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.
NON-INFINITE STORIES: BASTARD
In the first stage, 96 fragments of a text made expressly for this literary experiment. "Bastardo" by David Núñez deals with the search for identity in a historical character. Henry Morton Stanley, the Welsh explorer who had four different names, conquered Africa, massified war journalism and always fought with his past in order to break with his condition of bastardy that prevented him from being considered a knight of the crown. This multiple life allows the development of fragmented plots that vary according to the reading choices, but maintain their historical coherence and veracity.
NON-INFINITE STORIES: Farabeuf
Farabeuf by the mexican writer Salvador Elizondo, is composed by 249 fragments of the book. We created five different iterations. Fist, you can read the original plot in alternative ways, because Salvador Elizondo chooses to freeze an instant, so everything that happenes in the novel occurs at moment of the reading.
We chose Farabeuf because Elizondo alternates the three stories in 249 fragments. As they are not active narratives, the characters do not develop in a time / space with a resolutive end, so they base the alternation on variations of the actions, in a simile with the theme with musical variations, where the main idea is distorted or develops "And then I abandoned myself to his embrace and I opened my body so he would penetrate me as the dagger penetrates the wound ..." (142), a fragment that is replicated three chapters later, "She, meanwhile, thought, 'And I will abandon myself to his embrace and I will open my body so that he will penetrate me as the assassin's dagger penetrates the heart of a legendary and magnificent prince ... '"(184) This variation is a sample of how the story is transfigured - fragments alter the stories, they camouflage the characters, the time is changed, the space mutates; what is repeated with the photographic exhibition on the beach, the doctor's ascent by the stairs or the actions that Melanie develops in the house. The content is distorted and the verb tenses and the presence of the narrator are muted. Variations (De Teresa, 1996: 91) that generate polyvalence as a mutation of the musical structure in narrative, that the reader does not know what the main story is and has to reconstruct the essence of the "real", although "they are lost sight of in every different variation, but there is a clear design to build them all within an appearance of structural unity. "(Copland: 152)
The Mexican writer narrates the moment with different frames. Create several ideas at the same time: the Ouija board, the falling coins, the hand holding the handrail, the legs that move between tinkling, the hidden gestures of the woman, the "phonograph attached to the wall, between the two windows, repeated forever the same cry "(158), everything happens at the same time, or rather, the reader accommodates them at the same temporal level, which results in an actangencial vacuum where they only acquire meaning when their actions are ordered in a relaxation from the reordering of the reading. For this, Elizondo resorts to the variation in the fragments and the simultaneity of the actions, which allow the instantaneity to be constructed without altering the successive essence of the literature.
Elizondo fragments the discourse and changes it, when combined with repetition, as a narrative mechanism, which allows it to stop time. Repeats but distorts.
To you what story Salvador Elizondo will tell you. This is a tribute to his work.
Once the reading and qualification process is finished, we will carry out an analysis of the reading process and three digital books will be developed, showing the reading process, with optimal, multigeneric and negative scores.
FOR AN EXHAUSTIVE ANALYSIS: “The reader as a hypertext co-creator in Farabeuf by S. Elizondo”, David Núñez
Farabeuf is a story where time does not pass, fragmented a character in three stages of a life, portraying a Chinese sacrifice, on the beach in love with her and old when he goes to ... In Farabeuf time does not pass, everything is a I remember, 249 fragments are a moment. That's why they called it a one-moment chronicle. With combinatorics, we mix the 249 fragments and an infinite moment is achieved. Like Borges in El Aleph here everything always happens in the present of the reading, of the inventions of the old man, fu Tchu Lí who was a martyr or a traitor ...
Farabeuf not only tells three stories about a photograph, each plot is structured around themes that allow him to consolidate the story, and make up the hidden structure of the novel. In this case, I decided to separate them.
In Farabeuf the characters mutate, they lack a stable identity. We have divided the characters according to their links and spaces: in Paris, Dr. Farabeuf and the nurse Mélanie Dessaignes; in China: Paul Becour, Sister Paula of the Holy Spirit, Fou-Tchou-Li; on the French beach, the man and the woman.
The first story, the most complex and extensive of the novel, takes place in house 3 of the rue de l'Odéon, in Paris. In it, Dr. Farabeuf comes with a briefcase full of surgical instruments and the desire to possess the remains of a body, the Nurse, in a concretion of the sacrificial rite, where the linking of the characters lies more in the symbols than in the actions .
You can also see as unfolded characters: Farabeuf is the historical surgeon, the man who shivers on the beach, the passer-by in Paris, the spy-photographer Paul Becour and the lover; the nurse is Mélanie Dessaignes, Sister Paula of the Holy Spirit, the prostitute Mlle. Bistouri, the woman who holds the starfish, and the beloved.
ITERATION 3: THE STORY OF...
In the first story, Dr. Farabeuf arrives at the house, observes with desire the nurse, spreads his surgical instruments on a bloody table and prepares her for the ritual. The way in which he instructs his victim is through photography and the tortuous and erotic recreation in the sacrificial nurse.
The second level takes place in a beach of Honfleur, Normandy: two lovers chase each other in the waves, stop in front of a putrefied starfish and run to a house where they will copulate ecstatically for the photography of Leng T'che.
ITERACIÓN 4: TRANSFORMATION OF THE PLOT
In the third level, Farabeuf, turned into the spy Paul Becour, infiltrates China to establish a Catholic Church, contribute to the fall of the Manchu dynasty and accelerate the adhesion of the Empire to the West.
The basis of this plot is not the relationship between the spy, the nun and the monsignor around the spell against China and the implantation of Catholicism, but the torture portrayed by Dr. Farabeuf that not only refers to the ecphrastic description but to the concretion of the inhabited moment.
ITERATION 5 TELL THE NOTHING
In the 19th century, the possibility of writing narratives that -paradoxically- did not contain a story was designed. Flaubert tried in his unfinished work Bouvard et Pécuchet, where, as Salvador Elizondo clarifies in "Mi deuda con Flaubert", "the concern for nothingness goes hand in hand with that of pure writing. It is not possible to conceive it if it is not uncontaminated in meaning or form, reduced to its essential sensitive condition; a writing that has its origin in nothing and that is fulfilled in itself ". (Elizondo, 2001: 102) But even with the literary purpose of breaking with this traditional precept, which Mallarme took to one of its final consequences, when nothing is said, something is being talked about; the writing itself becomes the argument. Elizondo tellsstories that do not contain an argument in the classical sense.
Rolando Romero and John Bruce-Novoa declare, in one of the most dangerous common places of the Elizondian study: "Elizondo does not count anything," he writes; he does not seek to communicate anything, he writes. " (Elizondo, 2009: 2) I disagree, Elizondo tells, develops themes; Even if it is antinomy to relate the nothingness, it is not the first on which it is argued that he writes a literature without a plot.
To do this, we mix the fragments where there are no nominated characters or defined spaces. It´s a novel without characters or spaces, more than a piece, a story that does not break the Aristotelian idea of the plot.
We use this idea and transformed. In Evolutionary Books (Núñez-Rábago) we use a multiplicity of capitular stories that through the use of a genetic algorithm, users can determine which is the optimal version. In this way, we seek to move from the linear imposition of reading to a process of participatory reception, with the support of computer systems.
In this hyperdigital text, the fragments are interspersed and studied from evolutionary algorithms, computational tools that seek to solve optimization problems through mechanisms similar to those found in the process of biological evolution (they use the concepts of inheritance, selection, natural, mutation and genetic recombination, among others) to generate different solutions to problems with a search space too broad to explore exhaustively. Genetic algorithms belong to this branch and require two fundamental questions: a genetic representation of possible solutions and a way to evaluate their optimization. From this, the mechanism seeks to generate better solutions in each iteration of its operation. With Artificial Intelligence it will be possible to create a multiple narration where all roads are possible and are canceled in juxtaposition, in a simile to Borges's theory in "The Garden of Forking Paths": "In all fictions, every time a man faces different alternatives, opts for one and eliminates the others; in that of the almost inextricable Ts'ui Pên, he chooses - simultaneously - for all. It creates, in this way, various paths, different times, which also proliferate and diverge. Hence the contradictions of the novel. "