(Goce Smilevski, “A Conversation with Spinoza”, Dijalog, Skopje, 2000)
#1 Without any doubt, the coordinates of perception can no longer remain the same after encountering the meetings in the threads of the “spider-web novel”, “A Conversation with Spinoza” by the young Macedonian author Goce Smilevski. In this imaginary conversation, Baruch de Spinoza, the great rational philosopher from the seventeenth century, meets his co-talker whom, as it seems, he essentially missed his whole life. Through this extraordinary literary expedition, Goce Smilevski gives the Spinoza “hologram”, usually projected onto the pages of the historic-philosophical studies, his peculiar double – a man of flesh and blood who paradoxically shares his lonely universe with all those existing, or to exist, similar to him. But, the wage of the conversation with Spinoza is far greater then one thinks at first, when blinded by the contact with a life that revives under the word-game. This game does not only shape the man Spinoza, the antipode of the same character from the historical – philosophical fiction, but at the same time it shapes Spinoza the literary character – the antipode of Spinoza the philosopher. The opposition between these two characters is one of the essential dimensions of the conflict that echoes through out the whole structure of this novel, so thorough and omnipresent that it can hardly be seen as a distinguishing characteristic. Assimilating the philosopher within, the literary character turns into his invisible subversion, a materialized opposition of his own discourse, of the cognitive pathos and the rational structure it lies on. Through the spider-web of the literary narration, the playful imagination undetectably puts forth its palms towards the philosopher’s cradle, stealing, step by step, the one that was almost glued to it, stealing the thinker and his speech, only to show him another power – the power of language when the words play by new, until then unknown rules.
So, through the conversation with Spinoza there are two constant and parallel streams. The basic duality of the talker and the co-talker, essentially written in language as its constituent mark, is something that can not escape the loneliest mind, even if that escape takes hundreds of years; the words are traces that, sooner or later, reveal exactly what they wanted to conceal. Therefore, the spider-web is joined by the metaphors of the palimpsest and the submarine: behind the transparent, the manifested, the expressed in the conversation; the other thing, the concealed, the unsaid constantly survives. Two voices, two characters of the same person – Spinoza who narrates his life twice through the eyes of his two portraits with a twenty – years distance, separate as two worlds in one soul. While in the first part of the novel, the intelligent and calm character of the thinker protected by the unbreakable shell of the intellect speaks, untouched by the pain of the momentary, somewhere from below, under his words, the blurry shapes of the “philosopher with a dim look in his eyes” can be sensed. When in the second part of the novel his voice echoes – the voice of a person aware of despair and sadness, whose protective shell hardened into a suffocating armor, breaking the arc of the eyebrows and the corners of the mouth, the lines of the youth portrait fade until they can no longer be recognized, pressed into the perforated rocks of the inexperienced. The space between the two parallel stories, the same as the one between two parallel lines, stays unmarked, with the absence of touch or a real encounter: not only of Spinoza with Clara Maria, or of Spinoza with Joan Casearius, but of Spinoza with his own self.
The curse of loneliness, it seems, is cast upon his back long before the heresy of his brothers: the I that lives in eternity, but pressed by time, stays captured on the other side of the mirror, never reaching the deep meaning of the mother’s warning that the one that stays too long in front of the smooth surface bewildered by his own face is at risk to be eternally possessed by it…
Coming to life at the end of the novel, being dead at the beginning, Spinoza is being born in as many ways as there are different worlds of the readers who, talking to him, knitted the threads of the spider-web, which is included in the game of philosophy and the game in philosophy – a game in which the stakes is nothing less than life itself.
Hence, the great master of the game of writing, such undoubtly is Goce Smilevski, in his hands always holds a secret: a small, almost invisible red spot, a piece of matter that catchs the pulse of life within, a bloody piece of the soul – similar to the one that disturbingly stands at the top of . Tulp’s scissors in Rembrandt’s “Anatomy Class”, or the one that little Bento hides in his handkerchief as his last connection to his mother. Grown in one, and perfectly capturing and beautifying another solitude, this novel shines as a new materialization of Spinoza’s firm connection to the values in life with the rarity and the weight of his achievements. Therefore, the uniqueness of this work is evident and an obvious confirmation of its value. The weight of it, as always, remains an unspeakable area of the impartial.