A Brill Calendar: March 21

"The Invention of The World"

Few ‘modern’ books required such elaborate planning as ‘L’invention du Monde’ (‘The Invention of the World’) by the French author, publisher and journalist Olivier Rolin.

Previous to the writing itself, he assembled – before these days of internet enslavement - a world-encompassing network of correspondents, asking them to buy newspapers published March 22 1989: reporting the events of the day before, March 21 1989, one of the two days in each solar year that presence and absence of the sun equal each other in duration.

Eventually, 491 different titles arrived; in 31 languages. After translation – a Herculean labour - they became grist to Rolin’s sophisticated mill: a mental engine transforming the galaxy of data and information as they originated in 48 hours (sic) into one vibrant, endlessly fascinating literary organism. Rolin finished writing his one-day epic February 28 1993.

His extravagant feat fits French culture like a glove. Two master-works come readily to mind; the unique universe created in ‘Voyage autour de ma chambre’ (1794) by Xavier, Comte de Maistre and the story of the wager of the stone-faced Englishman Phileas Fogg, ‘Le Tour du monde en quatre-vingt jours’ (1873) by Jules Verne.

It is seldom that the diversity and unity of mankind, its vicissitudes and contingencies as well as its coherence and inconsistency are consolidated in one piece of literature. Each chapter in this ‘chef-d’oeuvre’ is in a concealed way associated with a literary masterpiece belonging to what is called - following Goethe’s neologism - ‘world literature’. Identifying them makes the reader both a Sherlock Holmes and a Doctor Watson.

Like a ‘handful of dust’ may show fear, happenings of one calendar day, harvested from among a million historical ones, may present a boundless cosmos. Lear knew that ripeness is all; so is articulation. Perhaps any focusing will do; even on a peculiar Dutch Scholarly Publishing Company named Brill.