Kazden’s (TotIs, 2015) novel imagines a conversation between a Greek philosopher and a self-doubting military leader.
In his previous novel, the author brought together great minds from past eras, including Socrates, Albert Einstein, and Leonardo da Vinci, to debate various concepts of truth and time. In this follow-up, he proposes two new definitions of reality: “totIs reality,” which is the one, true “prime reality,” and “antIs reality,” which is the individualistic interpretation of “totIs,” fabricated by our biosensory systems. Socrates returns to counsel a respected, fearless warrior named Gita, who’s the commanding general of an unnamed city that’s preparing for war. The opposing force is led by Gita’s uncle, Prince Fidi, and her cousins, Chatapodi and Kavouras. Gita’s fortitude is challenged by the prospect of spilling family members’ blood, causing her to reach out to Socrates for guidance. Her conversations with the philosopher span the length of the novel, drawing on wisdom from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita (after which Gita was named); the Chinese religious and philosophical text, the Tao Te Ching; and modern physics. The novel charts Gita’s journey toward a revelatory understanding of “totIs” and, in turn, a deeper conception of the world around her. Once again, Kazden demonstrates a rare ability to describe complex concepts with clarity and precision. He uses the character of Socrates to gently impart these ideas to readers: “Hot and cold are experiences of reality that are sensory driven, as are red and blue, happy and sad, near and far, before and after. All of our experiences of reality, in absolute terms, are sensory driven.” Kazden further embellishes the unique depiction of reality from his first novel with a specific emphasis on how “antIs” is a form of bondage, keeping people from the “freedom” and “truth” of “totIs.” The result is a thought-provoking intellectual journey that will encourage readers to reassess their own places in the universe.
Imaginative and thoroughly stimulating.