The Garden of the Forking Paths Reflection

The Garden of Forking Paths is an interesting read that despite its subject matter, follows a linear narration. In the novel, Ts’ui Pen alleges that time is relative; and that at any one point of time, or period, there is an infinite series of possibilities, and that these different possibilities are all interlinked, “diverging, converging and parallel times”. He states that time exists like a web, and that at any one moment, every possibility of action is possible. His proposed theory remains abstract, yet it proves to show how the unpredictability of man, coupled with the curious linearity or non-linearity of time interplays.

Within the text itself, the motif of time frequently announced through Richard Madden’s hot pursuit of the author, holds a central place in the text. Time is very much regulated by the author, through his tedious note-taking. Similar to the text itself, the use of the word ‘time’ is rare, except in the later half of the text where Albert explains. The main story follows an overall linearity – the author escapes from Richard Madden, who follows on hot pursuit. Then, he finds Albert and discusses the novel with him, and kills him later when Richard Madden catches up with him. However, in this content, there are many different ‘paths’ of possibilities by different playing characters, and it can be almost seen as a game.

For instance, Richard Madden could have chosen not to catch the author, or could have formulated a different method rather than pursuing him ala cat and mouse style. Or, Albert could have chosen not to discuss the novel with the author, if he had sensed the author’s murderous intent. Also, if the author had not made a conscious plan to murder Albert afterwards, Richard Madden might not have arrested him. In all scenarios, there is always an option, and the availability of this option creates a symbolic labyrinth, with some choices actively available and conspicuously absent to the user at the same time. Thus, it can be argued that time, like these various possibilities, does not follow a linearity, but rather, its interweaving and connectivity, to some extent, gives space for a conceptual space to be formalised.
Lastly, the text can be said to be an interactive generative style. Interactivity comes through the choices of options, and possibilities, or routes are then generated. It is in this unique sense of how it is generated that goes against what we have been termed to recognised, a linear sense of progression where the narrative is somewhat fixed. Without a fixed route, the option of choices might even bring you back to the past, hence the text can have a linear style and a non-linear style concurrently.

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is a budding creator who works with digital technologies, and investigates the human thought process through her installations.

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