Diving Into “La Biblioteca De Babel” With James van den Elshout

Created by Australian artist & designer James van den Elshout over the span of 2 years, he considers it his debut short film with plans for many more.

This is a case study and adaptation of the 1941 short story by Jorge Luis Borges, La Biblioteca de Babel. Before viewing this project you are urged to read the short story for yourself at “The Library of Babel” or “La Biblioteca de Babel”. “The Library of Babel is a place for scholars to do research, for artists and writers to seek inspiration, for anyone with curiosity or a sense of humor to reflect on the weirdness of existence – in short, it’s just like any other library. If completed, it would contain every possible combination of 1,312,000 characters, including lower case letters, space, comma, and period. Thus, it would contain every book that ever has been written, and every book that ever could be – including every play, every song, every scientific paper, every legal decision, every constitution, every piece of scripture, and so on. At present, it contains all possible pages of 3200 characters, about 10⁴⁶⁷⁷ books.”

To better understand and really put the enormity of the library and its contents into perspective, Jonathan Basil created an incredible website where you can search it, all of it. Hit browse and be prepared to lose yourself. Alternatively, hit search and you will find that every thought you have ever had, every sentence you have spoken, already exists in the library, written down in a book.

With that already out there, James set out to visualize and expand upon the world and theory that Jorge built. One of the concepts he added is the existence of a global timer in effect throughout the library. After a certain amount of time, the contents in each and every book are swapped with another book in the library at random, the timer is then reset. The hilarity of this is that not only would you have to find whatever book you are searching for in the correct place, but you would have to find it at the correct moment of time too. Perhaps this would drive adventurers even more insane…

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Images with courtesy of James van den Elshout


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