Max Brooks: “Rousseau was an idiot, you can’t play with nature” | Babelia

Max Brooks (New York, 48 years old) is not obsessed with the end of the world. Actually, the author of World War Z, son of the illustrious Mel Brooks, director of the cult film Young Frankenstein, and the even more illustrious Anne Bancroft, an actress of countless distinctions, only exorcises demons when she writes. And, at the same time, he draws maps to his readers. And not just your readers. Brooks does not live in West Point, that is, the United States Military Academy, by chance. He lives there because he also works, as a manufacturer of other possible worlds, actually, as a launcher ideas about how it could all end one day, for the military. “It all started with World War Z. When I documented myself, I discovered that they kept imagining that the world worked as it did in the 60s, that there was only one way to end democracy. I told them there is never one way. And now I teach the soldiers about all those other possibilities, ”he says.

He’s precisely in what looks like an office in West Point. There is a blackboard to your right, and a pile of books on a shelf to your left. He has his Zombie: Survival guide, and it shows it all the time. Zombie: Survival Guide it was his first book. He published it in 2003. He edited a second part six years later. Between one and another, his first novel came out, World War Z, or what might happen if the world declared war on the Brain Eaters. “I always start from a real base. I am not inventing anything. To write that book I used an oral history of World War II as a template, ”he clarifies. He researches for years for everything he does. “My intention is to train through entertainment,” he insists. “I grew up with Star TrekAnd wasn’t that what he was doing? ”He says. “Terror, or the fantastic, offers you psychological protection so that the mind can explore any possible non-real situation, no matter how horrible,” he adds.

In his first novel in 14 years – except for the one dedicated to the Minecraft universe, The island-, Involution (Reservoir Books), returns to play with an end of the world within the world: that of an eco-sustainable community that a catastrophe leaves at the mercy of a handful of bigfoots. “Actually, what I do is play with the idea of ​​adaptation,” he says. Because it’s about adapting that everything he writes is about, he says too. “My life has been and continues to be a constant struggle to adapt to a world that is sometimes incomprehensible to me,” he adds. Literally incomprehensible. “I had dyslexia, the language classes almost killed me,” he says. “I did not understand anything. Luckily, my mother was one of the best mothers who must have ever lived. He discovered dyslexia in 1981, and he studied it thoroughly and offered me alternatives. He said: If you’re going to be a writer and calligraphy isn’t working for you, why don’t you try typing? ”, He remembers.

This is how he managed to write his first story at the age of 13. “My mother took it upon herself to make audiobooks for me so that I could read everything that interested me,” she recalls. He went to an organization that read for the blind and got them. “I didn’t read for fun until I was 16,” he confesses, and that’s when he ran into Tom Clancy, an author he considers one of his “heroes.” “It was while reading a book of his that I discovered what he wanted to do. Clancy turned the fictional spy into a real spy. As a reader, it made you feel smart. And that’s what I wanted my readers to feel, “he says. That, and offer alternatives. The alternatives her mother offered her when the world told her there was only one way to learn. “That’s what I like about Minecraft. It shows you that there is no single path. That you can choose your path. And that you can fail and nothing happens ”, he says about the video game to which he has dedicated a novel.

“Global education, so Prussian, still reigns even in the world of video games, in which everything consists of advancing and accumulating. Now we are in a new era in which accumulating is not enough. You will not accumulate if you are not creative, because there is no one way to do things. Minecraft it’s about that. To learn from failure. There is a generation out there that has not been taught to fail, “he says, and it is one that has a lot in common with one of the characters in his latest novel: Reinhardt, the intellectual coward,” a guy who pontificates without having the remotest idea ”. “People like him have brought Trump to power. Make no mistake, Trump was elected because there are a lot of idiots who have not understood anything out there, “he says. “In the 90’s we had so much wealth, power and peace in the United States, we were so bored, that a book like Fight club and it became a hit“, shoot.

All of that is at the base of Involution, and specifically, at the root of Greenloop, the naive eco-community that suffers a massacre sasquatch -the classic bigfoot, “One of the monsters that terrified me the most as a child, the great ape”, he confesses – after the eruption of a volcano that leaves them isolated, that he intends to live a utopia: that of an eco-sustainable existence that implies not losing a single of your comforts. Tony Durant, its founder, believes that it is because of the loss of comfort that utopian societies fail. “You cannot ask people to give up personal and tangible comforts in exchange for an ethereal idea. That is why communism failed. Altruistic suffering is fine in short crusades, but as a way of life it is unsustainable, ”says Durant. And how do they get it? With technology. It’s possible. But what happens when that technology disappears? “They haven’t even thought they could do it,” Brooks replies.

“That is the error of contemporary science. We take the comfort we live with for granted. After the Second World War in the United States science tried to make a better world, today it tries to make a more comfortable world. How is it possible that the greatest invention of the 21st century was being able to watch television on a phone when it should have been finding an alternative energy source that would end the oil wars? I do not understand the figure of Steve Jobs, it is terrifying to think about it. That’s what the novel is about, about our excessive dependence on technology and city people who believe that nature is harmless, that it can be seen as a painting is contemplated ”, he says. “Without knowing it, they are like Rousseau, and Rousseau was an idiot, you don’t play with nature,” he adds.

Constructed from the diary of one of the protagonists and newspaper articles, the novel returns, from another perspective, to shoot against the classic maxim of who precisely was Rousseau’s nemesis, Hobbes, who says: “Man is a wolf for the man”. What used to be zombies are now great apes, deep down, both versions of the idea of ​​man. Brooks agrees, and points out that perhaps both novels articulate the idea of ​​the need to move forward together, not the opposite. “Cooperation is also one of the central themes of what I write, because if humanity has reached the top it is because we have all rowed in the same direction, and in the face of any crisis, such as the one we are experiencing right now, we must having this especially clear: that you have to fight together, not against each other, because the enemy is the crisis, not the other ”, he concludes.

Faith of errors

In an earlier edition of this interview, the maxim “Man is a wolf to man” was wrongly attributed to Rousseau.