‘The Babylonian Lottery’ by Jorge Luis Borges

The second Borges I would pick is a difficult choice. I stroke them all lovingly and whisper little missives begging forgiveness here. Right now, ‘The Babylonian Lottery’ (also in Labyrinths or the collected Ficciones) feels the most apt. What is predestined? What is free will? What is orchestrated and what is random? This is the kind of story that makes you grow up to either write history or become an idling surf nomad on a beach somewhere with a permanent tan. One or the other really. You have been suitably warned. This is a Roman quartz-crystal die that I think of when I re-read this story.

First published in Spanish as ‘La lotería en Babilonia’ in Sur, 1941 and collected in El jardín de los senderos que se bifurcan, Sur, 1941. First published in English, translated by Anthony Boucher, in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, August 1948. Collected in Labyrinths, New Directions, 1962, and Fictions, Grove Press, 1962.

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