Twisted Realities and Speculative Futures: The Year in Literature – 扭曲的现实与思索的未来:文学年

Considerations of time and speculative worlds kept coming up this year. Carlo Rovelli’s The Order of Time (Allen Lane) helped in my latest effort to understand entropy, and the meaning of time past, present and future in any story that we may try to tell. With chapter titles like ‘The Inadequacy of Grammar’ and ‘The Scent of Madeleine’, Rovelli presents the science with welcome literary and stylistic clarity. In Richard Powers’ arboreal novel, The Overstory, shortlisted for this year’s Booker Prize, Neelay Mehta dedicates his life to a project of world-building and ‘raising decaying corpses’. Neelay is a computer programmer whose simulations grow into full-blown Earth simulacra that will allow future humans to experience the prelapsarian natural world – before it was so blithely destroyed by our species.


Twisted Realities and Speculative Futures: The Year in Literature - 扭曲的现实与思索的未来:文学年

Megan Hunter, The End We Start From, 2018. Courtesy: Picador

Guides to both the present and the future can come from unlikely places, and this year Russian cosmism continued its foray into the Western mind, thanks, in part, to Russian Cosmism (MIT Press), the first English collection of cosmist writing, edited by Boris Groys. Cosmism was a philosophical and cultural movement that, towards the 19th century, married Christianity with a technological imperative, its central belief being that humanity should find the means to resurrect its dead and house them in outer space. With contributors such as Alexander Bogdanov, Nikolai Fyodorovich Fyodorov and Konstantin Tsiolkovsky attending to the early origins of the Russian space programme, rocketry as well as a proto-transhumanism, it’s easy to see how cosmism’s core interests and relation to time and technological liberation remains of interest for artists such as Trevor Paglen, Hito Steyerl and Anton Vidokle.

Late in the year came a discovery: Stream System is a selection of short stories by Gerald Murnane, who is lauded in his native Australia but little known elsewhere. Compared, by his publishers, to Borges and Calvino, and declared ‘a genius on the level of Beckett’ by Teju Cole, the stories reminded me of some of Roberto Bolaño’s odder narrators. Murnane tells his tales by nesting fictions within other stories or dreams, the prose both self-referential and full of cumulative motifs. His narrators have a Pascalian penchant for staying put. Their travel, instead, is undertaken in the mind, as the elsewheres of Sydney, Tasmania or the exotic locations introduced by the National Geographic produce anxiety and confusion, bringing forth the threshold of dream and fiction. 


Twisted Realities and Speculative Futures: The Year in Literature - 扭曲的现实与思索的未来:文学年

Boris Groys, ​Russian Cosmism, 2017. Courtesy: The MIT Press

Annie Ernaux’s The Years (Fitzcarraldo Editions) deals with time and authorship in a collective, oddly two-step manner, as the socio-political developments from the year 1940 to 2006 are portrayed through the diffusion of the writer’s own subjectivity. A similarly collective, radical use of shared memory and everyday commentary is performed by Rob Fitterman’s This Window Makes Me Feel (Ugly Duckling Presse). Finally published in book length form this year, it was written ‘in the long-shadow of 9/11’ and is one of the best, most emphatic and laugh-out-loud uses of appropriation and conceptual poetic techniques I’ve read in a while. This is as much a Whitmanian self-portrait as it is a sea of polyphonic anxieties and pleas for understanding. It is the voice of a nation alone, worried and exhausted, talking to itself on the internet.

The most engaging, open and emotional poetry reading I attended this year was hosted by The Institute for Endotic Research (TIER) and conducted by a curator: Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung, who read and conversed about the poetry that inspires his thinking and practice, from Mahmoud Darwish to Morgan Parker. TIER, a welcome addition to Berlin’s project space scene, is energetically programmed by Benjamin Busch and Lorenzo Sandoval. Sandoval’s artist book, Shadow Writing (Algorithm/Quipu), published this month with Archive Books, charts the shared genealogies of the algorithm, binary code and the quipus, an information system made of knotted threads that was used by the Incas. (The body of work was nominated for this year’s Berlin Art Prize, which itself boasted a very strong shortlist and was deservedly won by Doireann O’Malley.) Somewhat similarly, James’s Bridle’s New Dark Age (Verso) opens with an account of how early computation came from a desire for weather prediction. This leads to a neat (and Bridle’s core thesis is nothing if not neat and persuasive) mapping of how we have invented technologies that collude in increasingly destructive events, from climate change to fake news. In the wake of such intractable scandals as Cambridge Analytica, reading New Dark Age helped me understand how it is that we’re all ‘looking at the same sky and seeing radically different things.’    


Twisted Realities and Speculative Futures: The Year in Literature - 扭曲的现实与思索的未来:文学年

James Bridle, New Dark Age, 2018, Verso Books,

Such diverging realities are something that Roy Scranton brings to the fore in We’re Doomed. Now What? (Soho). In 2018, I found myself longing for bleaker, more realist(ic) takes on what the future will look like, as if art and literature was not quite keeping pace with reality. In attempting to accept the fate of a world beyond saving, Scranton makes a start, although he finds that his constructive nihilism pushes up against his American suburban existence. He eviscerates the powers that be with one hand, while defending his reliance on his car with the other. (At least he admits his hypocrisy). Last year, Scranton co-edited the excellent What Future (Unnamed Press) anthology. This year’s iteration, edited by Meehan Crist and Rose Eveleth, takes a decidedly more up close and personal look at the future, emphasising the social and cultural rifts that are tearing the world apart much faster than the deep time of nature and ecological collapse. 

Myths, of course, often occupy themselves with world-building and the workings of time, and Megan Hunter’s debut novel, The End We Start From (Pan Macmillan),intercuts a story of motherhood set in a recognisable, post-apocalyptic UK, with genesis mythology. In a tale that brings to mind James Bradley’s excellent novel, Clade, from 2017, Hunter demonstrates that the catastrophic can be an all too familiar event.  Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology (W. W. Norton) happened to be the first book I ever bought in an airport, and his chatty, light retellings provided a fitting distraction from the barbarous inanity of a low-budget flight: ‘That is the end. But there is also what will come after the end. From the grey waters of the ocean, the green earth will arise once more.’

Main image: Annie Ernaux, The Years, 2018, Fitzcarraldo Editions

John Holten

John Holten is a novelist and publisher of Broken Dimanche Press. This year an excerpt of his first novel, The Readymades, was anthologized in The Other Irish Tradition (Dalkey Archive Press).

Opinion /

James Bridle
Boris Groys
Fitzcarraldo Editions
John Holten
Looking Back
Looking Back 2018

对时间和投机世界的考虑今年不断出现。卡洛·罗维利的《时间秩序》(艾伦·莱恩)帮助我最近努力理解熵,以及过去时间、现在时间以及未来时间在我们试图讲述的任何故事中的意义。罗维利以“语法的不足”和“玛德琳的气息”这样的章节标题向人们展示了科学,在文学和文体上都非常清晰。在理查德·鲍尔斯(Richard Powers)的《树栖小说》中,今年布克奖(Booker Prize)的入围者,尼尔·梅塔(Neelay Mehta)把他的一生献给了一个建设世界和“养育腐烂的尸体”的项目。Neelay是一个计算机程序员,他的模拟发展成为成熟的地球模拟,这将允许未来的人类在被我们物种如此快乐地摧毁之前体验先天自然世界。Megan_hunter_the_end_we_start_from.jpg Twisted Realities and Speculative Futures: The Year in Literature - 扭曲的现实与思索的未来:文学年 Megan Hunter,我们从2018年开始。礼貌:皮卡多关于现在和未来的指南可能来自不太可能的地方,今年俄罗斯宇宙论继续深入西方思想,部分原因是俄罗斯宇宙论(麻省理工学院出版社),这是第一本由Boris Groys编辑的宇宙论英文集。宇宙主义是一场哲学和文化运动,在19世纪,它把基督教与技术势在必行地结合在一起,其核心信念是人类应该找到复活死者并将他们安置在外太空的手段。亚历山大·博格达诺夫、尼古拉·费约多罗维奇·费约多罗夫和康斯坦丁·齐奥尔科夫斯基等贡献者关注着俄罗斯太空计划、火箭术和原超人本主义的早期起源,因此很容易看出宇宙主义的核心利益、与时间和技术解放的关系对T.帕格伦,希托·斯蒂尔和安顿·维多克。今年晚些时候,人们发现了:“流水系统”是杰拉尔德·穆尔南的短篇小说选集,他在家乡澳大利亚广受赞誉,但在其他地方鲜为人知。相比之下,他的出版商,博尔赫斯和加尔维诺,并宣布“一个天才的贝克特水平,由Teju科尔”,这些故事让我想起一些罗伯托博拉尼奥的奇怪的叙述者。穆尔南通过将小说嵌套在其他故事或梦境中来讲述他的故事,散文既具有自我参照性,又充满了累积的主题。他的叙述者有帕斯卡式的保持原状的癖好。相反,他们的旅行是在头脑中进行的,因为悉尼、塔斯马尼亚的其他地方或国家地理杂志介绍的异国情调的地方会产生焦虑和困惑,带来梦想和虚构的门槛。宇宙论,2017年。礼貌:麻省理工学院出版社安妮·埃纳克斯的《岁月》(菲茨卡拉尔多版)以一种集体的、奇怪的两步的方式讲述时间和作者,因为1940年到2006年的社会政治发展是通过作者自身主体性的扩散而描绘的。罗伯·菲特曼的《这扇窗让我觉得》(丑小鸭出版社)也同样集体地、激进地使用了共享记忆和日常评论。最终在今年以书本长度的形式出版,它被写成“在9.11的长阴影下”,并且是我读过一段时间以来对挪用和概念性诗歌技巧的最好、最突出、最引人发笑的用途之一。这既是惠特曼式的自画像,也是复调焦虑和求知欲的海洋。这是一个国家独自的声音,忧心忡忡,疲惫不堪,在互联网上自言自语。我今年参加过的最吸引人、最开放、最富有感情的诗歌朗诵是由地方研究学会(TIER)主办的,由馆长Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung主持,他朗读并交流了从Mahmoud Darwise到Morgan Parker的诗歌,这些诗歌启发了他的思考和实践。本杰明·布什和洛伦佐·桑多瓦尔(Lorenzo Sandoval)为柏林的太空项目现场添加了一个受欢迎的TIER。Sandoval的艺术家著作《影子写作》(./Quipu)本月与存档书一起出版,绘制了算法的共享谱系、二进制代码和quipus,这是一个由印加人使用的打结的线组成的信息系统。(这部作品被提名为今年的柏林艺术奖,它本身拥有非常强大的候选名单,并理所当然地被杜伊琳·奥马利赢得。)类似地,詹姆斯·布莱德的《新黑暗时代》(Verso)开篇讲述了早期计算是如何从对天气预报的渴望中产生的。这导致了一个简洁(布赖德的核心论点如果不是简洁和有说服力的话)的映射,描绘了我们是如何发明的技术,这些技术是在从气候变化到假新闻等日益具有破坏性的事件中串通的。在《剑桥分析》等棘手的丑闻之后,阅读《新黑暗时代》帮助我理解了我们是如何“看着同一片天空,看到完全不同的事物”。罗伊·斯克兰顿在《我们被毁了》中突出了这种不同的现实。现在怎么办?(SoHo区)2018年,我发觉自己渴望更凄凉、更现实主义的未来会是什么样子,就好像艺术和文学跟不上现实一样。斯克兰顿试图接受一个超越储蓄的世界的命运,他开始了,虽然他发现他的建设性虚无主义推倒了他的美国郊区的存在。他一边用另一只手来捍卫自己对汽车的依赖,一边用另一只手来玷污权力。(至少他承认自己的伪善)。去年,斯克兰顿共同编辑了优秀的《未来是什么》(未命名出版社)选集。今年的由米汉·克里斯特和罗斯·伊夫莱斯编辑的迭代,对未来进行了绝对更加近距离和个人的审视,强调了比自然和生态崩溃的深层时间更快地将世界撕裂的社会和文化裂痕。当然,神话往往占据着自己的世界建设和工作。《时间的流逝》和梅根·亨特的处女作《我们从潘·麦克米伦开始的结局》以创世神话为背景,讲述了发生在一个公认的后天启时代的英国的母性故事。在使人想起詹姆斯·布拉德利的优秀小说《2017年的克拉德》的故事中,亨特证明了这场灾难可能是一件非常熟悉的事情。尼尔·盖曼的《挪威神话》(W.W.诺顿)碰巧是我在机场买的第一本书,他那喋喋不休、轻快的复述恰如其分地转移了我对芭芭芭的注意力。打消了廉价航班的空虚:“那就结束了。”但是,在结束之后还会发生什么。主图:安妮·埃诺,《2018年,岁月》,菲茨卡拉尔多版,约翰·霍尔顿,约翰·霍尔顿 今年,他的第一部小说《现成的人》的摘录在《另一爱尔兰传统》(达尔基档案出版社)中选集。《意见》/《书评》詹姆士·布莱德·鲍里斯·格罗伊斯·菲茨卡拉尔多版《回顾2018年》


Comments are closed.