Island of the Mad and A Monster’s Notes draw on a myriad of non-fiction sources. As Dostoevsky repeatedly pointed out, nothing is more radical, or even seemingly more improbable, than the real. The following videos provide a glimpse into some of the sources informing these two hybrid works—locations, paintings, manuscripts, photographs, documents, etc. accompanied by central excerpts from the texts.
ISLAND OF THE MAD
Ambrose A., who considers his very self and existence in many ways improbable, moves through his solitary life accompanied by the distant lives and voices of others. As he does, several figures come vividly to the forefront of his consciousness: Dostoevsky, epileptic and poor in Geneva, struggling to write his novel The Idiot, while remembering his years in a Siberian prison camp; the young murderess, Frieda, who recounts in unsparing detail the Venetian plague; a nameless woman who suffers from sleeplessness and asks him to travel to Venice in search of a mysterious notebook. Hunchbacked and suffering from osteogenesis imperfecta which causes the frequent breaking of his bones, the world through his eyes fractures and re-knits as well as it fills with discordant, shape-shifting images: plague doctors, red Venetian silks, prison camps, anti-particles, black holes, space travel, and eventually with Dostoevsky’s fictional character, the “idiot” Prince Myshkin and his compatriot, Rogozhin whose extremity brings Myshkin to a place of radical tenderness in the face of unspeakable damage.
Island Of The Mad (Part One)
Island Of The Mad (Part Two)
Island Of The Mad: Short Clips
A MONSTER’S NOTES
The “monster,” still alive in the 21st century, is haunted by Mary Shelley, who he met when she was eight, sitting beside her mother’s grave. Still vivid to him as well are Mary’s step-sister Claire, and her husband, Percy. In his solitude, he tries to take in the new world around him–its unnerving innovations and explorations– genetic engineering, robotics, performance art, space travel, but even as he does he still sees in his mind’s eye his lost companions, and the Arctic where he later wandered. From Mary Wollstonecraft’s grave to Claire’s life as a governess in Moscow; from Mary’s and Percy’s travels through Italy and France to their two hands moving side by side in one copybook or composing joint letters; from the writing of Frankenstein to Percy’s tragic drowning—the images that come to him defy conventional limitations of space and time.
A MONSTER’S NOTES: SHORT CLIPS
Notes on the Earth seen from Space
Notes on James Lord’s Notes on Alberto Giacometti
Notes on Perplexity