Archive for February, 2006

Dora Sales Salvador, PUENTES SOBRE EL MUNDO – en biblioteca CSIC (Madrid)

Os informo que el libro PUENTES SOBRE EL MUNDO

de Dora Sales Salvador, estudio ya referido

en  esta bitácora, se encuentra ahora en una biblioteca de

prestigio del Estado español:

‘el mayor Organismo Público de Investigación de España’

  Biblioteca del Consejo Superior de Investigación Científica (Madrid):


Sales Salvador, Dora
Puentes sobre el mundo: cultura, traducción y forma literaria en las narrativas de transculturación de José María Arguedas y Vikram Chandra. Bern (Suiza, 2004).

M-IH HAM 19.970

My BORGES/LIBRARY OF BABEL article on reading lists: British Columbia, Lehigh (PA), Aalborg (Denmark) + cited in JOURNAL OF DOCUMENTATION – etc!

I am pleased to report that the University of British Columbia, Canada,
has for the second time put one of my on-line articles on one of its course
reading lists. On 10 October 2005 I reported that this university had done so for
my essay on Walter Benjamin and the arcades.
Now, I discover at:
that, thanks to the good offices of Assistant Professor Jon Beasley-Murray,
the same university’s course on Introduction to Methods of Literary and Film Analysis
now includes my article:
‘Borges’ “Library of Babel” and the Internet’,
which is on-line at:
and has been published in:
IJOWLAC (Indian Journal of World Literature and Culture) (Kolkata/Calcutta, India), Vol. 1.1, January-June 2004, pp. 117-120.

NOTE ADDED 7 Jul 07: This essay was also included in 2005 on the course in “Library and Information Sector Media Theory and Media Practice” at the Danish Librarianship School in Aalborg  (instructors: Hans Jorn Nielsen and Rasmus Gron) – see course summary dated
21 Jan 05 at: **

The article examines the analogies between Jorge Luis Borges’ imaginary
Library of Babel, as imagined in his famous short story of 1941 ‘La biblioteca de Babel’,
and the Internet as we know it today – but also, and crucially, the differences.
NOTE ADDED 17 January 2008:
My same Borges essay was also included on the reading list for a course
on LITERATURE AND THE WORLD WIDE WEB, taught by Prof. Edward Whitley
at Lehigh University (Bethlehem, Pennsylvania) in Summer 2006. See:

Prof Whitley writes in the course desscripton:

July 6, 2006: Pretexts to Hypertext Two of today’s readings are pre-Internet texts that speculate on the possibility of hypertext. The essay by Bush was written in 1945 and proposes a “memex” machine that sounds surprisingly like today’s World Wide Web. The short story by Borges is a surrealistic account of an infinitely large library that, again, sounds a lot like what the Internet could someday become. The Rollason essay on Borges’ story explicitly makes this connection and the Jackson/Hill website humorously adapts the idea of a nonspatialized library into a web medium.

Vanaver Bush, from “What We May Think” (CD) Jorge Luis Borges, “The Library of Babel” (CD) Christopher Rollason, “Borges’ ‘Library of Babel’ and the Internet” Shelley Jackson and Christine Hill, The Interstitial Library Circulating Collection.

Assignment: Discussion board post. Do these readings change or confirm any of your preconveiced notions about the Internet?

** Further note, added 16 September 2008:

The essay has also been quoted in:

Journal of Documentation, 64(4), 2008
My text is quoted on p. 573, indeed as the clinching point at the article’s conclusion – I am indeed most grateful! –

‘While this paper began by comparing the web and the library of Babel, Rollason (2004) rightly points to a fundamental difference: the library found on the internet is written by us, as opposed to Borges’s creation, which could not be built upon. So, the ideal solution, the balance between “inordinate hope” and “excessive depression” is to explore further ways in which we can build our own access to the richness of information on the web. This will undoubtedly be the subject of much research to come.’

I further add that at:
is a long text on IT and teaching techniques published (no author name)
in April 2008 by the Information Technology Institute, Patras (Greece),
which cites the same Borges piece.
Note added 21 January 2010 – and more citations!!

I am pleased to say that my Borges article has been cited recently in two interesting essays on the Internet and spatial issues. In Brazil, a paper forming part of the University of São Paulo School of Architecture’s project TGI (Trabalho de Graduação Integrada), by Rodrigo Schmidt Seminari –

cites my piece in the context of a new architecture for libraries in the multimedia age. Also, the Italian scholar Maria Beatrice Bittarello (John Cabot University, Rome) cites my text in her article:

“Spatial Metaphors describing the Internet and religious Websites: sacred Space and sacred Place”, published in the on-line journal based in Portugal

Observatorio (OBS*) Journal, 11 (2009), 1-12, pp. 1-12 (citation on p. 3) –

an ambitious investigation of the sacral and religious connotations of the metaphor of the Internet as space. My thanks to both authors for referring to my work in two such stimulating papers!



Note added 28 September 2011:


The essay has also been used in a fresher English class at the University of Southern Maryland (Department of Languages and Literature) in the context of essay-writing skills and the nature of the Internet. My thanks for this recognition to Dr Marybeth Moore.



Here now is an extract from my essay:
‘The analogy with the Library of Babel is only partial. The Internet is, after all, also made by its users. The proliferation of websites and newsgroups has not descended from outer space: Borges’ library is presented as a pre-existing, immutable given (“La Biblioteca existe ab aeterno” – “The Library exists ab aeterno”), but the Internet is nothing of the sort. The virtual library now evolving in cyberspace differs from any previous library – real or imaginary, Alexandria or Babel – because it is also the creation of its readers. It includes, certainly, material which has been put there by society’s rulers, as well as pre-existing works by established authors of past or present; but the cybershelves also contain row on row of volumes written by the readers, who thus become not only readers but writers too, not just passive consumers but also producers. Anyone with an Internet account can start up their own website, or post a message in a newsgroup, without having to pass through a prior filtering, sifting or, indeed, censoring mechanism. The recent, and to some disturbing, growth of subscriber-only newspaper sites, even though it gives rise to a series of reserved areas within the great library and to that extent part-privatises a public good, does not fundamentally affect the nature of the Internet, since open-access sites continue to proliferate, in line with the medium’s founding spirit. The great library that is the Internet is continually expanding, and that expansion is the work of its ordinary, common readers as much as anyone else.
This phenomenon is without precedent in the annals of human history. It is quite true that much of the material in this library is of value to few but its producers; that some of it is harmful; and that parts of it have been privatised. However, these factors need to be counterbalanced against the massive gains being made in the collective potential of the human race for self-expression, communication, dialogue and democratic participation.
Borges’ fable contains an episode in which, back in the distant past, hundreds of the library’s dwellers thronged its shelves, each in pursuit of his “Vindication,” the book which would justify the existence of the individual who read it: “libros de apología y de profecía, que para siempre vindicaban los actos de cada hombre del universo” (“books of apology and prophecy which vindicated for all time the acts of every man in the universe”). The search was for the most part in vain, thanks to the vastness of the library: “Las Vindicaciones existen (yo he visto dos que se refieren a personas del porvenir, a personas acaso no imaginarias), pero los buscadores no recordaban que la posibilidad de que un hombre encuentre la suya, o alguna pérfida variación de la suya, es computable en cero” (“The Vindications exist [I have seen two which refer to persons of the future, to persons who are perhaps not imaginary] but the searchers did not remember that the possibility of a man’s finding his Vindication, or some treacherous variation thereof, can be computed as zero”). By contrast, in today’s real-virtual world, there is a simple answer to the problem: seekers who fail to find their personal vindication on the network can write the missing text themselves, and add it to the library at the click of a mouse – and there it is on the shelves, for anyone to read – or rewrite, improve, embroider, illustrate, refute, contradict, forget, or simply ignore.’


Just out is the latest number of THE ATLANTIC LITERARY REVIEW (Delhi). ToC: ** THE ATLANTIC LITERARY REVIEW – ISSN 0972-3269 VOLUME 6 NUMBER 1-2 (JANUARY – MARCH & APRIL – JUNE 2005) TABLE OF CONTENTS ** Editors’ Introduction – by Rajeshwar Mittapallli, Dora Sales Salvador and Christopher Rollason Five Years of The Atlantic Literary Review ** Saumitra Chakravarty – The Reversal of the Mother Goddess Image in Shakespeare’s Tragedies ** Jalal Uddin Khan – Manfred as a Key Byronic Text ** Tirthankar Das Purkayastha – The Music of Dionysus: Religion and Drama in Tagore’s Mukta-dhara and Soyinka’s Adaptation of The Bacchae ** R.S. Krishnan – Paradigm Lost: Mediation, Narration, and Vision in V.S. Naipaul’s A Bend in the River ** Sadhana Agrawal – A Critique of Anita Desai’s In Custody ** Murali Manohar – “Women’s Voices” in Selected Short Stories of Shashi Deshpande ** Christopher Rollason – “In Our Translated World”: Transcultural Communication in Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide ** Subhendu Mund – Hybrid Identities: History, Ethnicity and Gender in Female Fiction of the Indian Diaspora ** Chhayakanta Sarangi – Jayanta Mahapatra’s Bare Face: The Sad Voice of the Earth ** S.N.R. Kazmi – The Autobiographic Impulse: Themes and Conventions in Malaysian Biography and Autobiography ** Elisa Armellino – Homecoming in Catherine Dunne’s The Walled Garden ** Preeti Bhatt – The Novel as a Game: Muriel Spark’s The Comforters ** Shari A Koopmann – Shades of Grey: A Discussion of Pat Barker’s Regeneration

Article on Amitav Ghosh, “The Hungry Tide”

Just published in THE ATLANTIC LITERARY REVIEW (New Delhi), 6 1-2, Jan-Mar/Apr-Jun 2005, pp. 86-107, is my essay:
Full text is at:  Here is an edited version of the beginning.
The Hungry Tide (2004) is the fifth novel and sixth substantial book by Amitav Ghosh. Born in Calcutta/Kolkata in 1956 and now resident in New York, Ghosh is by now established as one of the best-regarded of the “post-Rushdie” generation of expatriate Indians writing in English. If his first three novels revealed a writer experimenting with a diversity of forms and genres (magic realism and picaresque in The Circle of Reason (1986), impressionistic family history in The Shadow Lines (1988), and, in The Calcutta Chromosome (1996), a mélange of detection and science fiction), The Glass Palace (2000) marked an embrace of mainstream realism of an almost nineteenth-century type, manifested in the genre of the historical novel. Ghosh’s fiction has thus far exhibited a remarkable geographical spread, taking in, for The Circle of Reason, India, the Gulf region and Algeria; for The Shadow Lines, India, Bangladesh and the UK; for The Calcutta Chromosome, India and the US; and for The Glass Palace, Burma, India and Malaya. Generically, The Hungry Tide continues in the realist mode of The Glass Palace, this time with a contemporary setting plus historical flashbacks; geographically, its scope is more limited than that of Ghosh’s other novels, as it homes in on the human and natural ecosystems of a small and highly particular area of India, though also taking account of the wider world through characters hailing from Delhi and the US.
Ghosh’s narrative, rather than encompassing vast swathes of South and South-East Asia, here prefers, then, to focus a magnifying lens on what might be called a micro-culture within the region – namely, the Sundarbans or “tide country,” the islets of the Ganges delta that lie south of Kolkata and just east of the West Bengal/Bangladesh frontier. The story centres on two visitors to the Sundarban community, Kanai Dutt and Piyali Roy (Piya), and their interaction with that community and with each other. Kanai, a Delhi businessman in his forties, is a semi-outsider, paying a rare visit to his aunt Nilima, an NGO activist who runs a hospital on one of the islands; Piya, an Indo-American scientist from Seattle in her twenties, irrupts into the Sundarban world as – despite her Bengali origins – less a diasporic Indian than an outsider pure and simple, “the American.” Kanai is there to pick up and read a journal left him by his late uncle Nirmal, an idealistic, Marxist intellectual in the Bengali tradition, whose contents will oblige him to delve deep into his family history; Piya’s journey to the tide country is part of her ongoing research on dolphins. Piya knows no Bengali: her ignorance of her own language heritage induces her to take Kanai on board as interpreter between her and Fokir, the illiterate fisherman and protégé of Kanai’s aunt who serves as her guide. Ghosh’s novel takes as its task the exploration of a vast field of human communication, testing both its possibilities and its limits as the characters seek to cross multiple barriers – the barriers of language, religion and social class, those between human beings and nature, between traditional and cosmopolitan India, between urban and rural, between India and the wider world.


British Labour government’s controversial ‘incitement to religious hatred’ bill
is now law, as of yesterday, 1 February 2006. However, the final House of
Commons vote kept in place a series of vital amendments tabled by the House of
Lords. This vote has been seen as a defeat for the government, with over a score
of Labour MPs voting in favour of the amendments despite instructions to the


‘The Guardian’, 2 February 2006,,,1699342,00.html

suffers chaotic double defeat over bill to combat religious

International print edn. p. 18)


‘The Guardian’

‘Changes made in the Lords now
mean that someone charged with an offence would have to be shown to have used
"threatening" language – rather than "threatening, insulting and abusive" the
test in race cases. It will also mean that the prosecution will have to show
"intention" to foment such hatred by the accused rather than intention or
"recklessness" (..)

Whitehall officials [i.e. civil
servants]  argued that the bill
remains viable, but that the Lords has raised the bar to successful prosecution
– which carries up to seven years in prison’.


A prosecution under the new law
can only go ahead with the approval of the Attorney-General (the public
prosecutor, who in the UK is a member
of the government). The obvious question is now, will someone try to take out a
case against Salman Rushdie’s ‘The Satanic Verses’? Had the text stayed as the
government wished, this would have been all too likely. After yesterday’s vote
and the removal of the words ‘insulting’, ‘abusive’ and ‘reckless’ (I maintain
none of those apply to Rushdie’s book, but I realise that the uninformed and the
authoritarian might disagree), it now seems improbable that such a prosecution
would succeed or even be approved. ‘The Satanic Verses’ is hardly the only
likely target (Jews and Catholics might object to Harold Pinter’s play ‘The
Birthday Party’, and even Christopher Marlowe’s ‘Tamburlaine the Great’ was
recently staged in London in a censored version), but it would certainly be the
most high-profile and the most loadedly symbolic case. For the moment, students
of postcolonial literature and Indian Writing in English can carry on their work
without the fear of a huge no-go area being created in their field of study by
the 21st-century heirs of Torquemada.


Full details of the second (and
most significant) House of Commons vote -including the names of the Labour MPs
who voted against the government’s position – can be found on the BBC site


Explanation: ‘MPs voted either
for or against government attempts to overturn a Lords amendment to the bill
that said "abusive and insulting" behaviour should not be criminalised, merely
"threatening" behaviour; and that people should not be prosecuted for
"recklessly" stirring up religious hatred – that is, without