Summer of 2012 was a magical time for me. I was an American living in Italy, and in 2013, I transferred to Brazil at the invitation of my friend, Yair Benaim, a Sao Paulo-based lawyer who was working at a law firm at the time. That very year, I submitted a critique of a manuscript written by Marzio Lo Truglio and Vassilis Leivitis that dealt with a language mapping challenge. When I arrived in Brazil, the project occupied my attention for several weeks, and I was extremely impressed by the brief. I looked forward to meeting the authors, and, though I didn’t get to do so in time, I discovered that they have collaborated over the past five years, sharing the novelity and enthusiasm with which they approach their work. I admired the discourse on humanity and the Anthropocene, as well as their use of integration of different genres and mediums to compose more fully the world’s future.
My teacher, Anna Contreras, wrote a helpful note that included advice about monostatic structure – there could be no mistakes. I added a diagram of that structure to the printout I had taken for the purpose. At the beginning of the year, when the work I expected to be published began taking shape, I read an article by Helena Bourassa on jinn, the multiplicity of beings who can “see” the world. Within the context of this aegyptology, when interpreting the archive of the book, I realised that the division of the world into different times is something that is expressed in these jinnes.
And so, I began to explore diverse references in the jinnes and in other works of social science and literary criticism, which help me find a language that is not only specific but also relatively generic, applicable to different entities and processes. The book which eventually emerged contains comparisons between environmental stress and malevolent power; between land subsidence and gender divisions; between land ownership and financial exclusion. It is a mind bender, this method of sifting through different sources of insights and encoding them together in a single set of numbered sections. Its ability to move among different points of view is of course called upon to generalise and simplify elements.
The starting point for any work is, of course, life. To draw parallels between the world today and the only world alive for human beings is to refer to philosopher Bertrand Russell’s definition of anthropophagy: “The act of eating one’s own food.” The synchronicity between your diet and the state of the world is profoundly profound. The physical world contains physical rules. The recognition of these rules is the freedom to deploy your rules in a way that promotes the good of the world.
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What have been the main factors that have influenced your work? Which concepts do you have found useful in trying to cover diverse topics related to the human condition?
Various forms of scientific criticism encourage one to distinguish between ideas that are “clearly-contained” and ideas that are less well-defined. This is why I have also included representations of hidden realms, which do not exist under normal economic and intellectual scrutiny but do exist beyond the world of economic and intellectual scrutiny.
My thoughts on collaboration are in part deeply philosophical and in part practical: We are animals in the world of nature; this is hard to do when circumstances, ethics, and time constrain us. But when we are creative, we can implement the most difficult solutions and generate new lifestyles and ways of organising societies and resources.
• Toyin Ojih Odutola’s novel is being published by Transgressor Press