Visual Editions took inspiration from Safran Foer’s writing process to design his book.
With a different die-cut on every page, Tree of Codes by bestselling American writer Jonathan Safran Foer, explores previously unchartered literary territory. Initially deemed impossible to make, the book is a production first—as much a sculptural object a work of masterful storytelling. Inspired to exhume a new story from an existing text, Safran Foer took his favorite book, The Street of Crocodiles by Polish-Jewish writer Bruno Schulz, and used it as a canvas, cutting into and out of the pages, to arrive at an original new story. The story of a last day of life, as one character is chased to extinction, is multi-layered with immense, anxious and, at times, disorientating imagery, crossing both a sense of time and place and giving it universal resonance.
Visual Editions’ involvement with Jonathan Safran Foer began when he expressed an interest in experimenting with the process of using a metal die to cut the pages. With that as a starting point, they explored the physical relationship between pages and how it could be developed to work with a meaningful narrative; Safran Foer quite literally began cutting into the pages of The Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz. As the author undertook the challenge of carving a brand new story from an existing text, Visual Editions and the book’s designer, Sara De Bondt, took the project to printer after printer, all of whom said a book with a different die-cut on every page simply couldn’t be made. Eventually, after months of writing, cutting and prototyping, Belgian printers, Die Keure, found a way to make the impossible possible.