Eran's Blog

Introduction to Code

[This introduction to Code was translated from Hebrew with the help of Keren Katz]

Code is a book that was programmed to reveal all the haiku poems in the Pentateuch, or The Torah in Hebrew. These are the five books of Moses which are the foundation of the Jewish holy law and behavioral code of conduct.

Haiku verse is a form of Japanese poetry, characterized by syllabic and thematic constraints. A Haiku consists of 17 syllables in three phrases (or lines) of 5, 7 and 5 respectively. Why Haiku? Judaism is said to manifest in a universal meter. The most famous Jewish prayer begins with a haiku, taken from Deuteronomy 6:4-9

She’ma Yis’ra’eil
A’do’nai E’lo’hei’nu
A’do’nai e’chad.

Code is a link in the chain of contemporary poetry, merging tradition and hi-tech. It stands on the shoulders of giants. Not your average old masters, but rather those giants who stood on the shoulders of other giants, recursively starting from Moses.

The act of programming a book may be seen as an extension of methods attributed to Modernism. It posits canonized words within a well-defined formal frame. This may sound similar to stances taken by Ezra Pound or Louis Zukofsky.

However, the technique of writing text by way of reading another one resembles Post-Modern approaches such as John Cage’s Writing Through (Pound…). The book subjects a pre-existing text to radical reduction. By constructing a parasitic method, it enables the new text to retain the linguistic aspects of the parent text. In this case Modern Hebrew lets Biblical Hebrew sneak a peek, albeit subverted.

Eran and Code photo by Michal Fattal
Photo by Michal Fattal

The true difference is caused by the code itself. This is augmented poetry which is verse indigenous to the Digital Age. The skills used to create it are those of a computer programmer rather than a traditional writer. Code exemplifies that human behavior is no longer dictated by traditional religion but by technological determinism. This new state imposes a threat as much as it redraws our horizons. A book of 5,341 poems was written by coding less than 10 pages of words and other UNICODE signs.

The source Code written in Scala is included in the book. It is challenging its place as the new Code of Conduct. We as readers are no longer listening to language as the voice of the human civilization, but as a study of its artifacts. We are discovering language as machines.