from NOTES FROM THE PENTHOUSE

Translated from the Greek by Evangelia Avloniti

Upon leaving school, a young man decides to lock himself up in a penthouse and cut himself off from the outside world. His only means of communication is the Internet. In the few years of his self-imposed solitary confinement, he remembers and records his relationship with his parents, teachers and classmates, as well as his reflections on language, nature and technology. Shortly before he commits suicide, he decides to gather all his notes with the aim of finding the true meaning of his life in the penthouse. In his quasi-natural quasi-electronic existence, the hero eventually comes to see his philosophy of life and fate as inextricably linked to the fate of the planet and the human race.

Part prose, part poetry, part philosophical manifesto, Notes from the Penthouse, was published after the December 2008 riots that spread throughout Greece, and it has been viewed by many critics as the ‘electronic’ manifesto of the youths that took to the streets: a generation that has been variously described as aimless, emotionally crippled and genderless. Notes from the Penthouse, however, does not condone violence. As a critic rightly pointed out it is, in essence, a plea for truth, meaning and contact: a provocative and violent demand for an answer to the emptiness and decline of modern civilization.


I’m a solitary man. Solitude created me in its image. There is a radical difference between solitude and loneliness. One feels lonely when one’s relationship with people has been denied. I have never had any real relationship with people so as to feel it has been denied. I have never felt lonely: loneliness concerns only those who have a need of others.

Would I ever be so alone if computers did not exist? I believe I would, but my solitude would be different, maybe even more animal-like, maybe even more god-like, maybe even more alike to the first monkey that fell from the tree, stood on his own two feet and raised his hands towards the sky screaming: what am I doing here all on my own?

When one gets close to another person one becomes close-minded. In the penthouse, thanks to the Internet, I have regular contact with as many people as I can without having to truly communicate with them. I am the least confined and as a result the most open-minded person in the world. My open mind prompts me to look at the planet’s current condition as well as that of the most dominant animal on it as realistically as possible.

Man’s prehistory is this: a humanoid got on progress’s vehicle, started up its engine and set off with the aim to become human. But somewhere along the way there was a crash. And the dizzy bloody being that got out of progress’s vehicle is the animal that we now call man. This is not progress; it is regression. It appears that the humanoid simply reversed.

Man is impervious to improvement, prone to inconsistency and an inadvertent devotee of defeat. Man does not learn from his mistakes or his stupidity. Even though he’s inclined to destroy all life on the planet, he continues to dispense advice on how to save life on it. Man is the only animal, which believes it is superior to other animals. It is a sign of inferiority, if anything, for an animal, which is not superior to other animals, to believe that it is superior to them.

Man is a coward who cannot bear to look at those sides of himself that he cannot stand. He puts his weaknesses in the storeroom and his virtues on the display window. This is why storerooms are always more spacious that display windows.

There are too many terrestrials on earth. Nature understood this, but it is not she who is taking revenge on us. We are taking revenge on ourselves because we are not happy with our lot. Man is stressing about the future of the planet, whereas in reality it is the planet, which is stressing about the future of man. The planet is sending SOS signals against man and man is so stupid as to believe that the SOS is aimed at him, that the planet is calling him to save it.

In order for the planet to be saved, the human race must be extinguished. He who destroys the planet cannot simultaneously save it. And although not every human being destroys the planet in equal measure, this is hardly interesting to the planet. For the planet to be saved, the destroyer must be destroyed. The planet is pleading with man to perish.

I am not an environmentalist. Environmentalists think that man is a rational animal, which is capable of making a difference. I believe that environmentalists are irrational animals that have not yet understood what the animal that calls itself man is capable of doing.

I don’t care if I am writing the truth. Truth is mercilessly boring; it was invented to dull thinking, to cancel fantasy’s flights, to flatten feeling. This is the reason why every day I say to myself: write what you think even if it is wrong; write what you think because it is wrong. Wrong very often becomes right and a lie can become a truth. But even if something continues to be wrong or it continues to be a lie, who cares? Great lies are the foundation of great truths.

I am neither a cyber-tramp nor a misanthropist. I am indifferent to the declaration of the rights of cyber-tramps and misanthropists. My aim is to observe people, not to criticize them. I am not denouncing man for being who he is, since he can be nothing else; I am only observing what he does. I am addicted to the observation of man and the only way to break the habit is either for me or for others to stop existing.

All my life I wished to be perfectly inactive. I wished to be able to escape the curse of action. I wished to be ruled by the rule of non-action only. I would have liked to have been born as an indoor plant: to lead a plant life.

I have never been sure of my purpose in this world. All humans seem to have a purpose. Those who haven’t got a purpose seem to have a problem. I used to think that not having a purpose was not a problem. That was my problem: not understanding that it was a problem. The problem is not the problem itself but not acknowledging it.

When I started living on my own, I started experiencing perfect nothingness. Nothingness was so real, so material and so tangible that it started becoming something. It was then that I started to be afraid. I didn’t want something; I wanted nothing. If nothing eventually becomes something, I thought, then it is impossible to live on nothing. I would have to live on a certain something. It was that period of my life when my thinking was filled with the vacuum of my thinking.

It took me almost a year to define that something, which would take me back to nothing via something. During that year I was constantly thinking that if I did not manage to find that something, I would commit suicide. In the end I would bring about my own end. But why should I wish my own end? Why shouldn’t I wish the end of others? My purpose would be the end: the end of everything. My end purpose would be my own end, having first brought about the end of everything.

My aim is to prevent the perpetuation of the human species. If man perishes, planet earth will be saved. I am making this wild guess, knowing that I cannot confirm it. No one, however, can contradict it. Saving the planet is my ultimate plan. An environmentalist cannot afford to be a humanitarian.

I never consciously intended to bring about man’s destruction. But when that time came, that intention was already pointing at me without me realizing. It is only when you achieve your target without aiming at it that it is of real value.

My intention is to highlight the significance of man’s insignificance. My intention is to highlight the power of man’s powerlessness.

What is power and how is it distributed? Am I powerful when I am on my own, when capable of being on my own? Or is this power just an unbridled illusion? One thing I know about power is this: the sheep will be eaten by the wolf when outside the pen, whereas when inside it, it will be eaten by the shepherd.

Any important thing happening is usually called a revelation. Man discovers things that have always been in front of his very eyes with remarkable interest. The Day of Revelation will not reveal anything that a clever man has not already discovered for himself. The day of the end, the day of the Real Revelation, will reveal things only to those who have not yet discovered or wished for the possibility of the end.

I was not born for nothing. This was the first revelation of my life, which in turn led to the second and last revelation of my life: that I was born for nothing. That I am born for man’s nothing. I will give birth to man’s nothing and then I will die. The labor pains of that birth will cause the greatest pains in this world.

The future of humanity lies in total surveillance. In the global village, like in every other village, everyone knows a lot about the others but some people know everything. Through the Internet I gain access to people’s minds so that I can keep them under surveillance. Total surveillance will not succeed because it is total. The individual surveillance I am proposing constitutes the future of humanity. That is, my future and humanity’s past.

Now I know that I have always been a shallow person. That was my greatest asset: my inability to go deep into things. That is the whole point behind the Internet: it cannot go deep into things. There is nothing beneath the surface, the Internet maintains. The surface is the essence of everything. The Internet is the thing-in-itself in which everyone participates as a phenomenon.

Life is a constant succession of beds, cells, prisoners and guards. I am aware that even here on my own in the penthouse, I am not free. Someone or something is forcing me to do hard labor, which in turn subjugates my will. For me “want to do” and “must do” are identical. Whatever I “want to do” I “must do”, and I will do, since I “must do” it, irrespective of whether I “want” or “don’t want” to do it.

Free will is nothing but an oxymoron. I have always liked oxymora: communist liberation, militant art, altruistic love, non-dogmatic thinking, objective knowledge, market liberalism, humanitarian war, close friend, noble intention, impartial stance, classless society, wise man.

I remember people always saying that they want a lot of free time. The more free time one has, the less free one’s time is. After leaving school I had limitless free time, yet I have never felt free. I don’t mind not being free. I don’t mind feeling dependent, wired. I have given my philosophy a name: wired post-materialism.

My mental state has always fluctuated between hatred and indifference. Somewhere in the middle I felt the need to analyze my thoughts. Every situation demands an analysis. Nothing has ever happened to me without me feeling the need to analyze it to the end. My mental state has fluctuated between hatred and indifference even with regards to my tendency to analyze it.

I don’t have dreams anymore; I don’t need to have them. Once I thought I had a dream, but maybe I was awake. I was in a perfectly empty room and I was doing nothing at all. I was perfectly still. I was looking at nothing. I was thinking of nothing. All my bodily functions had been suspended, even my breathing. Perfection.

I used to have a recurring dream that I was created in a lab; that I was without a mother or father, without the trauma of birth and most importantly without the maternalism associated with the uterus.

Anyone who struggles to communicate inevitably believes that they will succeed. I communicate so as to destroy every form of communication. I will stop communicating when I ascertain that no form of communication exists. I will be the one who will send the last email on earth. I myself, in the form of a computer, hope to be sent as the last email on earth.

I hereby present my electronic manifesto. No one will find human comedy funny any more. Not because it will stop being funny but because it will stop being human:

“In the beginning was the word. Someone else’s word. In the end it will again be a word. My word.

“I evangelize a new order which will not include humans but units. I am transhuman; I am the one and only transhuman. I am the first one to belong where no one yet belongs. The new order, the order of units, will be the only order.

“The transhuman is the intermediary stage between man and unit. I am the bridge to the quickest and most successful transition possible from man to unit. My aim is to make all people feel units before I make the transition from human to computer.

“My aim is to pass on the most dangerous virus: the one and only virus called unovirus. The unovirus aims to destroy the previous virus to have afflicted humanity: the manovirus. When I succeed in doing that, every human will feel a unit. Only then humanity will have become a uninity.

“Deep down we are all units. Civilization, however, has made us believe we are not units. Civilization does all it can to establish some sort of relationship, contact, communication. My aim is to do all I can to destroy every form of relationship, contact, communication.

“There are units everywhere, only they do not think they are units; they think they are part of a group. When a unit thinks they are part of a group, they are mistaken. When a unit thinks they are a unit, they are not mistaken. When a group believes, it is mistaken. A group cannot believe. A group can do absolutely nothing.

“The new order of the transhuman is the means to the final solution, the creation of the order of uninity. I evangelize the final solution. I do not evangelize the end of the concept of man, I do not evangelize the end of the last man; I do not evangelize the superman. I evangelize the end of man himself, the artificial end of the natural man. I evangelize the end of the being that knows its end but never evangelizes it.

“My aim is to stop the reproduction of man; to reproduce total isolation. To isolate man from man so that man cannot reproduce man again.

“I made it my translife’s aim to find a way to extinguish human life so as to save the life of the planet; to convince man to extinguish his life so as to save the planet. That aim lies in making people stay at home and not take part in any social activity. I think so that they do not exist. I exist so that they do not think. I exist so that they stop existing.

“There are many ways to achieve this and they are all violent. It is foolish to continue being violent when there are computers in the world. This is the reason why I intend to extinguish the human race in the most peaceful and most final manner ever conceived by a unit of the human race: through the use of the computer.

“Everyone thinks that the end of the world will be caused by something big, portentous, devastating: a nuclear fallout, a new world war, an alien attack, the spread of infectious diseases. No one thinks that destruction will come in the form of a seemingly imperceptible virus, my own unovirus, which will electronically affect man’s most vulnerable part: his soul.

“No final situation might be achieved in the end. People might continue to be divided into their two basic states, the natural and the electronic one. Up until now the former prevailed, but slowly and steadily the latter is beginning to gain ground. When the former is finally displaced, a big day will have begun for the human race. In all probability it will be the last. Most definitely it will be the beginning of the last.

“In antiquity, people sought moderation because they did not have it. In the Middle Ages, they sought logic because they did not have it. In modernism, they sought emotion because they did not have it. In post-modernism they seek meaning because they do not have it. After post-modernism they will seek man because they will not have him.

“I am my own meaning. Everyone is his or her own meaning, since there is no objective meaning. That is why my life has a meaning, so that I can try to impose it on others. After the obliteration of every human meaning, the meaning of my life would be the obliteration of every man.”

The world exists to end up in an e-mail.

Contributor

Yorgos Lamprakos

YORGOS LAMPRAKOS was born in Athens, Greece in 1977. He is the author of a book of prose, (Notes from the Penthouse, Gabrielides Books, 2009, 2nd ed. 2010), a play (Missing, Gabrielides Books, 2010, performed at "Fournos" theatre, Athens in May-June 2010) and an unpublished monologue (Undergrounding, performed at "Syn Kati" theatre, Athens in November 2010). He has translated fiction and poetry from English and German into Greek, as well as a number of books and essays on psychoanalysis, art and literary theory, and philosophy. He may be reached at lamprakos@gmail.com. EVANGELIA AVLONITI is a freelance writer and translator currently based in Athens, Greece. She has collaborated with The European Translation Centre (EKEMEL) and The National Book Centre of Greece on a number of translation projects for the 2007, 2008 Frankfurt Book Fair and the 2007, 2008 and 2009 Thessaloniki Book Fair.

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