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Old 05-17-2005   #1
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The library of Babel

I've just read "The House on the Way to Hell", one of the "Strange Papers of Christopher Blayre" by Edward Heron-Allen.

A funny story, about a very strange library. Here's the plot:
The new librarian of the University of Cosmopoli comes to see C. Blayre saying that he had a weird experience about "automatic writing". It seems the former librarian, dead for a while, has used this means to relate his post-mortem experience... The story is mainly a rendering of this curious automatically written paper.

It seems he ended up somewhere on the way to Hell (paved with tiles made from good resolutions...), in an immense library, filled with failed books: books never written, unfinished books, unfinished collaborations... All these books have been written/finished by dead librarians/would-be writers, that being part of their "purgatory". There are quite a few descriptions of such books. The story ends when the dead librarian is given a particularly interesting book by his guide (his Psychopompus?): the finished History of the University of Cosmopoli, a book he was to write, but never did.

It reminded me of the Library of Babel by Borges (with a less philosophical issue), and other stories as well, hence this thread. Anyone can think of other stories based upon fabulous libraries?

"How he made them laugh... sometimes"
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Old 05-23-2005   #2
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Re: The library of Babel

I'm writing three stories, "The Noctuary", "The Librarian", and "Crawling Night", that feature libraries, the second especially; The first has a very cool dream sequence involving one, while the third references a few mythos tomes (including the travel diaries of Arthur Emerson :wink: ) sans title (a snaky Arabic volume, a huge Latin tome, twelve slender aged paperbacks, a few hardbacks, and several scrolls).
Otherwise, not enough :lol: .

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Old 07-20-2005   #3
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Re: The library of Babel

There is a library in Hill House (“The Haunting Of Hill House” by Shirley Jackson). The library in the tower where bad things happened, not so long ago. Since the narrative point of view is from a third person (limited), we won´t see the library right until the end of the book , because the main character, Eleanor, cannot bring herself to enter the room.
When she does enter the room, she is much closer to the (dead) spirit of the house, so she finds it “not cold at all, but deliciously, fondly warm.”
The most interesting thing in that nefarious library is a book . Actually a scrap book, an “educational” item of sorts, made by that hideous and perverted puritan, Hugh Crain, the dead landlord, for her elder daughter.
I have to quote the whole title, because I reckon this book is up there, in the ranks of “most evil fictional books.”
Memories, for SOPHIA ANNE LESTER CRAIN, A Legacy for Her Education and Enlightement During Her Lifetime From Her Affectionate and Devoted Father, HUGH DESMOND LESTER CRAIN; Twenty-first June, 1881.
I find this book more frightening than the “Necronomicon”, which it seems to me more a useful prop in the Lovercraftian stage than a menacing object. And more unsettling that the Borgean “Book of Sand”, too fascinating and unfathomable to be really evil.
Enough. I don´t want this post to be a spoiler for the novel but a little homage to Shirley Jackson, patient mother, amateur witch and amazing writer.

"...what pleasures and improvements do such deny themselves who scorn and avoid all opportunity of intercourse with souls separate and the spirits, glad and sorrowful, which inhabit the unseen world!"
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Old 07-28-2005   #4
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Re: The library of Babel

Most evil/enigmatic/unusual books in fiction:
-Crain's scrapbook
-Kitab Al-Azif (original handwritten edition)
-Liber Ivonis
-the Book of Iod
-The King in Yellow (en français)
-Most other Mythos tomes, although less so than the aforementioned
-Cynothoglys
-Vastarien
-The Noctuary of Time
-the Book of Sand
[To be continued...]

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Old 09-13-2005   #5
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Re: The library of Babel

In Mark Samuels' THE SEARCH FOR KRUPTOS, we are introduced to a most unusual library: an entire town. The streets are littered with books, some of the walls seems to be made of books, furniture and even whole buildings made from books... What's more is that all these books are different volume of an infinitely metaphysical book, that the narrator is seeking : Kruptos. When he realises that, after days (weeks?) reading and striving to understand the meaning of the first couple of hundreds of pages of what he believes is the one and only Kruptos, he is driven insane.

It's Ligotti's favourite story in THE WHITE HANDS.

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Old 09-13-2005   #6
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Re: The library of Babel

Quote Originally Posted by ElHI";p=&quot View Post
In Mark Samuels' THE SEARCH FOR KRUPTOS, we are introduced to a most unusual library: an entire town. The streets are littered with books, some of the walls seems to be made of books, furniture and even whole buildings made from books... What's more is that all these books are different volume of an infinitely metaphysical book, that the narrator is seeking : Kruptos. When he realises that, after days (weeks?) reading and striving to understand the meaning of the first couple of hundreds of pages of what he believes is the one and only Kruptos, he is driven insane.

It's Ligotti's favourite story in THE WHITE HANDS.
Revelation as trash.
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Old 09-13-2005   #7
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Re: The library of Babel

Wow, that Mark Samuels story sounds really good, and the way it's been described reminds me of...

If you've ever played that PC game/interactive movie/tribute to Poe's works called The Dark Eye, the walls of the house you find yourself in have text written on them. You can't quite read them, but they are discernible as letters, and I thought it was a nice atmospheric touch for the game's look. Check out the game and its screenshots.

Also, and funnily enough to be related to Poe as well: While perhaps not a library per se, William T. Vollman has written a Poe tribute story of-sorts called "The Grave of Lost Stories." It's in his collection called Thirteen Stories, Thirteen Epitaphs, but I have it in The New Gothic, an anthology edited by Patrick McGrath and Bradford Morrow. The story can also be read online.


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Old 09-19-2005   #8
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Re: The library of Babel

Eldritchoo,
Thanks for recommending The Dark Eye game. I tried it today and found it quite entertaining. Indeed, the writings on the walls are quite intriguing.
At one point, I got quite exited at hearing one of the characters speak with an accent and manner resembling William S. Burroughs' voice. At first, I thought it was only an impression (I remember his eccentric recording of Naked Lunch - which I could never decipher :roll: ) but then I checked the credits and found myself stunned at the accuracy of my presumption. It's William Burroughs himself, who gives his voice to one of the main characters!

"In my imagination, I have a small apartment in a small town where I live alone and gaze through a window at a wintry landscape." -- TL
Confusio Linguarum - visionary literature, translingualism & bibliophily
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Old 09-19-2005   #9
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Re: The library of Babel

Oh, I'm glad to hear that you're enjoying the game. It's not just a tribute to Poe with all your stories but also with the way subjectivity becomes something to slip on and off. I'm sure the reasons why that's Poe-esque are lurking somewhere in my head, but it's half-past two in the morning, and the ideas aren't really coming out. But perhaps you know what I mean! :lol:

I used to have a copy of the game which went missing, so I was thrilled to see it available for download on that site. Unfortunately, I don't quite know how to burn it on CD, so I never got around to playing it again. How did you do it?

And yes, I forgot to mention that it was a game cool enough for Burroughs to have played a part in it. Was he reading "The Masque of the Red Death"? I can't quite remember anymore which piece it was.

Incidentally, although it's not quite a superlative gaming achievement as The Dark Eye is, another "dark" game from around that time was the one based on Harlan Ellison's "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream." I can't quite remember, but I think Ellison himself gave a voice to the computer that was subjecting all the characters to this and that.

"When the emptiness in you grows too large
You fill its vaulted chambers with the ash of memory
With the dust of desire."
- PZB
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Old 09-19-2005   #10
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Re: The library of Babel

"I Have No Mouth and Yet I Must Scream" is true horror/sci-fi at its best.

"And into his dreams he fell...and forever."
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