The entry was drafted at the University of Koeln Englisches Seminar during the Winter 2013-14 term, as part of the class, "Locating the Text" offered by Professor Joseph Tabbi.
Gólem by Péter Farkas is an essayistic hypertext novel (its subtitle defines the work as “hyperiodical approaches”), which was written continuously by the author between 1997 and 2004. Among Hungarian critics like Endre Szkárosi or Zoltán Szűts, Gólem is considered as the first significant Hungarian hyperfiction. In contrast with pioneering hypertexts like Michael Joyce’s afternoon, a story or Stuart Moulthrop’s Victory Garden, Péter Farkas’ hyperfiction doesn’t have a recognizable plot or narrative. Parts of it can be read as a diary, other parts as philosophical fragments, others as commentary or reflection and other texts from the world literature. However, the different parts of the text scarcely relate to each other, and this diversity makes the work hard to read as a whole – it is not easy to find a common theme.
Although there isn’t any sound or motion present, and in very rare occasions can the reader see images, Gólem is not a traditional text of the Gutenberg Galaxy: after entering the text at a given point, the reader can continue its exploration by following any of the hyperlinks and a certain level of interaction is needed for the non-linear reading, where the readers can find their own paths.
The structure of the work is extremely complicated. It consists of 700 passages and 5974 links. Numerous links are given even on the title page. Some of the links are external, leading to articles about the work and interviews with the author. One can start with the Introduction, with the Appendix or with the “Wiring diagram”, a pdf file, an image filling the entire screen, showing visually the connections between the passages of the work.
Due to the work’s complexity, the author provides help to the reader, giving suggestions in the Introduction where to start and how to read his hypertext. On one hand, this gesture can really be helpful for readers who don’t know how to start reading the text, but on the other hand, it shows that the reader might feel lost without the instructions of the author, which can drive away potential readers. Although quite big freedom is given to the reader, regarding the reading order of the passages, the author advises us to try to use the reading method explained by him, in order to be able to follow the logical order of the passages. According to his advice, “mental tracks” should be followed, using the hyperlinks in and after each passage. For the easier understanding can the reader use as help the “Wiring diagram”, the “Thesaurus” (numerous tables with keywords and links leading to different parts of the work), or the “Pókfonal” (“Spider web”, the chronology of the connection of the passages to the system). The screen is usually divided into two parts. On the bigger, right side we can read the passages, jumping from link to link. (Here we often find short texts about philosophical questions, which can be interpreted as fragments or with the help of the other texts to which they are connected with hyperlinks.) We can also study a glossary, which explains the technical terms used in the work. or jump to the “Bedekker” (“Baedeker”), which is probably the most narrative part of the work (here we can read loosely connected episodes from the author’s life, like a fragmented autobiography, always jumping from one place to another). The reader can also decide what to see on the left side: the sources of the quotes, or the “Spider web”, or the “Flat net”, the layout of the work, which helps the reader to understand the structure. Another choice is to start the reading from the “Phaidrosz-váltó” (“Phaedrus switch”), which is a hypertextual commentary on Plato’s dialogue. Here the screen is divided into three parts, and the quotes can be read parallel with the commentary.
According to the author, “Gólem is about the fact that the author doesn’t know anything. But he is eager to find out: can he know anything at all in his state of being, and if yes, how.” And as Nicolas Pethes puts it: “What comes to life from this [structure] is almost an independent entity: a golem. Péter Farkas’ Gólem is about the similar incapability of future texts to come to an end, and eventually we are going to look for their ‘truth’ in this, golem-like structure.”
Pethes, Nicolas (2001) Az elnémulás iróniája. Lettre International, Nr. 40.
Szűts, Zoltán (2013) A világháló metaforái. Budapest: Osiris.
Szkárosi, Endre (2008) "Sokféleképpen lejátszható társasjáték". Rávezetés Farkas Péter virtuális prózájára. Hungaricum, 2008/2.
External links to interviews, articles
Nicolas Pethes: Az elnémulás iróniája: http://www.c3.hu/scripta/lettre/lettre40/pethes.htm
Barna Tóth: Hipertext olvasás: http://www.interment.de/farkaspeter/golem/hipertext_olvasas.pdf
Szkárosi Endre: "Sokféleképpen lejátszható társasjáték". Rávezetés Farkas Péter virtuális prózájára. http://www.asa.de/presse/farkas/szkarosi_hungaricum.htm
Péter Farkas’ speech: http://www.asa.de/presse/farkas/brody.htm#brb
3 interviews with Péter Farkas: http://www.c3.hu/scripta/beszelo/97/06/19.htm, http://www.asa.de/presse/farkas/balkon.htm, http://www.asa.de/presse/farkas/radio1997mi.htm