Penguin Books, 1999
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  • Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius:

    I owe the discovery of Uqbar to the conjunction of a mirror and an encylopedia. The mirror troubled the far end of a hallway in a large country house on Calle Gaona, in Ramos Mejía*; the encylopedia is misleadingly titled The Anglo-American Cyclopaedia (New York, 1917), and is a literal (though also laggardly) reprint of the 1902 Encyclopaedia Britannica.

  • Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote:

    Pierre Menard did not want to compose another Quixote, which surely is easy enough—he wanted to compose the Quixote. Nor, surely, need one have to say that his goal was never a mechanical transcription of the original; he had no intention of copying it. His admirable intention was to produce a number of pages which coincided—word for word and line for line—with those of Miguel de Cervantes.

  • The Lottery in Babylon:

    My father would tell how once, long ago—centuries? years?—the lottery in Babylon was a game played by commoners. He would tell (though whether this is true or not, I cannot say) how barbers would take a man’s copper coins and give back rectangles made of bone or parchment and adorned with symbols. Then, in broad daylight, a drawing would be held; those smiled upon by fate would, with no further corroboration by chance, win coins minted of silver. The procedure, as you can see, was rudimentary.

  • The Garden of Forking Paths:

    On page 242 of The History of the World War, Liddell Hart tells us that an Allied offensive against the Serre-Montauban line (to be mounted by thirteen British divisions backed by one thousand four hundred artillery pieces) had been planned for July 24, 1916, but had to be put off until the morning of the twenty-ninth. Torrential rains (notes Capt. Liddell Hart) were the cause of the delay—a delay that entailed no great consequences, as it turns out. The statement which follows—dictated, reread, and signed by Dr. Yu Tsun, former professor of English in the Hochschule at Tsingtao—throws an unexpected light on the case. The two first pages of the statement are missing.

  • Death and the Compass:

    Of the many problems on which Lönnrot’s reckless perspicacity was exercised, none was so strange—so rigorously strange, one might say—as the periodic series of bloody deeds that culminated at the Villa Triste-le-Roy, amid the perpetual fragrance of the eucalyptus. It is true that Erik Lönnrot did not succeed in preventing the last crime, but he did, indisputably, foresee it. Nor did he divine the identity of Yarmolinsky’s unlucky murderer, but he did perceive the evil series’ secret shape and the part played in it by Red Scharlach, whose second sobriquet is Scharlach the Dandy. That criminal (like so many others) had sworn upon his honor to kill Lönnrot, but Lönnrot never allowed himself to be intimidated. He thought of himself as a reasoning machine, an Auguste Dupin, but there was something of the adventurer in him, even something of the gambler.