I’ve read ‘Godel Escher Bach’ by Douglas Hofstadter. Many of the dialogues evidently contain secret messages, or follow secret rules of construction, which the reader is left to discover. Did anyone ever publish a ‘key’ to the book, or solutions to all the dialogues? Or is there an annotated version available?
I may be misinterpreting your question, but it’s not a “mystical” book. Hofstadter uses form very wittily to illustrate content, but in a very overt manner. For example (sadly I don’t have the book to hand; to my eternal regret I lent it) a dialogue on fugue will be written in the form of a fugue.
I would recommend this book to anybody (except the godforsaken wretch who has my copy).
To address the main thrust of your question, I don’t know if there are notes to the text available.
I have been attempting to read and fully understand the whole book for over a decade. Oh well, at least I can enoy the pretty pictures.
or even enJoy the pretty pictures.
I’m also pretty sure there is no secret guide. But it’s not as if they are all in-jokes, just a matching of content to form on as many levels as possible. You should be able to get most of them by paying close attention.
At least, I assume it’s most of them. Maybe there’s millions that no ones noticed! Arrggghhh!
There are some hidden puzzles. The only one I remember off the top of my head is in the dialog “Contracrosstipunctis” (I may not have the spelling right on that). In the dialog, Achilles and the Tortoise discuss a word game (called an acrosstic, I believe) where the first letters of every paragraph in a given text combine to form a hidden sentence. They even speculate on whether an acrosstic could be formed in which the first letters in every word of the hidden sentence could be combined to form yet another message. Well, if you apply those very rules to the dialog, taking the first letter of each character’s lines, it spells "Hofstadter’s Contracrosstipunctis acrosstically backwards spells “J. S. Bach”. Then take the first letter of each of those words and arrange them backwards (as the message itself directs) and it spells “J. S. Bach”. All contributing to the theme of self-reference throughout the book.
And there is an answer key, but I doubt we’ll ever see it. I was talking to a guy from Germany and I mentioned this book. His eyes lit up like I’ve never seen before. It turns out he’s bought four copies (one in English, one in German which came out a few years later, and another one to dismantle and scan into his computer to do character recognition and analysis, and the fourth he couldn’t remember). He told me about a radio interview he heard with the translator who did the German version. One of the steps they took was to have Hofstadter take a copy of the book and put anotations in it for all the hidden messages and tricks that wouldn’t be obvious, but that he wanted to preserve in the translated version. The translator said he kept that anotated copy and was taking very good care of it.
Gee, that is really interesting. I have always loved the book but never went very far into thinking the dialogues had that many levels of distinction…they obviously referred to the subsequent chapter.
Fave dialogue: Achilles tries to “prove” something to the Tortoise.
Now, how do I find a copy of that at ebay…
Um, aren’t most of the wordplay tricks explained in the book itself? At least, an awful lot of them are…
I did a Google search on “godel escher bach puzzles”, and the alt.fan hofstadter and GEB FAQ turned up. It has a section titled “hidden tricks in GEB” (aka spoilers). Maybe this is what you’re looking for.
Many thanks zgystardst. That’s a wonderful link which in turn seems to link to just about anything one could want to know about GEB.
It’s quite possible that there are puzzles that I didn’t notice, but the only one I didn’t figure out was the story with the “false ending”. There were several points which could have been the end, and I’m not sure which one DH meant to be the true ending.
The Ryan: If it’s the one I think you are talking about, then it wasn’t a case of figuring out which one was the true ending, it’s that they were one ending short. (A&T get picked up by a blimp, then start reading a story about A&T, in which they see a picture of A&T, who are looking at… you get the idea. The plot on the blimp is never resolved; the dialog ends with the end of the story they are reading on the blimp. (I think that’s right anyway))
No, there was a dialogue in which they are discussing the difficulty in creating a truly suspenful novel; once the reader gets towards the end, they’ll know that since there aren’t many pages left, everything will be resolved soon. One of them suggests that you could end the novel early, then fill the rest with writing that is similar to the rest of the novel, but not quite the same. It would have to be similar enough that if someone flips through the book, they wouldn’t see the break, but once they reach the break they’ll know. So I guess this procedure was followed in the dialogue itself, but I’m not sure where. I have several guesses, but I don’t know which is what DH meant to be the “true” ending.