On the back part of the step, toward the right, I saw a small iridescent sphere of almost unbearable brilliance. At first I thought it was revolving; then I realised that this movement was an illusion created by the dizzying world it bounded. The Aleph’s diameter was probably little more than an inch, but all space was there, actual and undiminished. Each thing (a mirror’s face, let us say) was infinite things, since I distinctly saw it from every angle of the universe. I saw the teeming sea; I saw daybreak and nightfall; I saw the multitudes of America; I saw a silvery cobweb in the center of a black pyramid; I saw a splintered labyrinth (it was London); I saw, close up, unending eyes watching themselves in me as in a mirror; I saw all the mirrors on earth and none of them reflected me; I saw in a backyard of Soler Street the same tiles that thirty years before I’d seen in the entrance of a house in Fray Bentos; I saw bunches of grapes, snow, tobacco, lodes of metal, steam; I saw convex equatorial deserts and each one of their grains of sand; I saw a woman in Inverness whom I shall never forget; I saw her tangled hair, her tall figure, I saw the cancer in her breast; I saw a ring of baked mud in a sidewalk, where before there had been a tree; I saw a summer house in Adrogué and a copy of the first English translation of Pliny — Philemon Holland’s — and all at the same time saw each letter on each page (as a boy, I used to marvel that the letters in a closed book did not get scrambled and lost overnight); I saw a sunset in Querétaro that seemed to reflect the colour of a rose in Bengal; I saw my empty bedroom; I saw in a closet in Alkmaar a terrestrial globe between two mirrors that multiplied it endlessly; I saw horses with flowing manes on a shore of the Caspian Sea at dawn; I saw the delicate bone structure of a hand; I saw the survivors of a battle sending out picture postcards; I saw in a showcase in Mirzapur a pack of Spanish playing cards; I saw the slanting shadows of ferns on a greenhouse floor; I saw tigers, pistons, bison, tides, and armies; I saw all the ants on the planet; I saw a Persian astrolabe; I saw in the drawer of a writing table (and the handwriting made me tremble) unbelievable, obscene, detailed letters, which Beatriz had written to Carlos Argentino; I saw a monument I worshipped in the Chacarita cemetery; I saw the rotted dust and bones that had once deliciously been Beatriz Viterbo; I saw the circulation of my own dark blood; I saw the coupling of love and the modification of death; I saw the Aleph from every point and angle, and in the Aleph I saw the earth and in the earth the Aleph and in the Aleph the earth; I saw my own face and my own bowels; I saw your face; and I felt dizzy and wept, for my eyes had seen that secret and conjectured object whose name is common to all men but which no man has looked upon — the unimaginable universe.

The whole text of his narration can be found here.
I wrote a little about Borges here. Some days ago I read “The Aleph” again. In one of the latter volumes of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Ger., Eng.) Douglas Adams lets appear a kind of “Großen Durchblicksstrudel”, but as I remember he describes only the results for the poor humans that are thrown in it. It also may be used as a kind of punishment – but I’m too lazy now to go in the other room and scan for the book. Poe’s maelstrom comes to mind, Scylla and Charybdis (of course there must be a German article from 1940, Oh Herr!) in the Straße von Messina, Strait of Messina, where they want to built a bridge now, crazy.


Jorge Luis Borges (dt., eng.) was an educated homme des lettres and intellectual, writer, professor for English literature and director of the Argentinian National Library. Eco pays a tribute to him in “The Name of the Rose” with the figure of the blind guardian of the library, Jorge de Burgos. If you want to have a deeper insight in his works and life a visit to the Borges Center may be helpful.
Borges played. He opened his writings to the irreal, gave room for the phantastic. He used citations a lot and referred to sometimes a little remote and not so common writers and writings – and slipped in inventions of his own genius. A book lover and collector he described in a lecture from 1978 the feeling of happiness the sole presence of the books in his house evoked – the presence of an encyclopedia he only can touch and feel, but to know that they are there, there are maps and etchings, gravures and decorated initials, makes him happy. He keeps on on buying books, bringing them in his house, as if he still could read. He became blind finally around 1950.
Das Phantastische (I can not translate this) reaches into the world, shows up – naturally – in books, best seen in “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” where a slightly altered copy of a cheap encyclopedia is at the beginning of the story. It is first published in his 1944 book “Ficciones“, which also contains “The Lottery in Babylon“.
I have no idea whether this linked translation is “good”, elegant or concise. I hope it is. The picture Borges paints of our life makes me shiver, no security, certainity, a lottery – “as Babylon is nothing but an infinite game of chance” – weil Babylon nichts anderes ist als ein unendliches Spiel von Zufällen. What makes people act depends on random factors, circumstances beyond their influence, a lottery number, a lot.