About the Book
Jorge Luis Borges in “The Library of Babel” imagines a hellish archive of books — a macrocosmic columbarium, whose infinite chambers provide an exhaustive repository for all the permutations of the alphabet. Inside this endless library, nonsensical texts so drastically outnumber any intelligible books that a coherent phrase must seem tantamount to a wondrous mishap. Poets within such a prisonhouse can no longer contribute anything innovative to literature, because literature itself has already anticipated and inventoried in advance all the anagrammatic combinations of every text. The librarian who narrates the story notes that, on a shelf in one of the hexagons, there exists a volume, “a mere labyrinth of letters, but the next-to-last page says ‘Oh time thy pyramids.’”
Christian Bök has found this volume in the Library of Babel (curated by Jonathan Basile). Entitled LXUM,LKWC, the volume is published to the specifications described by Borges, who imagines a book of 410 pages, with 40 lines of text per page and with 80 characters of text per line. The phrase “Oh time thy pyramids” appears on page 409. The book is typeset in Panoptica (a font designed by Nick Shinn, who has created a set of monospaced characters, according to the “prisoner’s constraint,” meaning that none of the letters have either ascenders or descenders). The hardcover is limited to an edition of 25 copies for sale, after which the book is going to be discontinued. The book is a collectible item, perfect as a gift for bibliophiles, who might love the work of Borges.
Christian Bök is the author not only of CRYSTALLOGRAPHY (1994), a pataphysical encyclopedia nominated for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award, but also of EUNOIA (2001), a bestselling work of experimental literature, which has gone on to win the Griffin Prize for Poetic Excellence. Bök has recently released his next book, entitled THE XENOTEXT – BOOK 1 (2015), an "infernal grimoire" that outlines the conceptual groundwork for his ongoing project to encode a poem into the genome of an unkillable bacterium capable of surviving till the very last dawn, when the Sun itself expires. Bök teaches in the Department of English at the University of Calgary.