“Gabriella infinita” by Jaime Alejandro Rodríguez

Open "Gabriella infinita" by Jaime Alejandro Rodríguez
Open “Gabriella infinita” by Jaime Alejandro Rodríguez

Gabriella infinita (1999–) is a hypermedia narrative by Colombian author Jaime Alejandro Rodríguez. The narrative is presented via a rich array of lexia, images, and audio files, and we are not provided with established markers such a contents list or page numbers which would normally guide the reader through the conventional print novel. Instead, links to the various lexia and sound files are hidden in the visuals, and it is only through exploring the interface and testing out possible entry routes that the reader/user pieces together the narrative.

A Lecturer at the Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá, Rodríguez is well-known for his theorisations on digital narrative and hypertext (see his bibliography). He is also arguably the leading hypertext author in Colombia and his Gabriella infinita, as well as his later Golpe de gracia (2006), have won him a series of awards and nominations, and put him at the forefront of e-lit in Colombia.

"Gabriella infinita" opening image
“Gabriella infinita” opening image

The plot of Gabriella infinita is clearly set in Colombia’s capital, Bogota, with references to immediately identifiable places within the city in several of the lexia. Similarly, the opening image which the reader sees before entering the narrative displays the landmarks of the Monserrate hill, and the Cerro de Guadalupe with its famous statue of La Virgen de Guadalupe appear behind the sky-scrapers of the Centro Internacional. Yet this is a futuristic and dystopian Bogotá, in which the cityscape is in a state of devastation and destruction.

Set in this identifiably Bogotano backdrop is the story of Gabriella, who searches for the missing Federico, and we follow her through the various lexia, images, and audio files as she attempts to piece together clues as to his disappearance.

Yet, more than just her story, what Rodríguez weaves for us is the story of our own encounter with hypermedia narrative. Gabriella’s sensations and experience, as she searches for Federico and tries to make sense of the scraps of evidence that she finds, stand for the experience of the reader of hypertext narratives. For instance, Gabriella’s perusal of Federico’s bookshelves as she attempts to make an order out of the apparent disorder in which the books are arranged is a clear metaphor for the work of the reader of hypertext narrative, constructing an order from the dispersed lexia. Or her examining of the loose sheets of newspaper strewn on the floor of Federico’s apartment, and finding that “al ordenarlas, le han revelado relaciones insospechadas” [‘when she put them together, they revealed unexpected connections to her’] is, again, an image of the reader of hypertext fiction creating his/her own order from the dispersed links, with the primacy on the reader, not the writer, to establish these ‘unexpected connections’.

But does Gabriella ever succeed in her quest? And do we, as reader-users of hypertext fiction, ever gain full control of the narrative we are navigating?

“Eveline, fragmentos de una respuesta” by Marina Zerbarini

Open "Eveline, fragmentos de una respuesta" by Marina Zerbarini
Open “Eveline, fragmentos de una respuesta” by Marina Zerbarini

Eveline, fragmentos de una respuesta [Eveline, Fragments of a Reply] (2004) is a hypertext narrative by Argentine author Marina Zerbarini. It takes its inspiration from two short stories by James Joyce – ‘Eveline’, and ‘A Painful Case’ (1914) – which Zerbarini uses as a springboard for creating a multimedia narrative that brings together photographic images, videos, animations and sound files. Marina Zerbarini, is a leading digital artist from Argentina who has worked across several media, including photography, painting, objects and installation art for some decades, and whose electronic works include some that fall into the e-lit category, whilst others are more properly net art. She created this work in Macromedia Flash, using the ActionScript programming language. Each time we open Eveline, fragmentos de una respuesta different interfaces are loaded, these ranging from bleached-out images of sheets, to extreme close-up photographs of part of a human face or hand, with the image pixelated such that the individual pixels are visible. The cursor takes the form of a butterfly, and, by clicking on buttons that appear across the various interfaces, we activate different content files, including images, excerpts of text, and sound files (these latter containing excerpts mostly of electronic or orchestral music).

Butterfly cursor over pixelated close-up in Eveline, fragmentos de una respuesta
Butterfly cursor over pixelated close-up in Eveline, fragmentos de una respuesta

The chronological order of the files is not pre-set, and instead, the reader has to piece together the story from multiple stimuli, as s/he reads disparate blocks of lexia, views images, watches videos, and listens to sounds. The two source texts which are the inspiration for this work provide clues as to its possible interpretation. In Joyce’s original short stories, endings are unexpected, and questions left unanswered; in Zerbarini’s narrative, this sense of uncertainty, and of searching for meaning, is re-enacted procedurally, as the reader has to undertake a journey through these multiple sources to piece together the narrative. But more than just a re-telling of Joyce, Zerbarini’s narrative invites us to explore the nature of hypertext narrative and our embodied relationship to it as reader. The foregrounding of the human body through the extreme close-ups means that we have to think through our own affective relationship to the work as we navigate it. And yet… through the overt pixelation, Zerbarini makes us question our own status as human. Is it perhaps our possible transformation into cyborgs as we engage with electronic literature that Zerbarini is encouraging us to reflect upon here?

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