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Literally wrestle with the words of James Joyce

Rather than helping you read faster, He Liked Thick Word Soup sees you literally grappling with words in order to construct passages from James Joyce's Ulysses.

Ariel Malka

There is so much untapped potential in the space where text and the digital medium intersect. This is the idea behind Chronotext, an ongoing collection of experiments exploring the relationships between text, space and time, by Tel-Aviv-based designer and programmer Ariel Malka.

The latest of these, called He Liked Thick Word Soup, sees the user manipulating long strings of text with their fingers to restore words to passages of James Joyce's Ulysses.

"Ten years ago, an early (and now defunct) chronotext experiment proposed manipulating a long wire of text using the mouse. Two directions emerged therefrom: concrete / visual poetry on one side, and the deciphering of chaotic pieces of information on the other," Malka explained on his website.

"With the introduction of mobile-devices and touch-screens, it became clear that the experience of manipulating text wires with our fingers involved some interesting emotional elements. Only one piece of the puzzle remained missing: finding the right text..."

He settled on Joyce because of the Irish author's famously challenging prose: a puzzle in and of itself that requires a high level of perseverance. Joyce himself noted in an interview with Harper's Magazine, "The demand that I make of my reader is that he should devote his whole Life to reading my works."

And again, when asked to provide a plan of Ulysses: "If I gave it all up immediately, I'd lose my immortality. I've put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant, and that's the only way of insuring one's immortality."

The game itself sees you untangling long strings of text from a tight knot, teasing them out with two fingers to match words with the greyed-out text in a line from the book at the top of the screen. The idea, Malka hopes, is that people will become mesmerised by the slowness of the experience and solving the puzzles. There's certainly a satisfying zen quality to it, from unravelling the threads to the slurping sound of the words being reabsorbed.

He Liked Thick Word Soup is available for free for iOS and Android.