Cronache, Salone del Libro 2022

Jennifer Egan: between authenticity and unconsciousness

Chiara Orzelleca, Noemi Ruggiero, Redazione Liceo Alfieri

Jennifer Egan presents her new book – punctually defined as a “non sequel” of A Visit From the Goon Squad, which won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize – The Candy House (Mondadori) which talks about the search for authenticity in a world where new technologies increasingly disturbing scenarios open up.

The search for authenticity, however, also carries with it the need for its lack: in fact it is very important to reflect on our thoughts that sometimes we actively choose not to say. Bix, now an adult, is the creator of Own Your Unconscious, a very successful technological company that allows the download (or “externalization”) of their memories, for personal viewing or public sharing. At the center of the novel is therefore the contemporary world, hyperconnected, where the bonds formed are indeed similar, but always aleatory. Forced ties, for which there is a risk of a loss of identity, and consequently an abandonment of the sense of one’s unconscious. Making one’s memory accessible in its entirety with a simple search engine makes the imagination an ancient tool, at the same time outdated, absolutely obsolete to fill spaces, gaps, yet never as desired, coveted as in this moment.

“Now I understand that the place I’ve always wanted to go is my imagination.” says the author to explain how fundamental it is for a person’s identity, the possibility of dreaming, desire and indistinctness. Nostalgia, which remains vague and precise at the same time.

The novel is not only about time, future and technology that loom, but it is also a novel about space, about human relationships that overlap, accompany and distance themselves from the social media that surround them. Here is the message that ultimately is the heart of this speech: a warm and sincere invitation not to let the dangerous algorithms of the digital age enter our lives in an invasive way, and to be careful not to ask for authenticity from media that by definition they are and must be mediated.


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