Benjamin Labatt: “Madness gives us more than we think”

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Chilean author publishes ‘The Skin of Madness’, an essay in which he reflects on the growing sense that nothing makes sense and how a certain “dementia” has infiltrated the world

Chilean writer Benjamin
Chilean writer Benjamin Labatt.Juana Gomez
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He comes with his sunglasses on and doesn’t take them off during the entire interview. He wears black from top to bottom and a kimono-style jacket that reveals the tattoos on his arms. He doesn’t want pictures. Chile Benjamin Labatt who has become the latest literary sensation in no time is writing about discomfort What does it mean to live in today’s world? He . is the author of a terrible beat (anagram), a mixture of fiction and fact about scientists Alexander Grothendieck, Albert Einstein and Werner Heisenberg, whose discoveries changed physics in the 20th century. The novel has been translated into 22 languages, adding non-stop editions (that’s up to 13) and Obama Put it on his famous reading list last year. post now stone of madnessAlso in Anagram, where he returns from a mathematician, David Hilbertand the confusion suffered by the science fiction writer in his final years Philip K. dicky To reflect on how reality has become simulacrum. When do we stop understanding the world? Why do we feel like it’s about to end?

What is the relation between the two books?
In both I write about the crazy dreams of reason. I’m interested in the best parts of the madness, the parts of reality that are hard to believe. Madness is the most intense and painful experience. The mind makes sense of the world and madness takes away that feeling. In doing so, it raises questions that are very uncomfortable and which we all avoid so that we can build our lives. It seems to me that normal people, so to speak, do not realize that they share similar mechanisms. Everyone is creating a world that is too fragile and tenacious, very difficult to change.
The people you write about seem to understand the limits of knowledge to an insane extent, why does this attract you?
Irrationality gives a perspective on reality which, in my opinion, is close to the heart of literature. Literature is one of the few human arts that have a foothold in every world: we are interested in logic, it is absolutely necessary, but for me the center of literature is delirium. That free imagination ability that shows you not only the clear and shared meanings of things, but also their deeper, more difficult to understand meanings. Texts are dead without their quota of delirium. Everything I write is looking for some extreme ideas, which are almost out of human.
what idea?
I tend to exaggerate the lives of the characters, but their biographies are filled with ideas that are radioactive, with the potential to change you. Like the idea of ​​God. You can walk in front of church every day, but if that thought becomes flesh for you for a second, it completely changes your life. There was a moment in my life where, so to say, the sign of the world suddenly dawned on me. from one second to another. I think most people avoid such experiences. We make constant efforts to maintain continuity. I try to look for those moments in the history of science and art when something so new, so strange, that you just can’t stay the same. I’m interested in that transformation, the moment you lose your understanding of the world and everything is rebuilt.
something like light?
When you reach the point where there’s no ground beneath your feet and no sky above and you’re floating in the air, falling: that moment is where you’re the closest of all traditions I think can. A state of intelligence and radical uncertainty are comparable. It is very similar to the mind of lunatics and children. Crazy people suffer from this because, in their case, it’s out of control. Children can enjoy it. And for the rest, for us, something like this happens. The problem with Epiphany is that it doesn’t last. The point is what to do once the light hits. I write about it.
Have you experienced Epiphany?
Many, sometimes reading. Deep down I’ve been an Epiphany junkie my entire life. I don’t know why, ever since I was a kid. I was such a child that when they talked to him about God, he would ask: Where is he? i want to see it! Growing up was very painful for me, when you lose touch with the wild reality. This usually occurs around the age of 10 or 11. I was left with a huge nostalgia. I write a little to get it back. I’m always looking to get back at that. It is very difficult to find and write about, because they are experiences that avoid language and resist communication.
In the book he says that we are “victims of speed” and how “the mating of the new” has led to a “catastrophic failure of our ability to understand”. Is there too much going on for me to process?
Life is taking on the signs of a nightmare, as many of man’s dreams are coming true, such as creating intelligence like ours, something that is getting closer every day. These are things beyond our present comprehension. This has always happened, man makes something and sometimes he does not understand. I don’t see what a tool any of our ancestors had, although they did use it. Understanding is something extraordinary. There are moments when the world becomes incomprehensible to those who live in it, but this version of the 21st century is different for a number of reasons. We no longer talk about a piece of the world like the Roman Empire, we are now feeling the limits of the planet and the consequences of our actions. This is when a teenager becomes an adult. Suddenly you become intimidated because you realize your power and your freedom. Perhaps that is why the dreams of leaving the earth are returning.
He believes that although humans have faced many changes, “the speed, violence and scope of the current crisis” are unparalleled.
We have reached a point where the rate of change is so high that the quintessential sense of living now is fear. And yet, this process is necessary because we have to face the 21st century with another mind and it requires breaking the present. What we feel is labor pain. Any mother knows that the most dangerous time for a baby is right before they come out, both for the baby and for the mother. We are in the birth canal now, our heads crushed. What I love is that this is a moment where no one knows. Experts don’t know what to say. We are taking a bath of uncertainty. I don’t have an answer either.
He doesn’t mention it much, but throughout the book he hovers over the idea of ​​God.
People have to make up their own understanding of the world, and part of that is rebuilding a relationship with the invisible, that which we have lost. I firmly believe that we cannot leave God in the hands of believers. It is very important. We have to reclaim all that aspect of the human experience. Art without relation to the invisible is a dead letter. The deepest aspects of experience are those that are greater than man. To understand that the universe is greater than us, it is not necessary to go to mass or have religion. And, therefore, the relationship with him is not only polite, but also infatuated. You will have to be captivated again by the great mysteries of reality. What happens is that we have no other language than the religions that have evolved to talk about them. I don’t believe in God, but I think about God a lot. The relationship with the invisible and the mystery is the basis of human consciousness.
Why do you have math weakness?
Mathematicians have a relationship with mathematics that is very similar to the divinity of monks. They don’t know where it comes from, they don’t understand why it works, there’s no one who can tell us why we developed this language that shows us so much reality, things we might not know otherwise were. There is a part of quantum physics for which the human mind is not made, that one thing is its opposite, its negation, its multiplicity. When it is not understood, it is exposed to the mystery, then the mind gets illuminated. And it is this good cinema, good literature, that creates those moments of wonder in which man is reunited with the invisible.
and madly.
Literature and madness are almost sisters. When they are separated, literature becomes a small story. Books should have that voice, talk about what scares us, about our dark side. We all have it and when we try to cover it it’s like a boiling pot, if you put a lid on it the fire goes out. You always have to keep boiling. Madness gives us so much more than we think.
How is success?
It has changed the perception that others have about my work, but it hasn’t changed my vision. I see literature as an ethic of failure, a habit of shadows. We writers are like cockroaches, we hide under the fridge as soon as the lights go on.
Well, not all.
Absolutely not, there are a lot of idiots who write because they want to be seen… I want the reader to feel the same surprise that I do when my characters’ stories unfold.
He also devoted a few pages to the “Chilean Big Bang”.
For someone who doesn’t live in Chile, which is an oasis of peace with a volcano below, it’s very difficult to explain what happened. Santiago seemed like a Hollywood movie set in those days, we didn’t know what was more familiar. What is happening in Ukraine is far more terrifying and yet it makes more sense because it is a war and we all know what they are. What happened in Chile with cigarettes lighting up and a nuclear bomb going off all over the country, that was the part that fascinated me. The new government, what happened after Borik, is the way man tries to offer solutions to things that have to do with the unconscious.

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