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Tree of Codes (Jonathan Safran Foer)

March 8, 2011

Like so many of my favorite novels, I found this book accidentally. I was looking for books that experimented with form, and boy did I ever find a book that experiments with form! This book is so experimental that it was deemed unprintable until Visual Editions decided to take a stab at it. With the help of an ambitious Belgian company called die Keure, Foer’s book has come to fruition.

So the book is basically a story created by taking its text from another story — Bruno Schulz’s novel The Street of Crocodiles. It is from this novel that Foer performs what he refers to as an exhumation, and Tree of Codes is the result. It’s a beautiful and haunting novel, although I’ll admit to being so fascinated by the construction of the physical book itself that I think I’ll have to reread the novel.

If you love the materiality of books, you have to watch this video (taken from Visual Editions’ website) showing how they made this strange little novel.

I can’t really do justice to this book through words (ironically), so here are some pictures of it which were also taken from Visual Editions’ website to help you understand what I’m talking about.

This book is an amazing testament to the aesthetic potential of writing’s material side, and is a reminder of the way a work of literature can become a work of visual art as well. If you ever get the chance to hold this book in your hand and sift through its die cut pages, you won’t want to put it back on the shelf. If you can manage to secure a copy of Tree of Codes for yourself, I’d recommend you do it! There’s a good chance I won’t want to let you borrow mine….


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