(3) December 2020
by Can Xue
isolarii are island books—singular worlds, encapsulated. Together, they assemble disparate writers, artists, filmmakers and architects to help us navigate the world anew.
Every two months, you will receive isolarii by mail. Forewords and invitations to events are distributed by email.
FROM THE EDITORS
The humanism of the past five hundred years is dead. Believing man was exceptional, it opened the abyss of extinction. A new approach is needed to re-enchant the world and establish the commonality of all life on Earth. This is not just the task of politics and philosophy. It requires the effort of all those who tear down convention in order to preserve what is meaningful. That is, the preservation not just of environments, but myth, irrationality, autonomy, and joy—whether by direct or poetic means. New islands—of thought, literature, art—are already emerging. They are the necessary minimum for this re-beginning. We find these points of orientation, mapping a scattered community that spans continents and disciplines. To represent a world of many worlds, not a globe.
Our books revive the extinct genre of the same name—the ‘island books’ that emerged at the start of the Renaissance. Bound together were poems, stories, and artworks—each a supposed island, a space that held a singular idea. Although this spatial form of literature was eclipsed by the novel, it continued to inspire writers from Thomas More to Evliya Çelebi and Georges Perec. As the historian George Tolias writes, isolarii “seem to reflect an ‘underground’ geographical culture...that flourished in the experimental and tolerant climate of the Renaissance but has now slipped out of our grasp.”
Six hundred years after the first isolarii were published, we take up this portable, genre-bending format to navigate the turbulence of our times. Each book is a ready-to-hand island, a space of exception unrestrained by conventional logic. Together, they are a growing archipelago. Islands from which to view the world anew.