Mazes & Labyrinths

Published 23 Nov 2011.
Tags: books, language, math.

I recently finished reading William Goldbloom Bloch’s *The Unimaginable
Mathematics of Borges’ Library of Babel*. As was the case with the *Atlas of
Remote Islands*, most of my reading time was spent beaming at the unlikeliness
of the book’s existence. Borges’ work could be described as “literary
nerd-sniping,” so the notion of a mathematician devoting a book to an analysis
of one of his stories makes perfect sense—it’s just a bit rare to see those
spheres overlapping.

The mathematics the book employs isn’t terribly difficult, since it’s written
for the interested layman. Conversely, if your academic background is
sufficiently mathly you’ll probably find yourself skimming occasionally, but
there’s still quite a lot in there to enjoy. The book is great at communicating
the pleasure of doing mathematics for its own sake, and that aspect really
struck a familiar chord with me. Who doesn’t enjoy discovering that The Library
would contain enough books to fill 10 ^ 1,834,013 universes?

I’ll also add that any writer who, in his preface, defines his intended audience
as “Umberto Eco” has won a fan for life.