Goce Smilevski, Conversation with Spinoza, Dijalog, Skopje, 2002
“Novel of the Year” Award of Utrinski Vesnik
#1 Goce Smilevski is a representative of the youngest generation of Macedonian novelists. He is an author who is exceptional refreshment in the Macedonian literature. With his novel Conversation with Spinoza, Smilevski slowly but surely establishes himself as one of the future leading names of the Macedonian novelist map. Therefore, not without an occasion and not without a reason, the Macedonian critics have called this novel “something other, something different”. It was evaluated as “a novel with sources in the area of ideas” and as a “ novel – intellectual biography of the lonely man”, this latest book of Goce Smilevski opens a possibility, among other things, in our case, also free “idea” interpretations of the readers that will bring the weaving idea in the foreground (initially, our inspiration on this is based on the basis of the title of the novel, by the author himself, as a “cobweb novel” and on the idea of “dialogue form”, as well as its projections and results in its narrative structural scheme. Let’s hope that it will touch upon the key points that make this novel other and different.
a. Weaving Idea: A Look through the Cobweb
In the beginning of the elaboration of this unusual idea we will mention as a warning the view from which we will start the interpretation, and it is that the starting point in the elaboration will be the symbolism of weaving a cobweb, (the one of the spider, and, in general, the one that the author guides us through in the text). In the latter view, the text is understood in a symbolic way through the prism of the Latin term, which is, as a matter of fact, its etymological embryo: textus = weaving, that is, more precisely, textura = weaving that marks the way the threads are interwoven in the “fabric” – the text. This way, of course, determines the look and the tangibility of the “fabric” – text, which is the carrier of the artistic effects.
Therefore, at the very beginning of the cobweb novel, the author will let us know: “The threads of this novel are woven from the conversation between You and Spinoza”. This directly indicates that, understood in a symbolical way, the author waves his cobweb just as the spider throws his threads, he weaves it starting from the “centre” (with the first thread, which, as a basis, is also taken for the final part – the Centre of the cobweb) and finishes with it. The purpose of his weaving is thus resolved in the point from which there is nothing on: the centre (which, in our case, questions Spinoza’s death).
The question that we found intriguing is how the spider’s weaving perfectly fits, that is, projects itself, just like in a mirror, in the author’s weaving of the text.
The narrator-focalizer, on his side, gives his own view and an appropriate “argumentation” on this in one place in the novel: “Spider cobweb was dearer to me that all forms that expressed the loss of the petty things in Universe. Indeed, the spider cobweb has some kind of closeness with the labyrinth and the tree of life, but the differences are much bigger than similarities…
Spider cobweb is really made by God. Who stretches that thread out of the spider’s body, who carries the wind that carries the spider and helps it connect one thread to another, who, who if not God, if not the eternal substance, teaches the spider how to weaves the cobweb?…
If you follow the real trails that will take you to the exit of the labyrinth, you can continue your existence, if you choose the wrong trail – you can find death. And the spider’s creation, although it has its centre – it is not the most important place: every bit is the centre of the cobweb… Wherever you start on the cobweb you can also arrive everywhere – every point there is both an entrance and an exit. (pp. 167-8).
And really, what is the unique, what is the original in this parallel that the narrator draws? The answer, at a symbolic level, lies in the fact that the cobweb makes the spider unique. The cobweb model maintains the life style, and it often also influences it. Therefore, the spiders weave their existence in different ways. For the spider, the cobweb threads are a vibrating continuation of its senses. Because it is very efficient, the spider “calculates” the size of the cobweb precisely according to the reserves of weaving material and its glands. Thus, the adequate behavior guide is the type of cobweb.
At a textual level, the novel is divided into six threads and the centre of the cobweb. This is, of course, an individual weaving model, a “textual cobweb”, a mark of an original, individual style. Every type of spiders, on the other hand, has its own specific model of cobweb, and with the individual spider weaving is always special – as the fingerprints are with man. This is even more so, taking into consideration accident and reality, spider’s threads are a product of the six types of glands, each of which gives its special weaving material. The workshops for processing the liquid from the glands are the (again!) the six nipples on the spider’s abdomen, that is, the weaving places. When coming in contact with air, the material secreted is immediately hardened into thin threads, which merge into a harder one.
Following this way, we can already redirect the symbolic code directly into the textual one. There, in the text itself, we encounter a textual structural cobweb of six threads that eventually end in the centre of the cobweb. They harden in this way and merge into a harder thread, that is, in their centre, in the point from which there is nothing further (moments of Spinoza’s death). And as it is with the spider – the cobweb is most often, placed vertically in a way that the spider first pulls a strong transversal thread, and then it weaves the cobweb; also, in the textual context, the narrator first starts with the moment the character of Spinoza dies, and then he “weaves” in detail to reach it, that is, to come to the centre of the cobweb, where the moment of death is the final instance. Seen in this way, the analogy on the size of the reserves of the weaving material that unites the two codes: the symbolic and textual one perfectly match. An even bigger proof of this is the round way of the novel that leads to the uniting centre!
Another aspect, at a meta-level, in the same direction, is that the philosophical essay Conversation with Spinoza, as a “cobweb novel” has been interpreted by our critique (rightly so) as an “intellectual biography of the lonely man”, man in general “torn between living his life (unable to live it passionately and to the core) and thinking through this life, and being torn in this was is the essence of his drama, all the tragedy of his fatal loneliness”.
And just as the lonely man (in this case, the main character – the fictional character of Spinoza) is constantly torn, in discrepancy when “passing the cobweb”, the cobweb that is selected by the individual-spider also perfectly matches his life. Regardless of whether he will anchor in the centre of the web or in some hidden shelter, its legs are in a constant contact with the transversal that leads to the spirals. And as the hero of the novel is captured in the cobweb of his loneliness, the loner spider, when it builds its first cobweb, becomes intolerant and loses every interest in company. Therefore, the cobweb in both cases (we are first of interested in the text itself, as the symbolic code is only an “auxiliary road” to it) is a key for the social behavior. And although in the circus show with five acrobat performances – Conversation with Spinoza, Jahve offers Spinoza “protection” if he gives up his “loneliness”, Spinoza remains in his cobweb which, as with the spider, is a selective transmitter of the signals: it silences some, and amplifies others. Therefore, Spinoza remains in it until the end, to the centre. The cobweb that provides protection to the spider provides protection to Spinoza for his next life.
As a conclusion of this view and approach, we would mention that the novel Conversation with Spinoza captures, like pray, our readers’ attention in its cobweb. And as the experts recognize without difficulties their experimental spiders according to the cobweb they weave in their laboratory cages, the readers of this exceptional novel will recognize Goce Smilevski as one the names that promise, in the courses of our future novel production.