How to encompass the texture of present-day time and space in a work of art? How to record the feeling or perception of modernity, how to give them verbal form? One of the possible “answers” to such questions is the novel Pixels by Jasmin B. Frelih, which can be said to have a confident, original and successful approach to depicting and verbalizing several acute, pressing or current topics and issues of the present age, such as the accelerated technological progress, artificial intelligence, mass surveillance, the relentlessness and omnipresence of capitalism, lack of interpersonal communication, identity crisis, loneliness, isolation of individuals, loss of meaning and so on. The choice of subject matter is matched by the form of the work itself: the chapters, which at first seem to be rounded, separate entities with their own protagonists, become connected during reading (through repetition of certain characters or situations) and create a wider picture that becomes a complex novel. Such writing and structure adequately portray the fragmentary experience of the current chronotope, reflect its chaos, and additionally emphasize broken relationships and abysses between people.
At the level of individual characters, the reader continually perceives anxiety and uncertainty, which originate from specific situations and flow towards the final, violent escalation during the course of the story. It is vividly shown that the heroes and heroines found themselves in a state of misunderstanding of the world they live in, which drives them into different crises; they begin anticipating what is hidden under the skin of their existence, they perceive holes and voids in their own lives. One could say that they are in a state of awakened consciousness, possessing a stronger sensibility for themselves and for the world: of course, the dilemma arises about how they will act, what they will do with the realizations opening up to them. Will they throw off their shackles, break the ominous circle of “eternal return of the same”, do something existentially affirmative and transformative, or will they wander deeper into the underworld of existence? One of the qualities of the novel is that the answers to this are not “given to the reader on a plate”, some fates remain uncertain, the premonition of chaos is still growing. With this, the Pixels adapt, move closer to reality, where there are no unambiguous answers nor certainty. At the same time, the writer develops the aspirations and actions of the characters with consistent tension, leading them to critical key points, to the very boiling point of the action. He adapts the narrative method, the language itself, to each individual’s story, which also creates diversity of experience.
Pixels thus manages to capture and portray the cross-sections of different individual consciousnesses and through them stage junctions, intersections of the material world and individuality, thereby stepping into the very confusion of human being, human experience. Here, the interesting features of the novel are unveiled as well: although the characters often find themselves in extreme situations, the underlying thought does not take any extreme positions nor divide situations and actions into black and white, but prefers to indicate all the shades between them, introduce several variations, oscillate between different poles. Although chapters are often permeated by the spirit of determinism and the characters seem to be stuck in hopeless situations, in a way, there are always paths open for them to practice freedom (the question arises, of course, how much, if and how they will be able to use them). Existence manifests itself as constant hunger or devouring: individuals devour in order to fill the void, the lack, but at the same time they are devoured by the outside world, technologies and social structures that regulate and control them. But Pixels do not necessarily bet on the victory of the destructive hunger; between all the disasters, small or big, they leave room for fragments of vital light. In this context, the art also plays an important role, which in certain situations can contribute to a sense of being autochthonous in the world.
Pixels ultimately represents the world falling apart at its fragile seams; the possibilities of uniting and finding order are left to further (reader’s) interpretation. The novel is without a doubt a masterfully written work, which is aware that modern reality, as it is, is difficult to summarize in words, but it approaches this goal with the openness of the narrative as well as diverse and imperfect points of view, and it supports observation with a dense network of intertextual references and philosophically based reflections. Everything is reinforced by thoughtful, filigree polished language, which often borders on poetic sentences. In short, a literary conglomerate cut out for the present.