The Book of Sand by Jorge Luis Borges
In The Book of Sand by Jorge Luis Borges we have the theme of curiosity, confusion, addiction, conflict, torment and obsession. Taken from his Collected Fictions collection the story is narrated in the first person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realises that Borges may be exploring the theme of curiosity. The narrator’s curiosity is aroused by the Book of Sand that the book seller sells him. So much so that he stays up late at night trying to figure the book out. Unlike his other books this book doesn’t follow a linear pattern which makes things confusing for the narrator. There is also a sense that the narrator is intrigued by the book and has very little if any guilt with regard to the price he paid for the book. As far as he is concerned the Book of Sand is a tool that he can learn from. Yet this does not occur. Through frustration the narrator places the book in the National Library. The reader aware that the contents of the book remain a mystery to the narrator. Which may be the point that Borges is attempting to make. He may be suggesting that for many men the Book of Sand can be a mystery that is difficult to understand.
If anything while trying to understand the book the narrator is overwhelmed by its mysterious illustrations and pagination. Something that might confuse many readers. How deeply affected the narrator is by reading the book is noticeable by the fact be believes that the book ‘defiled and corrupted reality.’ This may be important as the narrator may feel as though his own sense of reality may have become corrupted since he began reading the book. Which in turn may lead some reader to suggest that not every piece of literature needs to be read and if it is read it should be carefully read. One theme that really stands out in the story is the theme of obsession. The narrator becomes obsessed with the book. Forgetting to even go and visit friends and isolating himself from the outside world. It is also noticeable that the more the narrator reads the book the darker his personality becomes. He is not the same man he was prior to reading the book. The narrator even goes as far as calling himself ‘no less monstrous than the book.’ If anything the narrator becomes addicted to the book.
The fact that the Book of Sand has an infinite number of pages might also be important as it suggests that no matter how hard the narrator tries he will never finish the book. It will overtake everything that he does and he will not know where to begin or where the ending is. In reality the Book of Sand is a torturous instrument that will not satisfy any man. Some critics might also suggest that the bible salesman is a tempter. That he has tempted the narrator to buy the Book of Sand. However the knowledge that is in the book may be what is sought most by the narrator. It is as though he feels he will be able to empower himself over others should he be able to decipher the Book of Sand. It is also possible that the narrator is using the Book of Sand simply to learn the truth about life. However rather than learning anything the narrator ends up being tormented. There is also a degree of conflict in the story. The narrator has great plans to learn as much as he can but the more he learns the more he is in conflict with himself. Which may be Borges way of suggesting too much knowledge my not be something that a man can handle. It is better to be simple and safe rather than complicated and have a mind full of chaos.
How afraid the narrator is of the Book of Sand is also noticeable by the fact that he won’t walk down the street where the National Library is. It is as though he is once bitten and twice shy. He tried to decipher the Book of Sand and failed causing nothing but torment for himself. If anything by trying to read the Book of Sand the narrator has ended up questioning himself unnecessarily which can only lead to insecurity. It is easier for the narrator to get rid of the book than to keep torturing himself and reading a book that has no beginning or end. Another thing that might have helped the narrator is the fact that should he have viewed the Salesman on appearance alone he would have saved himself a lot of time and trouble. Instead the narrator acted with kindness but ended up paying a heavy price for his kindness. He very nearly lost his sanity to the Book of Sand. Which may highlight for some readers the extremes the narrator went through. From being a harmless man to one that became tormented all because he had a quest for knowledge that he could never begin to understand.