Review: The Codex Seraphinianus January 21, 2011Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary , trackback
Luigi Serafini, Codex Seraphinianus (numerous editions…)
Beachcombing has Ricardo R. to thank for an introduction to the Codex Seraphinianus, a guide to another world. First published in 1981, a copy from the original series now runs at about 8000 dollars. Beachcombing, who is a bit strapped for cash, did the barbaric thing and read it in pdf. He can’t for the life of him work out how a reputable internet site can justify putting up this relatively recent work: but he is glad that the Codex Seraphinianus, a guidebook to an alien world, slipped through the copyright net. Go feed, reader…
As to what world the Codex Seraphinanus describes no one is quite sure for the very good reason that it is not written in a human language. Whether or not the language is just scrawl, as the author recently claimed – memories of the Voynich manuscript? Or whether it is, Tolkien-style, an attempt to create a language is debated. What terrified Beachcombing was that the page numbers can be deciphered and they have been written using a twenty-one base numerical system. Gulp…
Beachcombing, on first looking at what LS created back in the fevered late 1970s, when Italy was in terrorist-induced meltdown, thought ‘bad Salvador Dali’. But Salvador Dali is a surrealist where nothing makes sense but dissolution and entropy. The Codex does have its own internal logic though: it is just not our logic. Perhaps to find a kindred spirit you would have to go and knock on Bosch’s or Escher’s door? In comics you would be best advised to learn French and read Le Cycle de Cyann by François Bourgeon and Claude Lacroix. Bourgeon must have read the Codex, there are some striking similarities.
Many of the pages read to Beachcombing like an IQ question where a series of symbols or pictures denote a pattern that needs to be deduced. Yet as there is no chance of fully understanding the pattern the reader can relax over it without any fear of losing a percentile or two. Think a Rubik’s cube with each of the fifty four panels a different colour, then imagine ‘solving’ the cube in a scented bath.
But if the hints of a foreign system of logic are not enough, there is also something more, something very inhuman.
The antique Christians used to place the order of heaven against the chaos of hell. The devil spawned anarchy.
Well, any human guide book or history of a foreign place is heaven sent, preferring order. It takes the new animals, plants, buildings, people and pins them to the page like a moth in a collector’s cabinet. The Codex seems obsessed with change: everything is always moving, nothing is taped down. Whether this is a cycle of Ovid or the flux of the diabolus is anyone’s guess. But it is impressive and rather frightening to get up close to… A couple make love on a white bed, become an alligator that then (singular) hops off the bed.
As to what world the Codex is describing Beachcombing wonders whether it is not a Martian account of Earth. The author has visited our planet and failed to understand or has seen things that we cannot see and written his tome as a guide for the coming invasion. Needless to say that if Beachcombing was a Martian he’d stay at home and enjoy Serafini’s beautiful Codex.
Beachcombing is always on the look out for bizarre books: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com