This is a novel about artists and about art, with sometimes satirical, sometimes nostalgic accents. The action takes place in England and follows the characters throughout half a century, beginning with the ‘60s. It is a book that tries to raise certain questions regarding the boundaries of freedom or the powers of desire, pleasure and beauty. “The Black Box” is a metaphor for memory and I’m not referring only to individual memory, but also to a visceral memory, which manifests itself like a kind of instinct.
The three main characters may appear to be the three heads of the same “dragon”. In his “Republic”, Plato elaborated the idea that the soul is made up of three parts: a sensory one, tied to carnal impulses, a passionate one and an intellectual one. Being a rationalist, of course he placed the intellectual part of the soul, which was also endowed with transcendental functions, above the other two. Contemporary science has detected four functioning systems of the brain and has clarified that our passions stem from the area of the reptilian brain, whereas reasoning from areas of the brain which are a more recent product of evolution. Indeed, there is a reflexive brain, which is responsible for reasoning and which can be considered to be the home of the intellectual part of the soul, and a purely instinctual brain. I, for one, would claim that the entire cerebral system is a compass, a factory of discernment and that discernment manifests itself as instinct in a certain line of it and as reasoning in another line, but I wouldn’t prioritize matters, I wouldn’t say: the primitive brain is the inferior one, because its products are the most transcendental and super-personal ones. Our passions and sensitive experiences are our vital engine and our pièce de résistance, it is because of them that we have become what we are as a species, and they comprise the entire experience of the adaptive and evolutional process that we have undergone. The figments of the intellect and of consciousness disappear together with our physical disappearance, whereas the substance which passions and emotions are made of are handed down to the following generations, they are the connecting element and the coagulation substance between us, as representatives of the same species. I recommend the books written by an anthropologist specialized in neuro-biology on this subject; her name is Helen Fisher. She is the person who has apparently gone the furthest in the research regarding passion and the way it ensures and has ensured our survival. Let’s go back to Plato and the model of the soul that he imagined. I too tend to represent the soul on three levels, which, however, I don’t arrange into a hierarchy. I consider them absolutely vital for one another. The three levels are: the emotional and passionate level that we traditionally attribute to the heart, the intellectual level that we associate with the products of consciousness, and the transcendental level, in which revelations and intuitions manifest themselves and which, I might add, is responsible for forms of pre-cognition and spontaneous cognition, and which practically somehow captures something of the collective experience and knowledge; it is the level that puts us in touch with the truths of the species, with the legacy of wisdom. Well, the three main characters of the novel may be understood as embodiments of these three levels of the soul. They are interdependent…. Each of the three protagonists is tied to the other two, through all the fibers of destiny. They are two men and a woman. And, despite common sense clichés, the female character is the representative of the transcendental part of the soul, whereas the male characters designate the intellectual level, namely the passionate level of the soul. A subsidiary theme of the novel is the one originated from Plato, which connects the roots of erotic experience with the ones of aesthetic fascination.