OPINION

The era of codes

The critical rejection of «The Da Vinci Code,» both at the Cannes Film Festival and around the world, seems to have had no effect at all on its commercial success. Audiences are lining up to watch it. The same goes for the original book by Dan Brown. Critics slammed and derided it, but the public lapped it up. This divergent response is not based on different approaches to a work of art. «The Da Vinci Code» is clearly not a work of art in the formal sense. It is a popular narrative, a product of the pop industry, a fruit of pulp fiction, something to while away time at the airport or on the train. Even so, the book is a huge commercial success, and there has been a resurgence of interest in books about codes, mysteries and timeless conspiracies. This is the subject – code mania. Why are people of all kinds in the West getting into codes again? Why are they seeking the chalice, the treasures of the knights and whatever is hidden? But they have never stopped. People have always sought out secrets and the supernatural, the truth that united everything, the answer to all questions. And this quest intensifies when people cannot find reasonable, convincing or at least consoling answers to questions about life, identity, collectivity and metaphysical concerns. The answers usually come from civil society, science, art and religion. When those systems and institutions are unable to answer questions and allay concerns, then people turn to the supernatural, the paranormal and mysticism – the irrational, in short. This era produces mysticism and code mania, which may be ridiculous and repellent, but really do exist. Our era is a watershed, a time of transition that lasts and lengthens, that stretches contemporary certainties to a breaking point. It is the era of late modernism.