The OF Blog: Jacek Dukaj Interview

Saturday, March 01, 2003

Jacek Dukaj Interview

Jacek Dukaj, a phenom of modern Polish literature. Compared to the outstanding Stanislaw Lem, yet making a mark all his own, he has raised the bar in science fiction and fantasy. His short story "The Cathedral" has been adapted into an animated short, garnering multiple awards throughout this past year enroute to its current Oscar nomination. His award winning writing is in the process of making its way into the English speaking market. The short story, and future feature film, "The Iron General" will appear as part of an anthology and other works are being presented to publishers as we speak.

Here at OF we had the amazing opportunity to be among the first to see passages of "The Cathedral" and "The Iron General" translated into English. Now, we have an interview with Jacek himself, including synopsises of other works, comments on Polish literature and discussion of his background.

I have linked the english passage of "The Iron General" at the end of this interview. "The Iron General" is in turn linked to the english passage of "The Cathedral". That passage is in then linked to a site containing information on, and a trailer for, the Oscar nominated animated short based on "The Cathedral".

Below, in the replies, I have set up headings to ask questions of and make comments to Jacek himself. He will be visiting on March 5th to make his replies.

Please, do not reply to questions asked of Jacek until after he has answered them. I have set up a heading at the end for group discussion and comments on the interview itself.

Thanks for coming in!!



1 ) Your first published story, The Golden Galley, was at age 16. Who were your influences and what support did you receive to allow you to put together a publishable work at such a young age?

Well, I've always read a lot, so you can safely say there were some influences from literature; but what were they exactly? Even if I did know that then, I certainly don't remember that now.

Support, mhm. I had a support: someone from my family gave me an old typewriter. I've been scribing various stories for years, probably from the very time I learnt the alphabet :-) When I got the machine I typed the story I was writing at the time and sent it to "Fantastyka", the biggest SF magazine in Poland. It was "The Golden Galley" ["Zlota Galera"]. The rest is history ;-)

2 ) This story appears in English as part of The Dedalus Book of Polish Fantasy, have you published much else in English? I notice that your newest novel, Black Oceans, is listed as being available in English, is that so?

No. Someone translated a very short fragment of "Black Oceans" ["Czarne oceany"] (it was part of a Polish culture promotion done by some foundation), but I didn't have the chance to authorize it, and the book's summary attached to it is, mhm, rather free interpretation. You know, the kind you'd expect from a mainstream critic who knows everything about a SF novel before reading it. "Computers going crazy", "computers ruling the world" etc.

3 ) Since that first story, some 13 years ago, what other works have you had published?

A couple dozen short stories and novellas (my short stories count from 60 pages, my novellas from 120-160 pages :-)), in various SF magazines and anthologies. Four books: "Xavras Wyzryn" in 1997 (in fact containing two novels: "Xavras Wyzryn" and "Before Night" ["Zanim noc"]), "In the Land of Infidels" ["W kraju niewiernych"] in 2000 (containing 8 stories and novellas), "Black Oceans" ["Czarne oceany"] in 2001, a huge novel cut down on my publisher's request from over 1000 pages, and "Extensa" in 2002, a short novel.

4 ) How do you perceive your style has evolved, if at all, during these years?

Well, I think it has improved. I hope it has :-)

Trying to be objective, I'd say I now focus more on the visual aspects of the story. Also I'm editing myself to be more "understandable" - I have a reputation of being too original (putting too many ideas in my stories), writing in too sophisticated of a manner about complicated things. Maybe I'll finally find some balance.

Also, in the way the narration feeds on itself, my ideal would lie somewhere between Julio Cortazar, Gene Wolfe and Friedrich Durrenmatt. The rule is this: write what you'd like to read yourself. And I like those kinds of stories: make the reader think, twist his mind, and demand from him some knowledge and determination to "solve" the text. When you finish reading and then read it a second time, you discover new meanings and things you would swear weren't there before.

5 ) It seems there is a lot of Polish literature that is overlooked by those of us mired in English-only. What is your opinion of the writing produced in Poland overall?

This is a matter for long discussion. First, one has to separate prose from poetry and science fiction & fantasy from mainstream prose. We had and have many really great poets (my favorite is Zbigniew Herbert). Some of their poetry is impossible to translate, too idiomatic, rooted too deeply in Polish culture and history; but some of it is known all around the world (see Nobel Prizes). We don't have the tradition of "storytelling" as strong as it is in the Anglo-Saxon world. Probably the only Polish novelist fitting this profile is Henryk Sienkiewicz (author of "Quo Vadis" ). Polish literature lacks, almost completely, "the popular genres": mystery, adventure, horror, thriller etc. - you could only point to single writers, the exceptions. The underlying principle is: you don't write to tell a story (no matter how amusing, original and captivating itself), but to USE the story for some higher purpose (political, religious etc.). Nevertheless, two such genres have evolved in Poland: romance (for women) and science fiction (in last 10 years, hand in hand with fantasy). Of course, they are (were) completely invisible to mainstream critics and "real literature" specialists. A good example is the history of Stanislaw Lem's reception: first they had to clean him up from SF mud (key phrase being "Despite using the SF decoration..." ), then they could notice his greatness. So now, when capitalism rules the book market in Poland, SF seems to be half of all Polish "literature for people". There are some really talented writers, saying in their fiction far more about contemporary Poland and the world than all of the Polish mainstream authors - Rafal Ziemkiewicz, Andrzej Sapkowski, Marek S. Huberath and others.

Of course, all of this is horrible simplification and if some Polish literature professor reads it, I'll run straight for the trenches ;-)

6 ) Have you had the opportunity to spend much time with Poland's other young super star of literature, Dorota Maslowska? What can you tell us of her?

Despite being nominated to the same award and often being mentioned together as "those young novelists", I've never met her. She comes from a completely different literary tradition and completely different circles. Ninety percent of her prose is in its form: language plays, cultural associations, Polish pop-culture "inside jokes", smart observations of subcultures (I'd love to see it translated to English - it'd have to be a "holistic" translation of all modern Poland or rewrite the whole story from scratch as a British or American one). Funny thing is, having jeered at and criticized "the establishment", Maslowska very quickly found her way to it. With one book under her belt she became "the voice of young literature" in Poland. I'm very curious about her second book, I want to see if the first one was "the book of her life" or the first cry of great writer being just born. I hope for the last, I wouldn't mind her being the name, the face and the language for 21st century Polish literature.

7 ) Stanislaw Lem is one of the most famous writers in Poland today. What is your opinion of his works and of the current comparisons between his works and yours.

I'm being compared to him just as every successful writer of epic fantasy is being compared to Tolkien ;-)

Which doesn't mean there are no similarities (I think you'd find them in a strong sense of logic, a kind of synthetic rationalization, and in a fondness for philosophical puzzles), but I certainly don't copy him,
don't try to emulate his style or "continue his work".

On the other hand, I freely admit I started reading SF because of his books. "The Investigation" was the first one.

He warped my fragile young mind :-)

8 ) Black Oceans, winner of the Janusz Zajdel Award, was released this past year, could you give us a synopsis of the story?

This is probably a harder thing to do than writing it :-)

OK, let me try to describe the background and the beginning of the story.

End of XXI century, New York. (In "Black Oceans" NYC is "the evil city"; I needed an archetypical city-Moloch of the western world). There will be no characters to like, no heroes to admire. Nicholas Hunt is a cynical, egoistic bureaucrat, whose main motivation for all of his decisions in his job is, it seems, covering his ass. Once he was a big player in Washington, but - as we'll learn much later - made one mistake in choosing patriotism over egoism (why?). Now he's the manager of a small budget government program: a couple of rooms filled with computers, ten scientists working part-time, analyzing the data. Nicholas rots in his office, reliving memories of the glamorous past, while writing a dark political novel on his terminal about the amazing career of his alter-ego. His only consolation is he managed to arrange his sister's contract marriage with a New York senator.

Enter Marina Vassone, a cognitive, neurologist, and mathematician, one of the "science parasites" living off various government agencies, programs and foundations. She's heard somehow about Nicholas’ program (it's not so secret) and received a recommendation from Nicholas'
brother-in-law. She wants to search Nicholas’ program databases.

Now I have to delve into theories. Nicholas and Marina, and most people from higher classes of America, Europe, Japan etc., are "genetically sculptured". Their DNA is not from their parents' DNA, but was designed by genetic engineers according to their parents' wishes, from standardized "geneframes". It doesn't mean the sculptured people are some Ubermenschen, they just don't have flaws, physical or mental. You can recognize them by the model-like beauty of their bodies, and the dates of their births – relating to the fashion trends which these bodies match. Women who can afford it don't get pregnant and don't give birth to their children themselves, they buy a home incubator and watch the growth of the fetus through its glass. This way, women aren’t disfigured and don't have to stop working nor change their way of life. The trick is - this is still a luxury technology and no more than 5% of the population of Earth uses it. There are still huge areas of poverty and constant wars in Africa, Asia and South America, conditions even worse than in the XX century. And division is not clear, "sterile". There is a great river of artificial genes flowing into seas of natural human DNA, and no one can predict what will be the result of all these re-combinations of genes which never existed in the whole history of Homo sapiens. Completing the Human Genome Project doesn't mean we know what every possible gene stands for. So, this was the program Nicholas worked in: registration and analyses of the fast changing "American Genome". Government got involved because information about one's DNA is one's property and the whole operation was a little "shady".

Now Marina's theory. She found proof that one of those "mutations" was telepathy and now she wants to find the genes of telepathy. The theory was developed this way: I have a man who receives the information from another man's mind but is isolated from him by materials stopping any known particles/energy. Conclusion: obviously there is some new, unknown kind of particles (?), somehow reacting ONLY with the mind/brain. So Marina builds a theoretical model. The smallest possible quantity of information transferred that way is called "a psychomeme". Maybe it's a particle, maybe it's a wave. It exists on the plane of "myslnia" (my neologism; think: "thought" (in Polish "mysl" ), "abyss"; 'mysl -> myslnia' as 'thought -> ?'). Since memetics is a well developed science in those days, Marina quickly draws analogies: psychomemes work like genes; they copy, mutate and evolve. The most important thing is they don't need our minds to exist, they only emerge from them and interact with them. There, on myslnia, is an entire parallel life, existing at least since the times of the first neural structures on Earth. New science – psychomemetics - is born. Its goal is, of course, exploration of myslnia. Are there psychomemetic plants, animals, intelligent beings ("neuromonads" )? (I stole word "monad" from Leibniz, but I use it differently, to describe "the cells" of psychomemetic organisms). Can we communicate with them? Although they "eat" our thoughts, they aren’t necessarily aware that this "meat" has meaning. So Marina needs telepaths to proceed with more and more complicated experiments. (A “telepath" does not mean some mind-controlling freak, just a man who is less immune to myslnia than others are).

A common mistake of SF writers is to launch, all at once, a completed scientific theory. I didn't want to do it; I wanted my science to look like "real" science - in the history of science there are no "completed theories". So I collected some empirical data and built several equally "true" theories (meaning: matching all data, being susceptible to falsification (in Karl Popper sense, but then - look at the Duhem-Quine thesis) and bringing some new information). Marina's theory is one of them, but there are also other theories of myslnia: as a machine (non-material computer); as God (it matches some of God's definitions quite well); as a liquid-like matter, behaving by the laws of physics for liquid and gas; and others. When Nicholas uses this opportunity to resurrect his career and become the president of the DARPA-funded agency for the exploration of myslnia, data is still being gathered (psychomemetics is interested in all ghost stories, "haunted house" stories, "evil possession" stories, etc.) and telepaths are being secretly hunted.

But why does the government give the money for it, and why is it so secret? Because those who learn how to manipulate monads first, will win the Economic Wars: the human factor was always the weakest link. The Economic Wars are the result of further complications; acceleration and computerization of the world economy (There are also various economic theories but I'll skip them). Everyone battles everyone and you can't refuse to participate: you'd have to isolate yourself from the world economy and it'd be the death of your personal finances.

Then one day comes the information about great, unexplainable, changes in the management of Asian countries-corporations: these are the signs of the beginning of the Monadal Wars. Someone was faster and already learnt how to manipulate myslnia. (But how is it possible? Who betrayed?) There's a political storm in Washington and Nicholas has to figure something out. To buy some time he comes up with the idea of the conference of "government scientists" (loyalty comes with money), a kind of brainstorming. He knows scientists: there'll be no revelations, just terabytes of scientific trash and a bunch of incoherent theories, which will allow him to justify any possible decision (Most of the theories later in the book are quotations from the conference).

That doesn't mean Nicholas and his people haven't done anything so far. They tracked down telepaths, kidnapped them and sent them into Earth's orbit so they'd be noticed by neuromonads (in the relative "silence of myslnia" ) and start interaction (there's a long history of "mystical experiences" of astronauts). But these telepaths end up in comas, with flat-lined brains. Some of them know what awaits them (the psychomemes of their predecessors linger in orbital labs) and prepare for revenge. One day, during lunch, Marina becomes "possessed" by monads of the psychomemes of a suicidal woman who killed her children. This is not a horror. The "possession" progresses by laws of cognitive sciences: alien psychomemes mix with Marina's own, a new structure is built. A new memory, a memory of the past which unites Marina's history and the woman's history; a new personality, a new person is formed (Marina recognizes in her memories the memories of one of the kidnapped telepaths and because of that contamination she knows whose revenge it is - this is also the proof this kind of the manipulation of monads is possible). Nicholas observes it up close because meanwhile he started a sterile, antiseptic romance with Marina (or she started it?). "Sterile, antiseptic", for New Etiquette covers all the ways of interaction between people. They are constantly under the surveillance of the "legal insurance net", which registers all their actions so that they couldn't be falsely accused of some "personal offense crime". New Etiquette (NEti) is not a complete, coherent system of new laws; it's based simply on legal precedents. I extrapolated here (maybe to an absurd) some existing trends. Mainly those related to the expansion of law, which steps on the fields left by religion, common sense etc. NEti doesn't affect everyone. You can live "out of NEti", if you choose so, but you can't make a career that way.

In this part of the novel there are fragments of a diary of the next kidnapped telepath. He writes the story of his "impossible love" (you cannot love someone whose thoughts swarm in your mind; in permanent intimacy there's no intimacy at all), and we gain insight to his mind.

As a result of one of the analyses Nicholas asked for, a surprising discovery comes. Comparing the frequency, times etc. of the explosion of various suicidal, UFO-oriented, crazy cults/religions with all possible sets of data, a young scientist discovers that they match precisely the mechanics of a Sheratan planetary system - Sheratan, Kaukab al-saratain (from Arabic: "the star of two signs" ). Nefele, a second planet of the invisible satellite of Sheratan A, seems to "cause" - by its alignments with stars and planets - the increase of the intensity of these cults and their bloody rituals. We don't have the proof myslnia "obeys" the laws of physics and now it seems the psychomemes can travel faster than light. (There is this "morphogenetic field" theory by Rupert Sheldrake, but I'll skip it). What do these rituals "mean"? Do they mean anything? How would a cat "stuffed" with an ant's psychomemes behave? Maybe it's a result of physiological cycles of Nefele's inhabitants? But – maybe their religion...? How can we know what cultural trends on Earth are the results of the alien psychomemes infection? And we propagate our psychomemes through myslnia as well. So as a final result, in the whole universe there will be only one species, Psychosoic universi, shaped by the intergalactic fashion trends of body and soul.

Nicholas learns of it shortly after the accident Marina has. It wasn't an accident, it was a murder attempt. He doesn't know it was her who sold the secrets of his Program and that now, after her "possession", the corporation Marina secretly worked for thinks she can no longer be trusted and wants to waste her. "A corporation thinks", "a corporation wants" - this is (I think) the main theme of "Black Oceans". An atrophy of personal responsibility, the rule of overcomplicated systems, the will born from nowhere, the power of (memetic) trends; no one plans anything and there are only victims. Nicholas and Marina live in times of "metaxocracy" (my Greek neologism: we are ruled by "things that are between" ). It starts at the level of politics and comes down to every small decision we make. We all know history isn't a random composition of economic/political systems. There are laws of evolution there as well, but it's hard to notice them when changes take centuries. However, now the processes accelerate, the world shrinks, everything affects everything, there are no countries of alternative economy that work as well as ours or better. Everything comes in one direction and every decision we make narrows the range of decisions we can make next. But do we really make "decisions"? Can some politician choose a completely different path? He'll ruin his country and his successor would have to quickly return to the old ways. We can see it now - how small the differences between rivals are. In the time of Nicholas Hunt there will be only one kind of freedom left for the "rulers": a freedom to make wrong choices. And it doesn't mean there are some "secret rulers", the "real power" behind etc. In the second part of the novel, when Nicholas and Marina are on the "path of low probability" and real action begins (i.e. chases, street battles, chaos in NYC as "the city of dark psychomemes", all logically justified by "futuroscope", but I skip this theory, too), they are the victims of the "conspiracy of no one": there's conspiracy to secretly kill them, but there are no conspirators.

Meanwhile Nicholas starts suspecting something (his brother-in-law gives him a lead) and he hires a hacker to find proof. Now, bear in mind: neither this hacker (actually "sneaker" ), nor the Economic Wars I wrote about above are anything like the ones we know from the classic cyberpunk of "capitalism of predators". This is all very down-to-earth, even unattractive (the hacker is a middle-aged gardener with a bunch of kids and a big belly etc.). Finally Nicholas gets the proof of Marina's betrayal. Earlier, during his private investigation in Washington, he found the dead body of one of the officials supervising his Program and it's not clear whether it was murder or suicide. Also, someone sends him a computer program called "Prayer".
But... dam, to explain the functions of the Prayer I must now describe the whole technology of bionano, the self-configuring bioimplants being injected into veins like some antibiotics. The idea of OVR - ortovirtual reality -, where you do not enter artificial realities, but customize your reality (like changing the GUI of your PC, you can change MUI (Multisense User Interface), de-formatting your whole world (including yourself) according to a chosen theme. Nicholas picks Necropolis, his brain's manager is Devil - but Nicholas claims it was by pure chance. Maybe that kind of blind chance which decides what product you pick at the supermarket? As one of my characters says: "acceptance of an aesthetic of the evil is the first step to accepting the evil itself" ). And those bioimplants are so efficient because they work also on unused parts of the owner's brain, a so called "neuroRAM SWAP". You can also "edit" yourself, your voice, your facial expressions, your body movements. Marina’s ex-husband, who appears later, is an ex-soldier nanocyborgized this way.

Still, I haven't told half of the novel, not a word about RNAditors. All of these theories/technologies mix with each other, bionano and RNAditors are used in the Monadal Wars. It all operates from the plane of Hunt's MUI, where New York is a techno-gothic city of death and we see Crowd on its streets as an apocalyptical beast - but then to explain what Crowd is I'd have to list the various RNAditors used there...

9 ) The Cathedral, your 60 page novella, was adapted into an animated film. This film has won the Siggraph 2002 Computer Animation Festival's Best Animated Short and Germany's Animago Award. Could you give us a synopsis of this story, your role in the adaptation and opinion of how the adaptation relates your novel.

I believe the story itself was completed before Tomek Baginski came to me with an idea about making a film in this technology. "The Cathedral" was in a file of 300 pages of various treatments, finished and unfinished stories, which I sent to Tomek (We were working by e-mail only). Then the selection began. Financial (it was a completely amateur undertaking), technical and format (short film) limitations cut out 90% of my propositions. After 9 months of this painful process "The Cathedral" stood victorious on the battlefield.

The inspirations for the story were albums about Antonio Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia. I thought then about the cathedral that not only "seems" to be alive, but IS alive in some way. About the cathedral under the stars, in a cold void and darkness, growing slowly for millions of years...

I think Tomek Baginski did a great job recreating the climate of the story. His visual imagery was strong enough that he didn't have to "copy" my Cathedral - he's built his own vision of the same dream.

10 ) The Cathedral is nominated for an Oscar as well. How much excitement for you personally is created by all of these award ceremonies?

Well, for years the Oscar ceremonies weren't transmitted on Polish TV at all. It seems it wasn't profitable for any station, even if there were Polish nominees. I used to check out the winners on the internet ;-)

We don't have high hopes. We can't afford the promotion comparable to that of studios like Pixar. On the other hand, this is not a category where it should matter so much. Anyway, we’re thinking now in terms of the opportunity to find the money for our next project, which should be a full-length adaptation of "The Iron General". That couple of million dollars is probably impossible to find in Poland, but we plan to make "The Iron General" in English, for Japan and the western markets. So the Oscar nomination at least gives us a chance to try to make the dream real... ;-)

11 ) Your current translator, Michael Kandel, is an author and editor himself, in addition to being a translator for yourself and Stanislaw Lem. How did you meet him and how is the relationship working out?

By e-mail :-)

Really, Michael is an ambassador of Polish SF in the West. He reads
Polish magazines and books and tries to present the best (what he thinks is best ;-)) in English. Now, he is completing the anthology "A Polish Book of Monsters" - "The Iron General" was translated for it.

12 ) What are you currently working on?

I have one novel stashed (I completed it two years ago). It's the first part of a trilogy, the title is "An Ideal Imperfection" ["Perfekcyjna niedoskonalosc"]. It was supposed to be "a space opera to end all space operas". But to build the technologies allowing me to describe the biggest possible wars I had to first create whole sciences supporting it, and ended up writing hard SF. The wars that are going on there are... mhm, let me put it in this analogy: the universes are bullets, the number of dimensions are the caliber, the speed of light is gun-powder.

To describe the world of the trilogy (set in XXIX century) as well as its heroes, I should first explain the ideas it is based on. Even the identity of the main character is questionable. He's been resurrected from the wreck of a XXI century spaceship - but maybe it's not him. How
can he tell, if his brain structure can be altered as easy as time and space? If you know Greg Egan's "Diaspora", you have the idea of cognitive science technologies I use here. My great tragedy is that I started writing it before I even heard about Greg Egan, but then I read "Diaspora" and fell into depression... I'm joking, but it was really frustrating. For example, I was especially proud of the declination algorithm I created for the fourth sex (or "beings that transcend the category of sex" ). Which, believe me, is a very hard thing to do in Slavic languages (I wrote "fourth sex" because in Polish there are three different declinations: for "he", "she" and "it" ). And then I found Egan had done the same in English, where it is a matter of merely 3-4 words!

But that's not the main idea. I think "kraft" or "meta-physics" (not "metaphysics"!) would be the one: a science about changing the laws of physics. "Kraft" is a practical technology derived from meta-physics. By krafting you can create quasiFTL waves and "inclusions" in which you can set the laws of physics as you like. Inclusions can be the size of a room - or as limitless as our universe. Measuring them is pointless: they're autonomous and in no concrete relation to our cosmos.

But the idea standing behind it is purely philosophical: if the fittest ones win in the game of life, and the same goes for cultures / civilizations, everything depends on outer conditions. But having left the planet, we find ourselves in exactly the same conditions as any other possible civilization in our universe. And what will be the vector of the evolution? Intelligence, of course; the power of data-computing systems. And we cannot build/create some beings of higher intelligence to help us: if they are really more intelligent, it's us who would be the tools, and then - merely their toys. But at the same time we have to auto-evolve if we are to defend ourselves from other civilizations, to avoid their domination and slow incorporation into their systems (or simply: to stay alive). Every civilization has to evolve and every one goes in the same direction. Soon they achieve the goal: the point of the Ultimate Computer - a system (organic or not, it doesn't matter) which cannot be further improved because it's limited only by laws of physics (Ultimate Computer has already been described by scientists in abstract terms). So every civilization ends in the same form? Ha, there kraft comes in: if you can manipulate the laws of physics, the real quest begins - the quest for the best combination of meta-physical variables (number of dimensions, number and character of particles, speed of light etc.), Ultimate Inclusion.

This is of course much more complicated, various sociological, psychological paradoxes come to mind. And there is the "Imperial Nanoware Field", inf, the invisible soup of nanomachines standarized to 3 basic elements, in constant reconfiguration by laws of DNA-like language. And the Wells of Time; and so on ... but you get the picture.

Why "space opera to end all space operas"? Because nothing can beat the war of endless universes. There are inclusions/universes created with the fastest possible variables of time, where specialized Civilizations
of Death endlessly evolve by the laws of eugenics-like science (and the hero finds himself in the middle of conflict, possessing the key to Ultimate Inclusion). At least I can't imagine yet what could beat that.

Currently I'm writing "The Songs of Others" ["Inne piesni"], a novel which expanded dangerously from a small project. It's not SF, not fantasy (no magic there), not alternative history (no event in history could change it that way), I don't know how to categorize it. It's based on one of those mind-twisting premises I love: imagine Aristotle was right. The universe works how he described it. There are no atoms, no electrons and photons, just five elements. There's no evolution in nature. Nature is teleological, it has purpose, and every Substance is fulfilling its ideal Form, morphe, which "exists" separately from the Matter, hile, but appears only in Substance. The Sun and all the planets are circling Earth. Cancer, leprosy etc. are the signs of mind's insanity, the weakness of Form. Etc., etc.

Of course, this is simplification: Aristotle's theory wasn't coherent and it'd be strange if he guessed everything right 2300 years ago. But this is the direction the science (if you still call it science) went in my universe - because this is what that universe really is - not toward Newton and Einstein and quantum physics - because that's false.

What's even more important, hilemorphism determines life in all areas: political, social, economic, psychological etc. I try to melt the ontological "Form" of Aristotle with Form from aesthetics and some principles from Hegel. There are people whose Form is stronger than others and they can "shape" things, plants and animals, whole lands and nations, just by "being there". You can practice and specialize in this influence - don't we all know people whose wishes we feel compelled to fulfill, whose very presence changes the way everyone behaves? Those
most powerful - kratistoses, kratistas - lay their "auras" on whole countries. In the aura of despot everyone is a little more egoistic and harsh; in the aura of hedonist everyone is a little prettier and sensual etc. (You could say Jesus and Hitler were kratistoses ;-)) There are specializations of personal auras - for example in the presence of ares everything is a deadly weapon and an accidental punch can be a devastating blow. Etc., etc., this is far more complicated. The most powerful kratista had to flee from Earth and now she lives on the Moon, morphing it toward her Form.

The action begins with the journey of Mister Berbelek; who once was a great strategist, but the Form of an enemy twisted him into a small, sad man. The journey is with his adolescent children, whom he hasn't seen for years, and maybe he'll come back to life "copying" Form from his young daughter and son. A journey to the heart of Africa, with its golden cities and mysterious old jungles, from which come tales of amorphous beasts, strange beauty and terrible miracles...

I've completed the first half of the novel. I have put myself on a schedule to finish it all by May, so it could be published in September or October. It should have about 600 pages. But because of the Oscar nomination for Baginski's "The Cathedral" I've fallen behind. There is, for example, a project to make an album for "The Cathedral" with a crazy deadline.

I'd like to ask you if I may use this interview in future, as a reference for English readers (and maybe to lure some publishers ;-))


Thank you so very much for taking all the time you have to provide us with the excerpts, this amazing interview and stopping by to visit. I sincerely appreciate it. I wish you the best in your endeavors.


1 comment:

halibutt said...

Can't wait to see his books translated. If they are translatable at all.

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