England England by Julian Barnes



England England is a theme park set up by sir Jack Pitman. No, according to sir Jack, we shouldn't call it a theme park, because it's not it. It's quality leisure. It's set on the Isle of Wight and it includes all important English historical figures, events and places. Even the King is payed to move to the island in rule from there. Actors are hired to represent historical figures, and they do it according to the script. Sir Jack Pitman wants England England to encompass everything that is really English. The project is more sucessful as anyone thought it would be, England England becomes better than the original Old England.

The people and places, set up in the theme park are not just representations of the people and places. They are even better, not substitutes, but enhancements and enrichments. The problem arises when the actors start to believe they are who they are hired to represent. Robin Hood and his Merry Men start hunting for their own food, smugglers really smuggle the goods, the actor representing dr. Johnson takes his role so seriously, he even changes his name to dr. Johnson, and becomes who he represents. The actors not only take their roles too seriously, they become them, they become the things themselves.

The novel echoes ideas of French philosopher Jean Baudrillard that in our world reality has been replaced by simulacra, representations of the original, which become independent and in the end better than the original. What a tourist can see in Pitman's theme park (sorry, quality leisure) is a sort of one-stop-shop, where all historical and natural sites are located in one place, all historical people are there to be seen, talked to or dined with. In a way, it's even better than the real thing. Especially when there's no real thing left, where the original doesn't exist anymore, or it never existed.  

What is real anyway? The village fete commettee seems to have a couple of  definitions: Some say you are only real if someone has seen you; some that you were only real if you were in a book; some that you were real if enough people believed in you. There you go ...


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England England je zabaviščni park, ki si ga je zamislil sir Jack Pitman. Nahaja se na otoku Isle of Wight in vključuje vse pomembne angleške zgodovinske osebnosti, dogodke in kraje. Celo kralju plačajo, da se preseli tja in od tam vlada. Zgodovinske osebnosti predstavljajo igralci, ki zvesto sledijo scenariju. Sir Jack Pitman želi z zabaviščnim parkom zaobjeto vse kar je resnično angleško. Projekt v nasprotju z pričakovanji postane uspešnica, England England pa boljša od resnične Anglije.

Ljudje in kraji v zabaviščnem parku niso samo predstavitve teh ljudi in krajev, ampak so celo boljši od originalov. Niso nadomestki, ampak obogatitve in poglobitve, imajo dodano vrednost. Težava nastane, ko začnejo igralci verjeti, da so oni sami ljudje, ki jih igrajo. Robin Hood in druščina si na primer začnejo sami loviti hrano, tihotapci resnično tihotapijo blago, igralec, ki so ga najeli, da bi igral dr. Johnsona, pa začne preresno jemati svojo vlogo. Gre celo tako daleč, da si ime spremeni skladno s svojo vlogo. Ne samo, da igralci preresno jemljejo vloge, ampak tudi dejansko postanejo to, postanejo stvari same.

Martha Cochrane je zaposlena pri sir Jacku kot cinik. Skupaj s sodelavcem in partnerjem Paulom, lovcem na ideje, izsiljujeta svojega delodajalca, da Martha prevzame vodenje zabaviščnega parka. Potem, ko sir Jack ponovno pridobi oblast, se mora Martha vrniti v Staro Anglijo, ki se je medtem vrnila v predindustrijski čas. V vasi, kjer živi, vaščani čutijo potrebo po ponovnem izumljanju tradicije in organizirajo vaški sejem. Martha se spomni sejmov, ki se jih je udeleževala kot otrok, in predlaga, da bi naredili nekaj podobnega, vendar njen predlog zavrnejo, saj se jim zdi prekompliciran. Izmislijo si nekaj novega.

Knjiga odseva idejo francoskega filozofa Jeana Baudrillarda, ki pravi, da smo v dvajsetem stoletju resničnost zamenjali s simulakrom, ki postane neodvisen in na koncu celo boljši od originala. Kar lahko turist vidi v Pitmanovem zabaviščen parku je neke vrste vse-na-enem-mestu, podobno kot nakupovalno središče, kjer najdemo vse kar potrebujemo. Vse zgodovinske znamenitosti in dogodki so na enem kraju, zgodovinske osebnosti pa so nam na voljo, da jih vidimo, se z njimi pogovarjamo ali z njimi celo povečerjamo. Na nek način je celo boljše od resnične znamenitosti, osebe ali dogodka, še posebej, če je original predaleč, ne obstaja več ali pa ga nikoli ni bilo.

Kaj pa sploh je resnično? Vaški odbor za organizacijo sejma ima nekaj definicij: resničen si, če te je že kdo videl, če je že kdaj kdo kaj napisal o tebi ali pa če dovolj ljudi verjame vate. Tako!



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