Saturday, December 11, 2010

A book of non-existent books

Does a theory of "searching" exist?
Does a theory of "unintentional finding" exist?

They do - but they are not entirely satisfactory for this case. The most classic book about searching is Part 3 of The Art of Computer Programming by Donald Knuth. And "unintentional finding" is part of the theory of synchronicity as introduced by Carl Gustav Jung. More research is necessary because searching and finding invisible or previously unknown phenomena is the main subject of this blog.

Today I was searching for a book in the paranormal section of the Rotterdam library. It describes a non-existent phenomenon that I will write about in the near future. But someone had left a random, non-paranormal book in the stack. I realized it was a book about non-existent books.

Net niet verschenen boeken
Samengesteld en ingeleid door Gummbah
De Harmonie
September 2010
ISBN 978 90 6169 954 5

Not quite published books
Compiled and introduced by Gummbah

The book has been compiled by Gummbah (Gertjan van Leeuwen), a Dutch absurdistic cartoonist. It reproduces the covers and excerpts from a collection of totally failed fictional books. The most hopeless poetry, experimental art and horrible modernistic novels. Very funny if you appreciate intentionally bad art.

I liked the following fictional book best, because it fits the scope of the blog. It contains topography, invisibility, experimental travel and high weirdness. I would buy it if it really existed.

From the introduction to this fictional book - Met een rugzak stampvol porno dwars door Aken:

Straight through Aachen with a backpack chock full of porn
Author: Epi Duist - Editor: Van Granen

The city of Aachen has always fascinated me for some reason. Here history and hospitality go hand in hand. It produces it's own "haves" and "have-nots". Because that is also an aspect of Aachen.
Life in Aachen is forever changing yet still stays the same. After a few hours the city starts to weigh heavily on the visitor. The modern inhabitant of Aachen does not have a high profile in arts and sciences, but he is always quick of understanding and as a guest you enter a city that is light and stiff af the same time.
But after leaving this city, all your problems suddenly seem very futile and for a few days you only hear the infinitely gentle crackling of the city echoing in your mind.
Therefore I was pleasantly surprised when Epi Duist presented me his book about Aachen. He has crossed this city in one day, walking at a trot, carrying a heavy 15-kilogram backpack of which the reader knows the content, but about which the people on the street have no idea. Thus creating a strange, but very welcome tension.
The Publisher

Writing a collection of fictional books is not entirely new. One of the best examples is a collection of book reviews by Stanislav Lem called A Perfect Vacuum:

A Perfect Vacuum (Polish: Doskonała próżnia) is a 1971 book by Polish author Stanisław Lem. It is an anthology of imaginary reviews of nonexistent books. A Perfect Vacuum can be seen as a compilation of Lem works: some of the reviews remind the reader of drafts of his science-fiction novels, some read like philosophical pieces across scientific topics, from cosmology to the pervasiveness of computers, finally others satirise and parody everything from the nouveau roman to pornography, Ulysses, authorless writing, and Dostoevsky. Reviewing nonexistent books is not a theme unique to Lem (consider Jorge Luis Borges' Investigations of the Writings of Herbert Quain), but the idea of an entire anthology of such pieces is rather novel.

Another non-existent book is Life, a monumental, many-volume work by Baron Bodissey whose work is frequently quoted in the books of Jack Vance. And of course there is the magnificent Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius which is highly recommended. But here we stray into another kind of non-existence.

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