Promise the Infinite: Drawing out Babel

Published by Penteract Press

Available to purchase at the link below: 

https://penteractpress.com/store/promise-the-infinite

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This book is produced from an ongoing and ever growing set of drawings made in response to reading the short story ‘The Library of Babel’ by Jorge Luis Borges. 

 

His imagined library is a metaphor for the universe, a rhizomatic structure without a centre or an outside, with an infinite number of interconnected hexagonal rooms. The library shelves are believed to contain every book ever written or that may ever be written, in every conceivable language. All the books appear to be unreadable, provoking people to search for rooms containing readable books. It is said humans spend their lives in search of such books, and ‘perhaps the catalogue of catalogues’.

 

I have been obsessively drawing, or perhaps cataloguing, pages from each of the potential books in my version of this imagined, infinite library. Every drawing is constrained by the first page of Borges’ nine-page story. As each book in the library of Babel is unreadable, so each drawing responds to a visual element of the text or the process of reading the first page – most are completely asemic, a few are tantalisingly close to recognisable language.

 

Though this bound edition is finite, the drawings will continue to amass as more imagined books are drawn out, leaving the possibility of future editions, which ‘promise the infinite’.

 

In-amongst the drawings are haiku poems, appropriated from the first page of the story. These fragments of language give a glimpse of the readable text, though presented in a condensed and reordered form. 

Described as "a beautiful slice of the infinite; a veritable guidebook for the future of reading. Smith’s cornucopia pours forth eloquent solutions across genre: haiku, visual poems, painting, digital responses – an inspiring feast."

-- Derek Beaulieu, Poet Laureate of Banff, author of Surface Tension

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