A Map the Size of the World

(Rudy Rucker is a guest blogger. His latest novel, Hylozoic, describes a postsingular world in which everything is alive.)

In the month of my birth, that is, in March, 1946, Jorge Luis Borges co-authored with Adolfo Casares a very short story, ""Del Rigor en la Ciencia," or "On Exactitude in Science," about a perfect map that's as big as the kingdom which it depicts.


Here's the first half of the story, as translated by Andrew Hurley.

In that Empire, the Art of Cartography attained such Perfection that the map of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the map of the Empire, the entirety of a Province. In time, those Unconscionable Maps no longer satisfied, and the Cartographers Guilds struck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it. The following Generations, who were not so fond of the Study of Cartography as their Forebears had been, saw that that vast Map was Useless…

I also found, how great, a video dramatizing the story's ideas, with a sound track of Borges himself reading the story in Spanish.

The full text of the translation of "On Exactitude in Science" is online at the Language Scraps " blog.

And our Universal Library, that is, Wikipedia, has an entry about the Borges story.