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What is ergodic literature and why You should not be scared of it

What is ergodic literature and why You should not be scared of it
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Polina Dolia

Ergodic literature sounds like something sinister and forbidden, doesn't it? It would be worth calling ergodic old books in leather covers, hiding in themselves dark secrets or something like that. It's too much like Lovecraft. But it is worth looking at such books closer, and it turns out that there is nothing frightening in them (except the name, of course). Gather all your literary makings: we immerse ourselves in the world of books, whose text is curled up so that you love and hate it at the same time.

Let us start with the question what is ergodic literature at all? In fact, the concept is complex as well as its representatives. In fact, all books where the reader is actively involved in the composing of the text belong to an ergodic. The whole story literally depends on the order you read a story. Non-linear narration, a few endings, the opportunity to choose the further development of the plot... Sounds tempting, you'll agree.

The term itself appeared in 1997 and came out from under the pen of Espen J. Orset, professor at the University of Copenhagen. In his book "Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature" Orset tries to understand what makes the text "ergodic" and playfully combines in one term Greek ergon (work, labor) and hodos (way). That is, it is already clear from this: reading will not be easy.

So what makes the book ergodic? Oddly enough, not so much the content as its embodiment on the pages of the book. Orset himself writes the following: "...it takes a non-trivial effort by the reader to read a book. If ergodic literature makes sense as a concept, there must be non-urban literature in which the attempt to pass through the text is trivial and the reader is not subject to any obligations, except (for example) eye movement and periodic or arbitrary page-turning."

Does it all come down to the book's correspondence to the generally accepted formats of paragraphs, dialogue fields and layouts in general? I suppose yes, actually. The conventional format makes the process of reading light and unobtrusive and "trivial," as Orset calls it. All you need to read the book is methodically drive your eyes in the same lines and sometimes turn the page. Sounds simple and helps to focus on the plot. But if you're taking on ergodic literature, you're probably not looking for easy ways.

Let's sum it up: any book you leaf through without pain in your eyes and heart is non-ergodic. Every book that reads so hard that delights your inner aesthete is ergodic. All right, we sorted that out.

Is this a new current in literature? Not at all. Authors for centuries tried to flirt with texts and readers is a bugger entertainment. The first ergodic literature is considered to be the Chinese "I-Jing", "The Book of Changes", written around the 700s BC. One of the first philosophical texts already was an ergodic one. It's all about its unusual structure: the book was meant for divination, so consisted of 64 hexagrams, each of which expresses a particular life situation in time in terms of its gradual development. Each hexagram consists of six more traits - the stages of the situation. In general, it is difficult, non-linear, non-standard. Do not forget to bring three coins when you take it at the NLB, without them neither guess nor decipher the text will not work.

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You have clearly heard about later examples of ergodic literature. Remember at least "The Game of Classics" by Julio Cortazar is a vivid example of ergodic literature. Under the cover actually hide two books instead of one, but to find the second is not so easy. With the first reading “games into classics” all is simple: it is read with the usual method, concludes 56 with the chapter, under last line of which completely single-valued inscription is “end”. The second book floats from 73 the chapter – and at the end of each, the number of the following is indicated. Novel in the novel, text in the cube, real step-by-step Quest from the peace of literature.

One more is “Khazar dictionary” by Milorad Pavich. Even without the specific subject, this book carries along by its possibility to examine the set of short histories from three different sides, to select for itself interesting subtheme, to follow it for the elongation of the entire book – and so ad infinitum. As a whole, of course, no in ergodic of more explicit representative than Pavich: that not the book, then the present game with the reader, crosswords and dictionaries, horoscopes and maps, and even floor of the reader can influence the outcome of events. In addition, the "Hazar Dictionary" has a female and male version.

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The ergodic books do not be worth fear – if, of course, the author himself it did not attempt you to frighten. Mark Danilevskiy, for example, attempted and it came out in it more than excellently. About its book “House of leaves” we already wrote in the selection of the books about the houses with the ghosts, but in the context of ergodic literature to hush up would be a crime. “House of leaves” is worth reading at least for the splendid imposition and the sensation of present sudden fright from turning of pages. Tirednesses to obtain Screamers from the screens of cinemas? Try books. Heart into the heels will leave, we guarantee.

By the way, the book must not be such already adult and serious. For example, a series of “Goosebumps” by R. L. Stine is the glorious possibility to introduce to ergodic the low-order generation (or to be introduced very, if you prefer gradual entry). In these mystical histories, the readers themselves become heroes! Yes, yes. As the story progresses, you can choose the next actions of the hero and go to the appropriate page. Will you be able to escape from all supernatural misfortunes? Who knows?

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Another interesting example is "Up the Down Staircase" by Bel Kaufman. It's more serious than “Goosebumps” but still is not so scary like Pavich. It even has a plot. A young teacher of literature faces the harsh reality of school life and all this is presented through notes, essays and other small things. No direct feed and linearity. However, in this book, this method appears it especially touchingly and helps only better to be penetrated by history about how disappears the desire to teach and to learn – from both sides of barricades.

Do not put aside to the side of the book with the uncommon imposition, the strange paragraphs and the nonstandard supply. Outstanding possibility to replace customary viewing angle and to open for itself something new – for example, love for the ergodic literature. Even if this love sometimes makes painfully.

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