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Lottery Information

The Lottery in Babylon

"The Lottery in Babylon" is a short story written by Jorge Luis Borges in 1941. It describes a fictional society in Babylon in which all activities are dictated by an all-encompassing lottery, a metaphor for the role of chance in one's life. Initially, the lottery had the usual material rewards; later, punishments and immaterial rewards were introduced. Further, there was no need to voluntarily participate. Finally, it simultaneously became so all-encompassing and so secret that no one can tell whether the Lottery still exists to alter people's fates, or whether the world runs blindly on by chance.

A further interpretation is that the Lottery and the Company that runs it are actually an allegory of God. Like God in the eyes of men, the Company that runs the Lottery acts apparently at random and through means not known by its subjects, leaving men with two options: to accept it to be all-knowing and all-powerful but mysterious, or to deny its existence. Both theories have supporters in this short story and in the real world.

In many other books, Borges dealt with questions about the meaning of life and the existence of God, and also presented this same paradoxical vision of a world that may be run by a good and wise deity but seems to lack any discernible meaning. This view may also be considered present in "The Library of Babel", another Borges story.

See also