Tag Archives: Jorge Luis Borges

“The Forbidden Book of Uziah Greiss” – Fiction by Abhishek Sengupta

Saraswati – Nandalal Bose, 1941

The grand finale of our Winter 2018 issue is Abhishek Sengupta‘s brilliantly Byzantine and Borgesian short story “The Forbidden Book of Uziah Greiss.”

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HAVING WORKED AS A LIBRARIAN in the Egyptian National Library and Archives (ENLA) for forty long years, visiting it for ten years as an ex-librarian subsequent to his retirement, and concentrating on reading each book housed there thrice, Uziah Greiss discovered that the 13013th word in each book is a number. Always. Without exception.

He also noted that although they appeared in different formats, each one of them was a different number (or a sign denoting a number, or terms we could map numerically). For example, in a book named A History of Martyrdom, the 13013th word is “gross”. It appears in the sentence ‘A gross misconduct on the part of the king announced the beginning of war.’ Numerically, the word “gross” stands for one dozen of dozens, or more simply, the number 144.

After years of studying, Greiss came to another startling conclusion: each number appearing as the 13013th word in a book was unique and appeared only once throughout all books ever written. Never repeated.

This synopsis attempts to uncover, as well as understand, the only (and yet, incomplete) text ever written by Uziah Greiss, which is as much of an enigma as it is a catalogue of his finding.

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Let it be known that this is my final attempt at publishing the short synopsis of The Forbidden Book of Uziah Greiss (that is not the real name of his book, but then, his manuscript had no name – real or otherwise, and it remained incomplete for someone killed him before he could complete it). All my earlier attempts at writing and publishing the synopsis have met with failure in some mysterious circumstances, but I promise to stay true to the history of writing this synopsis by recording my failures as well. So, let me start by quoting the circumstances leading to each of those failures.

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Attempt # 1: I completed the synopsis in my first attempt. A publisher in town showed interest in it. I had been traveling on a bus with my completed manuscript when I suddenly started feeling drowsy. Although not in the habit of falling asleep on a bus, that day I did. On waking up, I found my bag, which sat on my lap and contained the manuscript, had been stolen.

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Attempt # 2: I stumbled half-way through the synopsis when the news broadcast confirmed reports of war breaking out. My wife claimed the city we stayed in was not safe anymore, which happened to be true. So, we moved to a different city, one supposed to be safer. When I unpacked my belongings, however, I could no longer find my half-finished synopsis.

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Attempt # 3: A letter arrived when I was about to complete the synopsis. My wife opened it. A clear warning surfaced, attempting to prevent me from trying to publish my synopsis. It told grave consequences awaited my family and me if I tried. The sender’s name didn’t figure anywhere. I didn’t want to pay much heed to an anonymous warning, but my wife was reluctant. She said she was afraid for our son’s life. She tore up the pages on which I had been writing the synopsis.

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Attempt # 4: I started writing the synopsis in extreme secrecy this time. I didn’t mention it to anyone, not even my wife. One day, when my wife and son went to the market, I received a phone call. The voice on the other end claimed my wife and son had been in an accident and were admitted to the nearest hospital. By the time I reached the hospital, it was too late. Both were declared dead. When I returned home a broken man, I found someone had broken into my home. The synopsis I was working on was gone.

Continue reading “The Forbidden Book of Uziah Greiss” – Fiction by Abhishek Sengupta

“The Invention of H.P. Lovecraft” – Fiction by Shay K. Azoulay

weird_tales_september_1952From our Fall 2016 issue, Shay K. Azoulay‘s “The Invention of H.P. Lovecraft” is a fictional– yet, perhaps, plausible?!– theory on the origin of the influential horror author.

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The following is the first and only post, published on 15 December 2014, in a blog named “The Invention of H. P. Lovecraft”. No author has been identified.

MUCH LIKE DARWIN IN HIS DAY, who was prompted to present his theory of natural selection when he discovered the naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace had made similar discoveries, hoping to establish precedence and preempt the young upstart, so am I forced to release my own revolutionary findings prematurely, with absolute conviction but without what many would consider substantial evidence or incontrovertible proof. Due to these constraints of time and resources, my presentation of the discovery will be rudimentary, a symbolic staking of a claim if you will, to which I will later return with expansions, clarifications, revisions, and refinements. This is certainly not how I imagined I would present such an explosive theory, which I have been formulating for several months now, but in our lives things rarely go as we plan or imagine them, and the people we thought we could trust fail us in ways we could not have imagined (but no more on that).

I owe the discovery of H.P. Lovecraft’s true nature to my recent rereading of The Book of Sand (1975) by Jorge Luis Borges, specifically the story “There Are More Things” which is dedicated “to the memory of H.P. Lovecraft”. This seeming parody of Lovecraft’s themes, style, obsessions, and concerns is dismissed by Borges himself in the book’s epilogue:

Fate, which is widely known to be inscrutable, would not leave me in peace until I had perpetrated a posthumous story by Lovecraft, a writer I have always considered an unwitting parodist of Poe. At last I gave in; the lamentable result is titled “There Are More Things”.

I was struck by two things immediately – why is the story dedicated to the memory of Lovecraft rather than to the man himself (Borges dedicated only a few of his stories to people, usually with the generic “For…”), and why does Borges consider the story a posthumous creation by Lovecraft rather than a tribute or homage to him? The answer to both of these questions is as simple as it is astonishing: because H.P. Lovecraft was invented by Borges. Continue reading “The Invention of H.P. Lovecraft” – Fiction by Shay K. Azoulay

Summer Reading Recommendations by the Staff at The Library Of Babel

The Librarian - Giuseppe Arcimboldo, circa 1570
The Librarian – Giuseppe Arcimboldo, circa 1570

Summer’s so close we can already feel and smell and taste the mixture of sweat and sunscreen dribbling down our foreheads and stinging our eyes. Which means that any day now, we’ll begin unleashing excerpts from our Summer Issue (which drops June 20). But for the time being, we’ve been thinking about other non-FLAPPERHOUSE writings we should read this season, so we consulted the good folks at The Library of Babel to offer their expert advice.

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IN THIS VAST, INDEFINITE UNIVERSE OF OURS, we often feel stymied by a certitude that the seemingly infinite bulk of prose crowding the shelves of our Library is, essentially, meaningless. Yet we should never lose our grasp on the elegant hope that, amid so much nonsense, we can always discover books which possess the power to transport us, to edify us, and perhaps even vindicate for all time the acts of human existence. With that in mind, some of our staff members would like to tell you which books they think you’d enjoy this summer as you relax on a hot beach with an ice cold lemonade! (Jorge B, Chief Archivist)
Pdger Mickkel Swigflapp (recommended by Melissa E, Circulation)

“A symphonic cascade of mysterious imagery and arcane lyricism. So thought-provoking, you’ll spend days reconsidering your preconceived notions about the true meaning of flybb jnki hozzmulph.”

Aggagagga Vru (recommended by Horace P, Marketing)
“Everyone likes to talk up Axaxaxas Mlo, but for my money, Aggagagga Vru is the far superior work. It explores themes like identity, loyalty, and kubbjarm with uncanny broofglang and a warmth that never feels saccharine.”

The Great Gatsbino (recommended by Fatima D, Administration)
“Pretty much The Great Gatsby, but instead of Jay Gatsby hosting lavish parties for high society in 1920’s Long Island, it features J.P. Gatsbino throwing bad-ass tailgate parties at high school football games in 1980’s West Orange. It’s no masterpiece or anything, and of course it’s highly derivative of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s American classic. Nevertheless, Gatsbino makes for a breezy, entertaining beach read. More importantly, it’s the closest thing to The Great Gatsby that I’ve seen in a long time– at least since some jerk-wad stole our only copy of that book several years ago. Seriously, whoever stole our Gatsby deserves to be tossed over the railing and into the abyss with a rabid mongoose strapped to their face.”

The Curdled Thumbscrew (recommended by Gary S, Cataloging)
“Most folks here will tell you it’s a fool’s errand to search for a book containing the Word Of God and all the secrets of the universe; they’ll tell you such books exist only in the fevered imaginations of highly suggestible Babel Librarians, and that even if such books did exist, any effort to procure one would prove an endless date with madness. Of course, those naysayers have probably never read The Curdled Thumbscrew. Now, this book itself is not the Word Of God, nor does it contain many secrets of the universe. It will, however, lead you to read The Crumbled Throw Pillow, which cannot be understood without having already read The Curdled Thumbscrew. The Crumbled Throw Pillow is also not the Word of God, but you must read that before it guides you to The Crooked Thimble, which will lead you to The Crusted Thingamajig, which… well, I’ll let you see the rest for yourself. Let’s just say that fifty-seven books later, I’m merely one or two steps away from Ultimate Enlightenment! The Almighty Knowledge that has been beckoning me for years is now so close I can sense it in my marrow. And to think, so many of my so-called ‘fellow’ librarians have been laughing at me this whole time, like that smart-mouthed know-it-all Katy G in Youth Services! Yes, we shall see who’s still laughing when I unlock the ancient truth of all past, present, and future life! WE SHALL SEE, KATY G…

Hearts Of Palm: The Jassy Madigan Chronicles, Part I (recommended by Katy G, Youth Services)

“I beg you, for the love of everything holy, don’t listen to a word Gary S tells you. Not only is he certifiably insane, but his taste in books is dreadful, and he always smells like cabbage. Instead, check out the latest novel by Young Adult master Katrin Vanderslyke! Readers young and old alike will love this coming-of-age story about Jassy Madigan, a kind but awkwardly shy teenage girl who moves to a new town and befriends the mummies in the local history museum. Will Jassy finally find acceptance among the 3,000-year old corpses of Egyptian pharaohs? Maybe even true love? I won’t spoil the answers to those questions, but I will tell you that you’ll enjoy every moment of this wonderful book, except perhaps for that section in the middle that just says ‘BWORP BWORP BWORP’ for 28 pages.


Drum Tissue Outburst? Throbbing Dust Generation!

Dorothy Parker, Jorge Luis Borges, and HP Lovecraft walk into a speakeasy. Louis Armstrong sings “St. James Infirmary Blues” over a rusty phonograph. Behind the bar, Salvador Dalí pours absinthe into a hubcap full of peanut butter and raw macaroni, and he stirs the mixture with the antler of a live moose.

“Four martinis, Sally,” says Parker. “Plus whatever the boys want.”

Borges excuses himself to the basement in search of the restroom. He must’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere because before long he’s lost himself in an infinite labyrinth full of shelves with mirror-spined books. He starts to imagine what stories these books contain, and how he might review them.

Back upstairs, Josephine Baker dances in sensual ecstasy on Fritz Lang’s table while he peeks at her sideways through his monocle and pretends he’s not aroused. René Magritte paints himself painting them both through a castle’s window. Apples hover before their faces.

The ghost of Franz Kafka’s in a corner, leaning sharply against the wall.  Lovecraft spots him and approaches, timid yet determined, as if helpless to confront his most horrifying fear. ”What’s it like?” Lovecraft asks, referring to death. Kafka’s ghost replies only with facial expressions: First with what seems like laughter, then a grimace like he might cry instead, and finally he shakes his head to say no, I really shouldn’t tell you, no. Lovecraft sits and stares at the floor for a while.

We are neither living nor dead!” shouts TS Eliot, raising a glass of gin. “And we know nothing, looking into the heart of light, the silence!

Parker’s sipping her second drink when she finally notices the ants crawling from the stem of her martini glass and onto her hand. Fucking Dalí, she thinks, as she swats and squashes as many bugs as she can. Kafka’s ghost can hear their screams.

She holds her cameraphone in front of her face: bemused, rankled, heartsick, yet almost drunk enough to be tickled by it all. Once she’s got enough good madness framed in the background, she sips, clicks a picture, and posts it to Instagram, caption, “Just another night at the Flapperhouse… #thirsty”