Benjamin Labatut and the blows that we are not able to understand
The stories that most attract you to Benjamin Labatut They are those in which a human being suddenly bumps into something that he is not able to understand.
The Chilean author born in Rotterdam, Holland, in 1980, spent his childhood between The Hague, Buenos Aires y Lima before settling in Chile, where he currently lives and works.
For him his books are similar "to the laboratories of the mad scientists or alchemists, because they allow you to play with ideas without the need for them to be in strict correspondence with the reality".
His first experiment was Antarctica starts here, which won the 2009 Hunt for Letters Award in Mexico and the Municipal Prize of Santiago. as Chile. His second book, After the Light, consists of a series of scientific, philosophical and historical notes over the void, written after a deep personal crisis. When We Cease to Understand the World it was his third book.
Another intriguing lab from Labatut is called A terrible greenery, a history of the paths that lead to discovering quantum physics, a book of five stories about Scientists, published in April 2020 by Anagram and an editorial phenomenon for an author who was not well known internationally until recently.
So far, the book has been translated into 22 languages, and its Spanish version is in its ninth edition. Its English version, in particular, has been a finalist this year in the award's best translated book category Man booker and National Book Award, the most important awards in Anglo-Saxon literature. In addition, it appeared this summer on the list of books recommended by the former president Barak Obama.
Another one is The stone of madness, published in Spain by Anagram on October 20, which is almost a continuation of the questions that haunt his previous books, questions about those moments in which reason and madness meet in the same place. The stone of madness explores in two essays the work and personal lives of more scientists, such as the mathematician David Hillbert, and other artists, like writers Howard Phillips Lovecraft y Philip K Dick, but also, it is a much more personal book and grounded in recent crises.
The title of this book mentioned above is inspired by The extraction of the stone of madness, a beautiful painting from 1505 of Hieronymus van Aken, Bosco, which is in the Museo del Prado de Madrid.
In this one you see a surgeon with two assistants who is supposedly extracting a stone, madness, in the skull of a man. But who is more delusional in the painting? The patient asking for help? Or the man who, as was thought in medieval times, sees madness as a stone embedded in the brain that can be healed with quick surgery?
The author says in this book that after having published A terrible greenery, several people approached him to ask pressing questions like "When did we stop understanding the world?" or "Did we ever understand reality?" And so began the process of this book.
"The Extraction of the Stone of Madness"from Bosco. Source: El País
"Today we live in the world of Dick, a plural and insane nightmare in which we can never fully believe in what we see, feel and hear," writes Labatut about the unstable credibility of today's great scientific or social narratives, and that have a good part of the population in uncertainty.
"I do not know madness even from afar, but since I was a child I always had the suspicion that there was something fundamentally twisted, something very extraordinary just under the skin of things," says Labatut.
When asked about the meeting points that literature and science have, the acclaimed Chilean pen responds that the desire that animates literature is as extreme as the one that beats behind science; that is, the attempt, unsuccessful in principle, to put the world into words, to give the chaos of experience a human form.
"But science, unlike literature", Benjamin continues, "has taken on a life of its own; it is as if it were another mind, a cannibalistic system that operates by itself, justifies itself with its own logic and feeds on itself. ".
What attracts him so much about science is that it is, along with art, an area of the human that goes beyond all limits, that does not owe loyalty to anything, and that breaks, almost without regard, with what we consider good and bad, moral and immoral. With that ideal is that Benjamin Labatut navigates the unknown and produces some of the most intriguing and eye-catching texts in recent years for the publishing industry.
"Science is the source of miracles and catastrophes, but the human impulse that seeks more and more knowledge is something very old," says the author about his fascination with reason and delirium. This hunger for knowledge "runs very deep on the Luciferian side of our nature, without which we would have already become extinct, but which is also very expensive, because each new knowledge opens a new wound."
In addition to telling great stories, his books are also about the complicated links between scientific and mathematical discovery, insanity and destruction, as well as "the limits of human knowledge and the not-so-pleasant premises on which reality seems to be built. physics, "he writes simon ings en The Viewer.
One, when writing, is forced to alter reality, to distort history, to pervert your characters simply because you believe in a higher truth.