Excerpt from “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams ~~Babel fish~~

picture-HitchhikersGuide. . . No, don’t move,’ he added as Arthur began to uncurl himself, ‘you’d better be prepared for the jump into hyperspace. It’s unpleasantly like being drunk.’
‘What’s so unpleasant about being drunk?’
‘You ask a glass of water.’
Arthur thought about this.
‘Ford,’ he said.
‘What’s this fish doing in my ear?’
‘It’s translating for you. It’s a Babel fish. Look it up in the book, if you like.’
He tossed over The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and then curled up into a foetal ball to prepare himself for the jump.
At that moment the bottom fell out of Arthur’s mind.
His eyes turned inside out. His feet began to leak out of the top of his head.
The room folded flat around him, spun around, shifted out of existence, and left him sliding into his own navel.
They were passing through hyperspace.
The Babel fish,’ said The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy quietly, ‘is small, yellow, and leech-like, and probably the oddest thing in the Universe. It feeds on brainwave energy received not from its own carrier but from those around it. It absorbs all unconscious mental frequencies from this brainwave energy to nourish itself with. It then excretes into the mind of its carrier a telepathic matrix formed by combining the conscious thought frequencies with nerve signals picked up from the speech centres of the brain which has supplied them. The practical upshot of all this is that if you stick a Babel fish in your ear you can instantly understand anything said to you in any form of language. The speech patterns you actually hear decode the brainwave matrix which has been fed into your mind by your Babel fish.
‘Now it is such a bizarrely improbable coincidence that anything so mindboggling useful could have evolved purely by chance that some thinkers have chosen to see it as a final and clinching proof of the non-existence of God.
‘The argument goes something like this: “I refuse to prove that I exist,” says God, “for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing.”
‘ “But,” says Man, “the Babel fish is a dead giveaway, isn’t it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don’t. QED.”
‘ “Oh dear,” says God, “I hadn’t thought of that,” and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.
‘ “Oh, that was easy,” says Man, and for an encore goes on to prove that black is white and gets himself killed on the next zebra crossing.
‘Most leading theologians claim that this argument is a load of dingo’s kidneys, but that didn’t stop Oolon Colluphid making a small fortune when he used it as the central theme of his best-selling book Well That About Wraps It Up For God.
‘Meanwhile, the poor Babel fish, by effectively removing all barriers to communication between different races and cultures, has caused more and bloodier wars than anything else in the history of creation.


1 Comment

Filed under Fiction, Literature

One response to “Excerpt from “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams ~~Babel fish~~

  1. Douglas Adams was born in Cambridge, England on 11 March 1952, and died in Santa Barbara, California, USA on 11 May 2001, aged 49 years.
    ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ was originally a radio comedy broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 1978, eventually being published as a series of five books between 1979 and 1992.

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