NON-INFINITE STORIES: COMBINATORY AND NARRATIVES
ORIGINAL IDEA: DAVID NÚÑEZ
Non-infinite stories is based on the possible of creating new books generated through new technological supports.
How many times can you read a book and still feels different? Jorge Luis Borgesrecounts in The Garden of Forking Paths, “I kept asking myself how a book could be infinite. I could not imagine any other than a cyclic volume, circular. A volume whose last page would be the same as the first and so have the possibility of continuing indefinitely." But at the end is not a circular book but a multiple book, as Umberto Eco says "... a work of art, complete and closed form in its perfectly calibrated organism perfection, is also open, possibility of being interpreted in a thousand different ways without its irreproducible singularity being thereby altered."
A book doesn’t have to be static, inherent to the author’s structure. In a novel, the reader is an interpreter, imagines texts, changes their interpretation of the plot as it is constructed, and comes to redefine history and its connection, after reading, building understanding semantics of the text with a mental kuleshov effect that recreate the rules of interpretation, fundamental for Eco, since the author delimits the text and the receiver extends it with his preconceptions. Now, the text is adaptive, are not fixity words, but pixels that mutate to the reader. That’s why we create Non-infinite stories, using programming combinatory and deconstructing the text around the narratology elements. The combination and the transformation of the order of the factors don’t alter the product, or do they?
Non-Infinite Stories use combinatory and narratology to recreate a text in non-infinite ways. First, we use fragmentary novels to iterate the fragments in a search of reinventing the novel; then another iteration, reconstructed the plot; and last, extracting the elements that defined a fiction we pursuit if still is a narrative construction, a tale, or just a text.
Initially, under this configuration there is the possibility to obtain “infinite” combinations, each of which represents a possible reading. The purpose is that every reader would have a unique story.
Like Jorge Luis Borges defines, in the beginning of The Library of Babel, “The universe (which others call the Library) is composed of an indefinite and perhaps infinite number of […]” Books? Atoms? Interpretations?
To the second proyect, Farabeuf with original 249 fragments, would give us the following equation , with the available blocks, the preliminary result is of 1.2931425 × 10^490 different readings. Just in the first exercise of iterations and there is five narrative reconfigurations. To put this number in perspective (1.2931425 × 10^490), the number of atoms in the observable universe, by comparison, is only estimated to be around 10^80. So, it’s almost a fact that each person would read a unique text.
The rules. Bastard had 96 fragments and the combinatorial configuration give us about four billion possible readings. In a beginning and without considering the readings eliminated by the structural rules, 16 initial blocks and 16 final blocks are considered that have specific positions, these generate 256 possibilities. In addition, you can choose the other 4 blocks among 64 possible intermediate blocks, combinations of 4 in 64 results in 635,376 possible intermediate sections. In addition you must multiply this number by 4! = 24 since the order of the blocks is variable. This results in the following equation:
The preliminary result is, with the blocks available, 3,903,750,144 different readings.
To put this number in perspective, if each person read a text, 60% of the current world population would be required to explore the entire search space. The use of heuristics allows us to find optimal solutions with a much lower number of readings. This digital tool maximizes this literature effect and concrete the Borges desired: reading as a labyrinth.
The interaction of a computer to define the variables of a text is not recent. In the 1967 essay “Cybernetics and Ghosts. Notes on the narrative as a combinatorial process”, Italo Calvino proposes that the literary author can be eliminated as a subject and reduced to a series of functions that a programmed machine would perform with a combinatorial effect of language.
If in Cent mille milliards de poèmes by Raymond Quenau, who composed ten sonnets of fourteen verses that can be accommodated according to the will of the reader, recite all combinations would require about 200 years, how long does this experiment take?
We use fragmentary novels to prove the system. We start with Bastard by David Núñez and Farabeuf by Salvador Elizondo. Next, could be Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo, John Dos Passos with Manhattan Transfer, Sherwood Anderson with Winnesburg Ohio and Flaubert with Bouvard et Pecuchet.
The algorithm generates a series of texts that are offered to the readers. Readers assess the texts by four parameters: You liked it (aesthetic appreciation), the history is clear (ontological), it is the optimal order (structural) and you recommend it (general evaluation).
Then, in the next three iterations, you can read each particular story and characters. And in the fifth iteration, you would read a text without narrativity, the pursuit of Flaubert, the novel of nothing.