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Book Written by Computer Hits Shelves

Published: January 22, 2008 (Issue # 1341)



  • Alexander Prokopovich of Astrel-SPb holds a copy of True Love which he says is the first book written by a computer program.
    Photo: Alexander Belenky / The St. Petersburg Times

A Russian book written by a computer in St. Petersburg is to hit the countrys bookstores at the end of January.

The book, published by the citys Astrel SPb publishing company, is the work of a computer program, created by a team of IT specialists and language experts.

The 320-page novel, called True Love, is a variation on Leo Tolstoys 1877 classic Anna Karenina but written in the style of Japanese author Haruki Murakami.

It is based on 17 famous literary works that were uploaded onto the program. Within 72 hours, the computer generated its novel about true love.

Alexander Prokopovich, 39, chief editor of Astrel-SPb, said the idea of using the software shocked his editorial team at first, but then they got carried away with the idea. The experiment seemed interesting, Prokopovich said.

Prokopovich said the style of the book is based on the Russian translation of Japanese writer Murakami. The main characters are Tolstoys but they get into a completely different situation, he said.

Prokopovich, who didnt want to fully disclose the plot, said that the book is about love and faith.

In short, the characters find themselves on an uninhabited island. All of them have amnesia. They know who they are, but they dont remember if they are married or have children, and what relationship they have with each other. In a way they are given a chance to build their relationships anew. The book is about how they make it, Prokopovich said.

An extract given to The St. Petersburg Times reads:

Kitty couldnt fall asleep for a long time. Her nerves were strained as two tight strings, and even a glass of hot wine, that Vronsky made her drink, did not help her. Lying in bed she kept going over and over that monstrous scene at the meadow.

The development of the software program for the book took about eight months, but the computer took only three days to write the book, Prokopovich said.

Today publishing houses use different methods of the fastest possible book creation in this or that style meant for this or that readers audience. Our program can help with that work, Prokopovich said.

However, the program can never become an author, like PhotoShop can never be Raphael, Prokopovich said.

Prokopovich said he knew about other experiments and attempts to write fiction by computer, but he suggested that True Love was the first really successful book made with the help of software.

The book will cost about 120-130 rubles, Prokopovich said. However, he added that the price will also depend on where it is sold. The first edition will also be sold in Ukraine and Israel.

St. Petersburg author Pavel Krusanov said he was convinced that no computer can compete with a live author. However, he said that such software programs may ease the work for publishers when replacing some hired writers.

Alexander Mazin, another St. Petersburg writer who writes historical adventure novels, also doubted computers can replace real authors.

Its like those attempts to create music with the help of computer. They were not that successful, Mazin said.

Mazin said the new computer-written book may stoke the natural curiosity of readers.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Oct. 24


SPIBAs ongoing Breakfast with the Director series continues today, featuring Tomas Hajek, Managing Director of the Northwest Division at Danone Russia. Hajek will be discussing collaborations between businesses from different cultures. The meeting is at 9 a.m. at the Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel and all who wish to attend must confirm their participation by Oct. 23.


Get your gong on at Sounds of the Universe, a concert at the city planetarium this evening incorporating six different gongs to create relaxing songs that will transport you upwards into the stratosphere. Tickets are 700 rubles ($17).



Saturday, Oct. 25


AVA Expo, the eighth edition of the event revolving around all things pop culture, returns to Lenexpo this weekend. Geeks, nerds, dweebs and dorks will have their chance to talk science fiction and explore a variety of international pop culture. Tickets for the event can be purchased on their website at avaexpo.ru.



Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the clubs website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit Neophobia at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBAs Marketing and Communications Committees round table discussion on Government Relations Practices in Russia this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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