Jorge Luis Borges and Nirmal Chandra Kumar

Kumar was often compared with Borges. By none other that a man of letters, R.P.Gupta. Gupta himself was a bibliophile and spent all his spare time with books. Gupta in his book ‘Stan Kal Patra’, literally translated meaning, Time Manner Place or A place in time, gave an instance of Kumar’s involvement with books. Quote, Kumar ' used to be so engrossed in his books that once whilst I was in Kumar’s place,I asked somebody; the many ways Hoogly could be spelt . I was surprised at the response from Kumar, who reeled out the names - O’Malley, Potter and Laurie -all names of authors of books on the river Hoogly.
Kumar was like Borges …he lived in a world of books and everything revolved around it’But who is Borges? Borges' fantasies are those of a encyclopedically erudite lover of books. Borges tells of the adventure of a book collector who discovers minor discrepancies in the woodcuts decorating different copies of the same edition of a book. (If this sounds obscure, it is). Where Kafka envisions a bureaucratic nightmare, Borges envisions an endless library. Borges is not interested in the world, it seems, but only in its books. One of his short stories describes a complete map of the world, 1:1 in scale, just like the world, but not a messy part of it: rather its perfect, paper bound catalogue.

Borges was born into a genteel upper-middle-class family in Buenos Aires. Two early influences were his grandmother, who was English (Borges learned to read English before Spanish), and his father's library. His family included British ancestry and he learned English before Spanish. Jorge Guillermo Borges, his father, was a lawyer and a psychology teacher, who demonstrated the paradoxes of Zeno on a chessboard for his son. In the large house was also a library and garden which enchanted Borges's imagination. Borges's mother, Leonor Acevedo Haedo, was a translator; she lived far into her 90's. In 1914 the family moved to Geneva, where Borges learned French and German and received his B.A. from the College of Geneva

It is interesting to note that from 1937
Borges worked as a cataloguer
at the Miguel Cane branch of the Buenos Aires Municipal Library. The job did not interest him and he usually disappeared into the basement to read (especially Kafka), write, and translate. The never-ending process of cataloguing inspired one of Borges's most famous short stories, 'The Library of Babel' (1941), in which the faithful catalog of the Library is supplemented with "thousands and thousands of false catalogs, the proof of the falsity of those false catalogs, a proof of the falsity of the true catalog". Borges spent nine years at the suburban library. Though he did not like his work it supplemented his love for books.

It is also interesting to note that in 1946 Borges took over the editorship of Los Annales de Buenos Aires, an academic magazine. After Peron's deposition in 1955 Borges became Director of the National Library. "I speak of God's splendid irony in granting me at once 800 000 book and darkness," Borges noted alluding to his now almost complete blindness.
"A librarian wearing dark glasses asked him: 'What are you looking for?' Hladik answered: 'I am looking for God.' The librarian said to him: 'God is in one of the letters on one of the pages of one of the four hundred thousand volumes of the Clementine. My fathers and the fathers of my fathers have searched for this letter; I have grown blind seeking it.'" (from 'The Secret Miracle') In 'The Library of Babel' the symmetrically structured library represents the universe as it is conceived by rational man, and the library's illegible books refers to man's ignorance. In 'Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius' Borges invented a whole other universe based on an imaginary encyclopedia. The narrator states, that 'Tlön is surely a labyrinth, but it is a labyrinth devised by men, a labyrinth destined to be deciphered by men."

Borges writes, ‘Like all men of the Library I have
traveled in my youth; I have wandered in search of a book, perhaps the catalogue of catalogues; now that my eyes can hardly decipher what I write, I am preparing to die just a few leagues from the hexagon in which I was born. Once I am dead, there will be no lack of pious hands to throw me over the railing; my grave will be the fathomless air; my body will sink endlessly and decay and dissolve in the wind generated by the fall, which is infinite. I say that the Library is unending.’

Images : Borges . Kumar . Borges Library . Borges Colour Graphic . Caricature of Borges lost in his library . Borges sitting in his Library