It all started with an obituary. One day, Aris Fioretos discovered that an archivist at the National Board of Health had died at a very old age, leaving no kin. He wouldnt have given Iris Frost another thought if her name had not been similar to that of a minor character in his first novel. Out of curiosity, he contacted the newspaper and obtained the phone number of the person who had submitted the obituary. When they met, real life proved stranger than fiction. Not only had the deceased read his novels about how the brain, genitals and heart informed the view of mankind that emerged in the early-20th century, but had also commented on them.
In Atlas, published in a richly illustrated edition by Norstedts this autumn, these medical history notes are presented in an edited version, highlighting characters that are far less fictional than Fioretos would have his readers believe. He portrays people who do parachuting, people with no navel. Some suffer from a deformation of the sexual instinct, others are taking their first step on the stairway to heaven, or searching for the stuff of which souls are made. This laboratory of a book brings to life a parallel world that is deceptively similar to our own.
Coinciding with the publishing of Atlas, Moderna Museet
opened an eponymous exhibition. In collaboration with gewerkdesign in Berlin, Fioretos has recreated the books textual universe, hovering between fiction and cultural history. Some twenty scenes illustrate mental states such as goose bumps, vertigo, migraine, blushing and euphoria. Blending comics with architectural models, the exhibition expands the boundaries of literature. What takes place in the transition from page to object? Can the story continue in three dimensions? Viewers can approach the scenes from the perspectives of the mind, the genitals or the heart. In that sense, the exhibition is multidimensional; no encounter is quite like any other.
Aris Fioretos (born in 1960 in Gothenburg) has published some 15 novels and essays since 1991, and has also translated Vladimir Nabokov and other writers into Swedish. He has won numerous awards for his novels and essays, including the grand prize from De Nio, from the Swedish Academy in 2018, and twice from Swedish Radio. Fioretos is a professor of aesthetics at Södertorn University and vice president of the German Academy.