Do you see the book taking place in a parallel world to ours?
There are clearly events and occurrences in the book that are physically impossible, considering the biology of our world, so there is a certain element of “speculative fiction” here. I suppose it would be a parallel world, although I’m not exactly very eager to apply the term “science fiction” to this, because the term tends to etch out a very specific genre. This is just a world in which these things happen, where epidemics can make people speak different languages, can make them hear music. It’s just that kind of world.
What are some influential works that you’ve read in speculative fiction?
The most obvious is Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino. In it, Marco Polo is in Kublai Khan’s court, describing cities that he’s seen during his travels. Each city is a prose poem, conveying an idea or an image. My book probably has its greatest affinity to that kind of writing. I also greatly admire Jorge Luis Borges, who was terrific at starting with a phantasmagorical idea, and then teasing apart its mechanics to show the reader exactly what it would entail. One influence you might notice is Edgar Allen Poe, whose short stories I find endlessly fascinating. Another is a 17th century author named Robert Burton who wrote The Anatomy of Melancholy. It’s a 1400 page tome that details all the possible causes of melancholy. But it isn’t really a medical work – it’s more an erudite collection of every possible perspective of human existence. It’s the kind of book that is impossible to read and yet impossible to stop reading.
Απόσπασμα από το βιβλίο:
The invalid with Amnesia esoptrica, or Mirrored Amnesia, when still in the prime of his life, begins to notice blank spots in his memory. When he thinks of the interior of his village chapel, he can no longer picture the crucifix that ought to hang there. He cannot recall the names or faces of the boys who sang with him in the village choir. He can forge horseshoes but has no recollection of ever having entered a smithy. He recalls once fleeing from an orchard with an apple clutched in his hand but cannot remember climbing the tree to pluck it. He remembers a round breast with a tiny scar, glorious in its imperfection, but not the identity of the woman who possessed it, or how he became privy to such an intimate detail.
Day after day he combs the corridors of his mind and finds yet more things missing, and begs his friends and relatives to help him illuminate the voids. They recount their secondhand recollections of his life, until he knows his own history mostly by hearsay. It is in this absurd fashion that he must live, for only by memorizing the fragmented recollections of others can he hope to have any semblance of a past.
But the affliction overtakes his efforts at compensation. He begins to lose the part of himself that was known to him alone, witnessed by no other. He is left with no recourse but to fill his mind with suppositions and conjectures, with imagined memories of music he might have heard, lovers he might have wooed, sins he might have committed.
Scholars of memory report that in the terminal stages of Amnesia esoptrica, when all of the invalid’s own memories have been erased, he forgets even his own diseased state. He possesses only the fictions he has created in an attempt to bandage his failing mind and repeats them, again and again, as though they were truth. He wanders as a minstrel or a madman, for depending on the nature of the tales he has woven for himself, his fellow men regard him as a great storyteller — or a moonstruck fool.