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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. 31


Put your grammar and logical thinking to the test in a fun and friendly environment during the British Book Centers Board Game Evening starting at 5 p.m. today. The event is free and all are welcome to attend.



Saturday, Nov. 1


The men and women who dedicate their lives to fitness get their chance to compete for the title of best body in Russia at todays Grand Prix Fitness House PRO, the nations premier bodybuilding competition. Not only will men and women be competing for thousands of dollars in prizes and a trip to represent their nation at Mr. Olympia but sporting goods and nutritional supplements will also be available for sale. Learn more about the culture of the Indian subcontinent during Diwali, the annual festival of lights that will be celebrated in St. Petersburg this weekend at the Culture Palace on Tambovskaya Ul. For 100 rubles ($2.40), festival-goers listen to Indian music, try on traditional Indian outfits and sample dishes highlighting the culinary diversity of the billion-plus people in the South Asian superpower.



Sunday, Nov. 2


Check out the latest video and interactive games at the Gaming Festival at the Mayakovsky Library ending today. Meet with the developers of the popular and learn more about their work, or learn how to play one of their creations with the opportunity to ask the creators themselves about the exact rules.



Monday, Nov. 3


Non-athletes can get feed their need for competition without breaking a sweat at the Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament this evening at the Cube Bar at Lomonosova 1. Referees will judge the validity of each matchup award points to winners while the citys elite fight for the chance to be called the best of the best. Those hoping to play must arrange a team beforehand and pay 200 rubles ($4.80) to enter.



Tuesday, Nov. 4


Attend the premiere of Canadian director Xavier Dolans latest film Mommy at the Avrora theater this evening. The fifth picture from the 25-year-old, it is the story of an unruly teenager but the most alluring (or unappealing) aspect is the way the film was shot: in a 1:1 format that is more reminiscent of Instagram videos than cinematic art. Tickets cost 400 rubles ($9.60) and snacks and drinks will be available.



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