the 'kenning', the medieval Germanic verbal figure"(Zamora). In another article, Abhishek Agrawal agrees that with other critics that Borges' is "run by a highly ordered structural architecture and a surprisingly logical development."(Agrawal). In "The Book of Sand", Borges discusses infinity, a principle he's addressed in his other work as well, however he simply rephrases it in each of his stories. In his short story "Library of Babel" he describes infinity as something that can never be found, while in "The book of Sand" he describes it as something that is lost forever.
Works Cited
Zamora, Lois P. "The Visualizing Capacity of Magic Realism: Objects and Expression in the Work of Jorge Luis Borges" University of Houston 21-36. Web. May 28, 2014
Agrawal, Abhishek. "Borges: an Exploration of the Infinite". University Regulations 1. Web. May 28, 2014
Pavlopoulos, Theodor. "The Book of Sand". The Peacock's Tail. February 27, 2010. Web. May 28, 2014

story contains the reality of not just what we see in life, but also what we read in books and what we see in our imagination. Because Borges began his career as a poet his style is very poetic and also imaginative and thoughtful. Borge's writing also contains symbolism. For example, the book of sand is titled so because like the sand that stretches across the earth and under the sea, the book is infinite.
Everything you could ever want is within infinity
Leading us all to have curiosity

Infinity, is indeed enticing
Like a car, constantly racing

Never seen, infinity is mysterious
Light or dark? Eerie or glorious?

Does infinity himself even know who he is?
Or is he caught up in his own disease?

We all have a desire to know
Can infinity ever grow?

A desire enough to cause obsession
Exactly how, does infinity function?

Beers, Kylene, et al., eds. "Elements of Literature:" Sixth Course. Austin, Texas. Holt, Rhinehart, and Wintson, 2010.
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