Saving the World 20 Years Later

Etela Farkašová: Záchrana sveta podľa G. / Saving the World According to G.

Bratislava: Vydavateľstvo Spolku slovenských spisovateľov, 2020

What were we like and what did we do twenty years ago, can you remember? Things were different, we were different. Approximately twenty years ago, the writer and philospher Etela Farkašová wrote her novella Záchrana sveta podľa G. 

Its protagonist, whom we know only as G., is a sensitive, perhaps even a super-sensitive woman whose mission is to save the world. To simplify, in the novella that came out twenty years ago – in 2002 –, her mission was to finally put the world in order. At the time of publication, we could have interpreted this motif as an amusing take on an obsession or as an empathetic dive into a disturbed psyche. If we delved deeper, however, we could have read it as something much more meaningful – the protagonist's faith that everything is fatally connected with everything and the things we do on a small scale – in the private space of our everyday lives – impacts a more substantial, even global context. Naive and comical? Only at first glance, because the idea is an essential part of many key concepts. According to them, the way we organize a space and the fact that we do certain activities influences more important actions and wholes, because everything is connected to everything. Folk magic, the ancient art of feng shuei but also hermeneutics, for example, or the theory of chaos, all work with these notions. And so a morbid cleaning obsession gains a new dimension, a banal activity suddenly seems like a self-preserving act of living, or even a display of individual heroism. When reading retroactively, the text may seem like prophetic vision. 

Traditionally, we are prisoners of the feeling that litera scripta manet – the written letter remains. However, it is also true that written text usually isn't written is stone, it is merely a vehicle that an author is free to re-format, add to and update. With the new edition of the amended version of her text, Etela Farkašová fully legitimized this in Slovak literature rarely used method and thus radically shifted our perception of contemporary prose and its possible communication variations. 

At the end of 2020, a version of the text Záchrana sveta podľa G., reworked to fit the changed social context, came out. Thanks to the original idea of "playing" with the original novella, Etela Farkašová updated the story of her heroine and moved it twenty years ahead in time. And yet G. stays the same, even though the world has in many ways changed from what it was at the beginning of the new millennium. The new version works with contemporary reality: computers, internet and a world-wide epidemics have been added. 

We have the opportunity to think about what had changed in our lives and in society in the past twenty years. What are the things we once considered normal that are abnormal today; and what are the things we deemed unimaginable that have become reality. There are a lot of them. And it turns out that the questions of normality and order are even more pressing during the corona crisis. Just like the literary character G., we wash our hands obsessively and anxiously rely on hygiene in general. 

The updated version opens up other dilemmas, too. Is one G. enough to fulfill the difficult task? Is she alone going to save the world or will she do it together with someone who understands her? Who will help her? It is going to be neither the tired and sick mother nor the psychiatry patient who communicates with aliens. Who then? Unstable G., evidently suffering from serious psychological problems, is suddenly much more sensible and empathetic than we thought. The key question remains: is G. the one who is out of it or is everything around her? Twenty years is a long time in our private lives, but the past twenty years is no doubt a long time even in literary life. The author of the afterword for the 2020 edition of Záchrana sveta podľa G. is the young theorist Tomáš Kičina. He was ten when the original text appeared. In his text, he summed up and analysed several key reviews of the 2002 publication. At the same time, he welcomed the new edition as a chance to speak to a generation of readers and thematize the author's critical views and doubts caused by the present developments. The philosophical dimension of the prose with many original digressions and overlaps is essential to both editions. And we can say that the illustrations of Květa Fulierová, with whom the author has had a long-standing collaboration, also emphasize the philosphical dimension of the 2002 edition. 

It is rare for a fiction author to write an anticipant book, and it is even rarer when the auhor is able to update that book for a new social context years later. Etela Farkašová has managed to achieve both. 




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