“The Lottery in Babylon,” Jorge Luís Borges, 1959

The Lottery in Babylon,” Jorge Luís Borges, 1959 — (or “The Babylon Lottery”; original Spanish “La lotería en Babilonia” (1941))  (fantasy) Backed by a secret Company (God?), a lottery in mythic Babylon transitions from voluntary to compulsory, with the result that everyone except the elite expects to lose and prepares in advance for punishment.  This infinite lottery pervades the culture and creates an expectation of imprecision, indirect falsehood, and customs “steeped in chance.”  Even the narrator’s recounting contains deliberate errors.  Some believe the Company to be all-powerful and that there is secret meaning to the chaos.   Others are uncertain whether or not the Company exists anymore; perhaps this “sacred disorder” is just the new mode of society.  Still others assert that the Company never existed at all.

Comments: Read in Kafkaesque.  Themes of religion, chance, meaning, truth, logic, history, the “lot” of the poor versus the privileged. Mentions Kafka in the phrase “the sacred latrine of Qaphqa,” where the Company’s spies deposit information, as noted by editor John Kessel in Kafkaesque.  He also notes that this isn’t a traditional Aristotelian plot with protagonist, antagonist, events of rising action, climax, denouement–“but by assertion of a fact in contradiction to reality and elaboration/qualification/evolution from that assertion” (83).  Co-editor John Patrick Kelly notes that “the game of life, according to Borges, is subject to the laws of thermodynamics: You must play, you can’t win, you can’t break even, and you can’t quit.  Meanwhile, God may or may not be paying attention, if He even exists.”

Author: Wikipedia: “Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo (24 August 1899 – 14 June 1986), known as Jorge Luis Borges…, was an Argentine short-story writer, essayist, poet and translator born in Buenos Aires. His work embraces the “character of unreality in all literature”. His most famous books, Ficciones (1944) and The Aleph (1949), are compilations of short stories interconnected by common themes such as dreams, labyrinths, libraries, mirrors, animals, fictional writers, religion and God.”

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About jennre

Lifelong sf fan, first-time blogger
This entry was posted in 1946-1959, bureaucracy/corporations, class/labor/"work", fantasy/fable/fairy tale, favorites, international, knowledge/truth/epistemology, logic/reason, myth, religion/soul/spirituality, time/history/causality. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to “The Lottery in Babylon,” Jorge Luís Borges, 1959

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