Present and future in the novel "Cryptographer"
Dear language experts,
I wrote this essay in preparation for CPE, as "The Cryptographer" is a set text for the next exam. Although you might not have read this novel, could you please give me help with language?
“The Cryptographer” is set Just a little ahead of our time, so that current attitudes and concerns have remained virtually unchanged. It is also hard to pinpoint changes in the physical surroundings, as Hill does not explicitly describe the setting, but rather allows the reader to catch a glimpse of a futuristic detail now and then throughout the novel. Those details are embedded in the characters’ everyday lives, be it “the overground” , by means of which the heroine gets to work , or “artificial dirt” on new potatoes she peels.
In this new world the pace of change is so rapid that even its rightful inhabitants have difficulties coping with an influx of innovations. Thus, Anna is sometimes unable to recognize any of the flowers on the florist’s stall. Old parrot tulips are valued above genetically modified varieties. Some of present realities have become quaint: Anna is known for her antiquated habit of reading books (“treeware”, as deemed by a colleague of hers) ; John Law has a penchant for conventional paper letters.
However, Hill’s world is not far away and such figures as Kafka or Bill Gates are referred to in everyday conversation. The modern artist Hirst’s work has apparently elevated to the status of a classic, as Anna views “fish arranging themselves into Miros and Hirsts”. Technological advancements are also rooted in present developments. Biotechnologies have produced not only a diversity of plants, but also a pre-natal cure for some diseases .
Not only technologies, but modern problems are extrapolated into the future. Some of them appear to be overpopulation and the subsequent lack of space. Anna’s office, although larger than average, is “five thoughtful paces long, and four wide” and boasts a real window, which is considered a luxury. The bar has sixty floors of view. Juxtaposed against this background, Law’s estate, extending over four and a half thousand acres, is a shocking evidence of how wide the gap between haves and have-nots has become.
Further extrapolation of today’s anxieties is the collapse of the electric currency brought about by a virus. Voicing concerns about too slavish dependence on technology, Hill enacts the scenario, dreaded by many just before the year 2000. A peculiar mixture of madness and festivity is most convincing as a prevailing feeling in the aftermath of the crisis. Stripped of their savings, people feel as if “a weight has lifted”. The narrative is surprisingly upbeat in its celebration of human resilience.
Devoid of apocalyptic visions, the novel neither warns nor scares the reader, but rather gives one hope. The message is that eventually, by struggling and persevering, man will cope just as he has coped before. Even if the worst happens, it will be “only another day in that life”.
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