This story was told to me in the fall of 2006 by author and oral traditionalist N. Scott Momaday, while I was taking one of his classes.
There was a man in Buenos Aires who collected rare books. One day, a traveling salesman who had heard about this collector came to his door with a case full of books to peddle.
“Surely,” the salesman said to the collector, “You would want a copy of this rare tome.”
The collector shook his head.
“I already have a copy of that one, signed by the author.”
The salesman, undeterred, pulled another volume from the case.
“What about this one? It’s a second edition.”
The collector barely glanced at it. “I have a first edition, this is nothing to me.”
“This book is sure to interest you,” the salesman pulled a worn notebook from his case. “It was handwritten by the author while he was writing his masterpiece. Truly one of a kind.”
“To be sure that is interesting,” the collector responded, “But I have the last notebook he ever wrote, still stained with the blood from his fatal wounding in a duel.”
The salesman, at this point, was getting desperate–the last volume had been one of his very best! And he had children to feed, after all. So he opened his case all the way and removed all of the books from the interior.
“I have one I know that you will not have seen. It is the only one like it in the world. In this one, you will be interested.” The salesman then opened a secret latch, releasing the false bottom of the case to reveal a large book, marked only with what appeared to be a sideways eight on the cover. “This,” the salesman said, “is the book of Infinity.” He handed the volume to the collector.
“Open the book to the beginning,” the salesman instructed the collector. The collector did as he was bade, and opened the book to the beginning–or tried to, anyway. There always seemed to be one more page between the page he was on and the beginning of the book. He turned page after page after page, faster and faster and faster, and still, he could not reach the beginning of the book.
“Now open the book to the ending.” The collector tried once more to do as he was told, but there was always one more page between the page he was on and the end of the book.
“I’ll take it!” The collector said, pushing money into the salesman’s hand and ushering him hurriedly out the door.
Once the collector was alone with the book, he began to read. He started as close to the beginning as he could, and read from there. Always, there was something more to read. He read late into the night, until he finally collapsed on top of the book to slumber. He woke the next morning, only to continue reading again.
This continued for days, and those days turned into weeks, until he could take it no longer. The collector closed the book and shoved it under his mattress, determined to take his mind off the elusive ending to the book of Infinity.
But even from under his mattress he could hear the book calling to him, whispering, “Just one more page. Just one more page, and you’ll see how it ends.” He slept poorly, and the next morning he pulled the book out again, reading, reading, reading–trying to find the end.
And he continued this way for months, sleeping fitfully on his mattress atop the book, and pouring over its pages during the days.
Finally, one night, after hours of tossing and turning, he could stand it no longer. He yanked the book out from beneath his mattress, pulled on his coat and ran through the streets of Buenos Aires, in his slippers, carrying the book. He ran all the way to the National Library, breaking into the quiet hall with a clatter. Still he ran, deep, deep into the stacks. Selecting a shelf at random, he shoved the Book of Infinity between the other volumes, breathed a sigh of relief, and disappeared back into the night.
And so, there the Book of Infinity can be found to this day. No catalog will lead you to it, but the determined searcher may find the book with no beginning, and no end, resting in the stacks of the National Library in Buenos Aires.