T H E    B O O K   o f   S A N D
A   H y p e r t e x t

w r i t t e n   b y
J O R G E   L U I S   B O R G E S

t r a n s l a t e d   b y
N O R M A N   T H O M A S   D I   G I O V A N N I

i n t e r a c t i v e   d e s i g n   b y
M A X I M U S   C L A R K E


i .  I N T R O D U C T I O N
i i .  A   N O T E   O N   T H E   T E X T
i i i .  E X P L O R I N G   T H E   S I T E

i .  I N T R O D U C T I O N

Welcome! This web site contains, in eight randomly numbered pages, the text of Jorge Luis Borges' story The Book of Sand (as translated by Norman Thomas di Giovanni), with pictures and animations based on old engravings and photographs. It is, I hope, an intriguing presentation of one of Borges' lesser-known works. But it also offers a unique opportunity for readers to interact with the story.

The Book of Sand site is a hypertext, with a nonlinear structure and dynamic images. This story is well-suited for such a presentation, since it deals with a supernatural book whose many pages are in no discernible order. And the story's spare, haunting atmosphere comes through clearly, if not more strongly, when it is read in short, random fragments. But the site is also a puzzle -- because only you, the reader, can decide in what order to view the pages. Borges' original story provides an authoritative ordering of the text, but that authority has been removed from this version.

Postmodern critics are fond of saying that the reader imposes his or her own order upon the text; here at least this literary idea has been made a literal truth. But here there is also a chance to rediscover the original unity intended by the author. I've created an interactive game that allows you to guess the correct sequence of story fragments. If you read the text carefully, you, too, may glean the knowledge that leads to revelation of the creator's primal order . . . a Kabbalistic epiphany of which Borges hopefully would have approved.

In closing, it is strange how many of Borges' stories seem like prophetic references to the dense, mazelike, abstract universe of the World Wide Web. The Garden of Forking Paths, with its labyrinth of possibilities, and The Library of Babel, with its infinite but chaotic collection of texts, are two of the more obvious ones. (Someone once said, "We already have a million monkeys with a million typewriters -- and the Internet is nothing like Shakespeare.") The Book of Sand is not one of his most famous fictions, but its central enigma may be Borges' most directly prescient metaphor for the Web: its pages are uncountable, ever-changing, without beginning or end.

--Maximus Clarke
  Brooklyn, New York, USA
  March 2001

i i .  A   N O T E   O N   T H E   T E X T

I discovered this story in an anthology of Borges' work published in 1977, a book also called The Book of Sand. The only copy of this collection I've ever seen was in a library; it has been out of print for many years. A different translation of the story, by Andrew Hurley, can be found in the Borges anthology Collected Fictions, but the version presented here was translated by Norman di Giovanni, who worked closely with Borges himself during the translating process.

I am providing this version of the story as an educational and literary service to readers who might not otherwise have access to it. This project has been purely a labor of love, and a strictly non-profit undertaking.

i i i .  E X P L O R I N G   T H E   S I T E

Click on any of the links at the bottom of the screen.    

  • The numbered links lead to the pages of the story.
  • Solve the Puzzle explains how to play the game.
  • The Hall of Fame records the names of those who have successfully figured out the puzzle.
  • Cross-References is a collection of links to other Borges-related sites.

Comments or questions on this site? Send them to:
hypertext [at] bookofsand [dot] net

Original images, text, and code copyright © 2001-2013 Maximus Clarke