Book Written by Computer Hits Shelves
Published: January 22, 2008 (Issue # 1341)
A Russian book written by a computer in St. Petersburg is to hit the country’s bookstores at the end of January.
The book, published by the city’s 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 Tolstoy’s 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 Tolstoy’s but “they get into a completely different situation,” he said.
Prokopovich, who didn’t 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 don’t 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 couldn’t 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.
“It’s 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.