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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, Aug. 29


Park Pobedy will feature the sights and sounds of the world outside of Russia during the Open Art International Festival today. Taste foreign cuisine, learn how to make tea like the Chinese or relax in a hammock during the free event. Although entrance is free, you must register beforehand if you wish to attend.



Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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