When fiction and reality meet, a mystery can emerge

December 18, 2021 § Leave a comment

I published my first ever novel Perceptions of the Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (Pegasus Publishers) in June 2021. The story starts from Paris, in 2016 and most of the places there I had chosen by ’travelling’ with Google Street View. In other words, I had never actually visited them. I had already sent the ms to some candidate publishers when we decided to visit Paris and see how the places of the fictional story look like in real life. We made three vistas there,  the last one in 2021.

Mystery Nr. 1

On our first journey to Paris, we started with Les Ursulines, a typical, charming Parisian cafe and restaurant where I had imagined the protagonist, Johan Ek, meets his friends.  The first time Johan visits Les Ursulines is told like this:

”Inside a waiter, a young man in his early thirties perhaps, welcomed them from behind the bar desk. He was immersed in reading a thick book on his lap, but he stood up eagerly, and hastily put the book aside when they entered. Curious about his behavior, Johan caught a quick glimpse of the cover of this book and saw that it was a recent and advanced university book on modern physics, a book he knew well in English, and one he did not expect to see in this context. He looked at Yvonne, lifting his eyebrows as a sign of admiration, and made his guess.” 

Writing the story I had seen Les Ursulines in the Google Views and had something on my mind on its possible role, but did not know anything about its background. During our first stay in Paris we visited Les Ursulines two times for a lunch, and then on our second visit we happened to meet the owner, a youngish-middle age man and we had a chance to tell him about the novel and the fictional meetings in Les Ursulines. He was delighted to hear this but when I mentioned that the protagonist is a theoretical physicist the man became visibly startled. He exclaimed that he had studied mathematics and physics!

When in 2021 we again visited Paris and this kind and witty man, having a Berber background from Africa, he introduced an article he was just reading, about the mathematics of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). A lively discussion emerged and we could share the mutual astonishment. We had no way to explain how this coincidence was possible and only ended up laughing: physics is great but this is something else.

Mystery Nr. 2

On our second visit to Paris we wanted to take the same cozy and beautiful hotel, Relais Saint Jacques, at 3 Rue de l´Abbe de l´Épee we had enjoyed when visiting Les Ursulines. It is close to the restaurant. I had made the reservation in the net as usual. Arriving there, tired of the long day, the receptionist was confused and explained we had no reservation there! The hotel was fully booked. A moment of mutual, embarrassed silence ensued. Then she asked if it was possible that I had accidentally reserved a room from another hotel, with a similar name, one kilometre from this one. The kind young lady called them and indeed, I had made the reservation from,Hotel & Spa Saint Jacques 35 Rue des Écoles. Off we went, dragging our luggage, tired, and I was confused, even ashamed of my mistake. We did not look around too much to see where we were, just followed the map from our mobile phones, eager to get to the hotel and rest.

Arriving there we found a room in the forth floor, with an original, old-fashioned style, red, gold, and purple. After we had unpacked I stayed at the French balcony window, opening it to see down to the street. Now I had another reason be thoroughly surprised: the scene looked somehow familiar to me. I took a quick look at the map and realised that what I saw was a restaurant I had included in my novel! Its entrance was directly at the corner of the building. Again, I had never visited this place, only once I had passed by it, some three years earlier but when writing the novel I used the Google Street View to pick it up for the story.

From the novel:

”It was an unusually soft, warm evening for the end of March, and after a relaxed, slow, and short walk, they entered a restaurant. It had a simple terrace bordered by beautiful roses and other flowers; a few tables outside were placed under a red awning; the entrance door was at the corner of the building.” 

I had a direct view to its side facade and the entrance. Of course we reserved a table for a diner there and enjoyed a their delicious menu and wine.

Mystery Nr. 3

In 2012 I had introduced the concept of the Internet of Behaviours (IoB). It was a new, innovative concept and now I have even been called  ’El padre del IoB’ by a journalist from Argentine, who interviewed me on it year ago. I was excited about the IoB idea and with a knowledgeable engineering colleague we tried to get support and funding for it from firms and the major technology-business fund in Finland and even at the famous start-up and VC scene, Slush where we had another project related too it. No such luck and  I got tired and frustrated from trying. ”Impossible to see what good that could be” was a typical comment, and a dead look from round, staring eyes from the ’risk funding’ representatives.

Writing the book I got the idea that I could use an imaginary case of the IoB to open a compelling view on scientific work and I decided to use it in some form to frame the story. As it was impossible to get real funding for the IoB I thought I could at least leave a fictional trace of it. I’ve written a blog at gotepoem on this.

From the novel:

”She did not answer, and before he managed to repeat the question a young man with dark hair tied into a long ponytail, wearing strong eyeglasses with a black frame, opened the door, inviting them to step in. He looked barely twenty-five, dressed in worn blue jeans and a white t-shirt with IoB written in black font on the front.” 

IoB has a role in there, to bring optimism and indeed, now it has a fictional trace.

Then in 2019, the famous technology research and consulting company Gartner, known for its technology and other forecasts listed the IoB as globally significant technology trend! They suggested it will touch 40% of the world population. In 2020 the IoB was even listed as the Nr 1 technology trend in the world. I’m currently finishing my non-fiction book, Internet of behaviours (IoB) – With a human touch. It should be at Amazon by February.

Mystery Nr. 4

In the story, a group of scientists return from a celebration they had at restaurant we saw from our hotel and they took a nightly stroll to escort their distinguished guest to his hotel.

“Let’s walk towards the Pont Neuf. Albert’s hotel is somewhere behind the buildings on your right at rue Dauphine, a nice, traditional place, about one kilometer from here. We can all walk him there.” 

We visited Paris in 2021 and happened to be there at the same time with a couple, our good long-time friends.  They have read the book just a few moths ago. They had a favourite hotel in Paris they prefer to use when visiting there and we decided to meet them at the hotel. However, before the meeting they told us that their planned hotel was fully booked and they had changed to an another one, on rue Dauphine.

We walked there and found the hotel, standing outside and waiting for our friends to join us. Looking around, we noticed a street sign just a few meters from the entrance: Rue Christine.  Now we knew, where we were standing. We were in front of a hotel which is in the same place where the novel’s guest had stayed – in fiction!

There are four mysteries in this novel, and who knows if there are even more of them. We can try to find an explanation for one of them and feel rationally safe and secure. However, having four of them, each of them so peculiar and astonishing in nature that we would need a different theory for each one. That would not feel credible.

To put it simply, I have no idea how such a series of mysteries can come about and how to explain each one of them, but I’m comfortable with that. This is why we have science for. It may not be rare to think that scientists are people who have learned to live with knowledge. This is true, but even more important is that they have learned to live with things they don’t understand and to do something about it. It’s about life long curiosity.

The book: https://www.amazon.com/Perceptions-Demoiselles-dAvignon-Göte-Nyman/dp/1800160968

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