The success of Atlas of Prejudice Volume 1 surprised even the most optimistic people around me. In less than a year, the book was published in German, English, Russian, and Spanish. Several other foreign language editions are in the works. The combined worldwide sales already reached 20,000. I bought a private jet and a house in California.
Well, the last sentence wasn’t quite true. Probably because I declined a $25,000 offer from an established company that wanted to publish the English version under a different title and with a different cover. I thought the demand was outrageous, and said no. Then I self-published the book with CreateSpace and started promoting it without the marketing backup of an established publisher. Freedom has its cost.
The idea about a sequel came almost immediately after I finished the first volume. However, due to the complications with the English edition, I had to postpone most of the work on it until August 2013. Then, in a scenario similar to the struggle with the first book, I had to break the piggy bank with randomly collected proto-ideas and start matching them together like gigantic puzzle pieces of a Jackson Pollock painting.
About a third of the book was written on my tablet, late at night. I remember once I deleted half a chapter with a simple thumb slide. That’s how I found out that Google Keep doesn’t have an automatic save function. And why should it, the app was never meant for writing books. After this high-tech fiasco, I abandoned the dream of writing the entire book on a touchscreen device and went back to Microsoft Word and the good old laptop.
Volume 1 was a collection of maps with a couple of added essays about stereotypes. Most of those maps were already complete when I started the book. Volume 2, on the other hand, is much more organic. The workflow was reversed: I started with the text and drew the new maps only after I finished writing each chapter. I consider Atlas of Prejudice 2 my first real book, in the classic sense of the word. I hope the readers will be able to sense that.
This time around, there’s much more to read. I wanted the book to have a backbone, an idea that runs almost continuously through it, like a baseline of a song. I found inspiration for it examining the generational gap between me and my grandmother. The book opens with a description of the world according to her and ends with a map according to a Facebook user. Even though I am in my late thirties and I’m not a huge fan of that particular social network, I consider myself part of the generation it defines. The self-obsessed teens shouting for attention on various social networks are not very different from what I was at their age. Whatever nuances may separate us, they all fade away when compared to the enormous gap between 2014 and 1932, when my grandmother was born.
The process of growing up and adapting to a new world is often examined in between those chapters. The first voyage of Columbus spelled the end of European puberty. It led to the worst excesses of post-adolescent Spain, an empire that behaved like a 18-year-old college boy, loaded with cash and lack of responsibility. Further to the East, the Pope and the Ottoman sultan competed who will wear the biggest tiara. The Vikings to the North, already Christianized, continued to hunt for narwhals in the Arctic, selling the tusks of those animals as unicorn horns to the ignorant people from the south.
During the promotion of Volume 1 an Austrian journalist assumed my prediction about the end of the European Union was something serious. Volume 2 contains a chapter dedicated to modern Europe and its chances for survival. Of course, Brussels was the last place I turned for inspiration. Kraftwerk’s Trans-Europa Express did a much better job. What is lacking in today’s Europe is something as inspired as this album. Something that transcends the political and economic bullshit of the day. Because, as Alain de Botton recently mentioned in his article about the contemporary addiction to breaking news, “we badly need people whose attention is not caught up in the trends of the moment and who are not looking in the same direction as everyone else”. We need more idealism. Not the naive, distracted kind; we have plenty of it on Facebook, Twitter, or any other place where slacktivism reigns supreme. We need the kind of idealism that is informed and able to reach beyond the day after tomorrow.
But most of all, we need to learn how to laugh at ourselves, and to give up the habit of frowning all the time. Atlas of Prejudice 2 is about that.
The English version of the book is already available on Amazon and it will soon appear on other online retailers. The German version will come out next month, on March 20, and can be preordered here. More information about other stores is available on the official site of the book. A preview of the content is available on Google Books.