Wednesday, September 03, 2003
7. Jorge Luis Borges, "The Library of Babel." (1941) An indefinitely large collection of books of uniform format. Finding the one book that would explain all of the rest would make one an omnipotent god. On the other hand, for every one copy of the god book, there would be millions of near-perfect facsimiles, with only one or two words changed, but the whole meaning of the work reversed.
6. Eugene Ionesco, “The Rhinoceros.” (1959) Berenger - an average citizen in a nameless French city - is not interested in the fact that rhinoceroses are on the loose. But everyone is slowly turning into rhinoceroses….
5. Franz Kafka, "The Hunger Artist." (1911) People come from miles around to watch the Hunger Artist starve himself to death. But why does he fast? "Because I couldn't find the food I liked. If I had found it, believe me, I should have made no fuss and stuffed myself like you or anyone else."
4. J.G. Ballard, "The Drowned Giant." (1965) The corpse of a giant humanoid washes up on a beach in England, and everyone reacts to it. An unforgettable, haunting story that I read in the first Nebula Award Stories volume in 1966.
3. Donald Barthelme, "The Balloon." (1966) An enormous balloon suddenly appears above New York City, and everyone defines themselves in relation to it.
2. Jorge Luis Borges, "The Lottery in Babylon." (1941) A city in which everything is decided by lotteries. And then they decide to spice things up by adding punishments as well as rewards. Just a blindingly brilliant story. "Like all men in Babylon, I have been a proconsul; like all, a slave. I have also known omnipotence, opprobrium, imprisonment..." An indescribably delightful story.
1. Franz Kafka, "The Metamorphosis." (1913) A young man suddenly wakes up transformed into a large beetle. One of my favorite stories ever.