An afterword (and some afterthoughts) on P.A.
Camus's book, I argued, is a book which has been made in praise of books, and more precisely in praise of the printed book. It is proof that writing can still learn a lot from the ancient way of book making and printing. One could wonder then why Camus has decided recently to propose also an on-line version of this work, the first of his books to appear in an electronic version.
Actually, the reasons for this decision are more complex than one might think. At first sight, there is of course the desire of the author to explore new forms, new materials, new media, and to include in his work domains and dimensions which had been excluded far too long. In the case of Camus, it is of course the images - too expensive to reproduce in a book and probably also to insert in a workable layout - that he suddenly can unveil thanks to the Internet. Even if the current (and still very primitive) version of P.A. does not contain pictures at all, the ambition of Camus's electronic publishing is certainly to start doing for the image what P.A. already did for the text. Whether this is a good strategy is a question that remains absolutely open. One can wonder indeed if it suffices to combine pictures and picture fragments as "lexias." Images form strings in very different ways than texts, and their sequential or non-sequential organization should obey other laws than those fit for writing.
At second sight, however, the motivation of the author is much odder. One can suppose indeed that the decision to put P.A. on the web has less to do with the desire to explore the specific possibilities of the new medium than with a strategy of self-promotion (Camus is in France probably the first important author to risk the leap into the hyperworld for a very ambitious work, and since he is also an author with great prestige and with very few readers, the web site clearly aims to attract a new readership. Once again, one should wonder if this strategy actually works. The electronic version of P.A. lacks indeed the particular tension of linearity and non-linearity, which contributes so thoroughly to the literary accomplishment of the book version. Without being poor or badly executed, the web site does not really seduce, nor does it provoke its readership, and this is regrettable. In the electronic version of P.A., at least as it can now be read on-line, the linear development of the files completely erases the non-linear links. And once the links will be fully activated, their impact will be so strong that the former linearity will no longer be present as a dialectical antithesis.
All this is regrettable, but it is also perfectly normal, because no work can simply be switched from one medium or one channel to another without serious damage, without losing its form, its meaning, and why not its soul. If the adventure of P.A. continues on the web, one can already predict that it won't become a P.A. bis, but something completely different.