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A Nouvelle Novel In A Box…

The letter ‘S’ in capital and a period or full stop are seen on a box made of cardboard… and, there is also a piece of paper, just like a seal, on the box, too. The name of the author, along with that of the translator, is mentioned on the piece of paper. One would have to tear it off in order to pull the book out of the box. However, the name of the publication is not ‘S.’! It is a very old book bound in a hard-cover, titled ‘Ship of Theseus’. The author of the book, published in 1949, is one V M Straka. The publication belongs to a library, called Laguna Varde High School Library! The entire set also bears a stamp of the school-library, cataloguing label, and its date of return by the borrower on its last page, as well…

The Box

Ship of Theseus is basically a translated work, as the novel, seemingly, has been translated into English from another language. Its Preface has been contributed by one F X Caldeira. It is also mentioned in the book that Straka had penned 18 novels, before this one. Meanwhile, Caldeira had taken care to mention in the Preface that Straka was one of the most famous writers of that period of time, and his writings were of an extremely subversive nature, which could be capable of overthrowing any Government! It could also prompt arrogant industrialists to bow their heads down. Perhaps, this publication had posed a serious threat to dictatorships in different parts of the globe. Ship of Theseus was Straka’s 19th and last novel, and he had gone missing mysteriously after writing this novel!

The library seal

Caldeira, here, had also taken care to inform the readers that although she had been in regular touch with Straka, she could never meet the author. Straka had, reportedly, asked Caldeira to meet him at a hotel in the Cuban capital of Havana, as he was all set to hand over the last chapter of the book to her. On her arrival at the hotel, she found that Straka’s room was disintegrated, the pages of the manuscript were all lying in disarray, and the Police were taking away a dead human body in a van! Caldeira had no idea whether the body was Straka’s; as it might also have been an event organised by Straka in order to have himself camouflaged!

Notes & Picture Postcard inside the book

Then, the novel starts! Readers can find that someone had constantly written notes with a pen or pencil in the margins throughout the book, and also commented as well there, with a different ink. From all these, it becomes somewhat evident that a self-proclaimed graduate student, named Eric, was working on the life and works of Straka. The second handwriting was that of a senior student, named Jane, who had lost her interests in life. It seems that Eric and Jane had constantly exchanged the book between them, and written notes on each and every page. These notes gradually get to reveal the actual identity of Straka, as well as a larger conspiracy! Eric and Jane had also kept newspaper clippings, old photographs, picture postcards, maps drawn on paper napkins of a restaurant, et al, inside the book.

Dorst & Abrams

The novel, notes written by Eric and Jane, and various pieces of papers kept inside the book are, thus, termed ‘S.‘! No one of these pieces can be separated from each other. Together, they make an attempt to unravel the identity of a mysterious person, named Straka… and, in that sense, ‘S.’ is a thriller. From a different angle, it is a Philosophical Expedition in search of the identities of some persons. It is up to the reader to decide whether to read the novel first, or the notes by Eric and Jane, or everything, in a concurrent fashion. The Reader has to go through everything, even the pieces of papers collected by Eric and Jane. In this way, ‘S.’ – a 2013 novel written by Doug Dorst and conceived by J J Abrams – is unusual in its format, presented as a story within a story. It has the capacity to transport readers to a different state…

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