MAUVE DESERT: A CD-ROM Translation, 1992-97

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Interactive Narrative, (Eng/Fr/Sp, Shifting Horizons Productions)
Director, Producer, Screenwriter, Programmer, Designer


Mauve Desert is a CD-ROM translation of the novel "le Desert mauve" by Nicole Brossard. This interactive narrative seduces its drivers to trace the path of Melanie as she drives her mother's car through the desert and into the lives of the author, the translator, and the artist.

MAUVE DESERT is a CD-ROM Translation of Nicole Brossard's experimental novel Le Desert mauve. Nicole Brossard is a celebrated QuebeCoise author.

Melanie is a fifteen year-old of the memory. She steals her mother's Meteor every chance she gets and drives away from her mother's lover Lorna and toward the dawn. 

Maude Laures is the middle-aged academic who stumbles upon Melanie's life in a second-hand bookshop and translates her into another tongue. 

Adriene Jenik is the road-running video artist who drives MAUVE DESERT from Montreal to the Southwest, from print to pixel, from night to day, from one generation of women to another.

Considered a pioneering work in interactive narrative, MAUVE DESERT was self-published by Jenik in 1997 for Mac OS. The CD-ROM contains more than 8 hours of original audio and video material voiced in English, French and Spanish. This meta-narrative of obsession (Melanie with the desert, Maude Laures with Melanie, Brossard with language, Jenik with the text and the struggle of audiovisual translation) invites the disc drivers to themselves surrender to their obsession to "know" and "understand" the story of Melanie and the desert.

Distributed by:
Heure Exquise (Canada)


"Jenik has created her own sophisticated impression of the world of [Brossard's] novel, citing its passages in several ways as part of the terrain of its fictive world. Her CD-ROM version both reflects her own obsession with the Brossard novel, as translator, and offers another complete translator of the novel. These elements of the novel function as leitmotifs through the links. Even the interface between print and the new format is foregrounded. Jenik both emulates the print novel and performs her distance from its medium in her "translation." 


"Jenik's CD-ROM version of Mauve Desert brilliantly re-produces much of the lyricism of the novel and its obtuse organization of elements. It produces the suggestion of lesbian desire without depicting it in a literal manner ... The pleasures of the text are located neither in plot nor in character, but in an obsession with a prior print text that performs its own obsession with a depiction of a particular terrain and images of people and things within it."

- Sue-Ellen Case, "Eve's Apple, or Women's Narrative Bytes," MFS: Technocriticism and Hypernarrative, Fall 1997

"To some, the desert has become almost synonymous with death--the end of the road--when it is really a place great with life ... Jenik, too, joins 'the struggle against perfect communication, against the one code that translates all meaning perfectly, the central dogma of phallogocentrism' and creates her version of the mauve desert which we read where she writes, amid the hum." 

- Beverley Curran, "Re-reading the Desert in Hypertranslation," Style -, Summer 1999.

"Adriene Jenik ... now finds herself in the driver's seat. Her first CD-ROM, Mauve Desert, is a virtual road trip that uses narrative to lure you in - with considerable success." 

- Julia Meltzer, "17 Ways to Resharpen the Cutting Edge," The Independent,July 1996.

"The combination of random access and multi-media potential (simultaneous moving image, graphics, sound and text) of the CD-ROM medium allowed Jenik to develop what amounts to another language to translate into. Paralleling the CD-ROM's unique capacity for user-directed navigation, Jenik has established a central motif of a map of a corner of the Arizona desert where 'the heat, the inexorable light transforms lives of flesh into the bare bones of narrative' and where we enter the next layer of the piece..."

... "Mauve Desert is unique and original work in the CD-ROM format. It is neither a game nor a mathematical puzzle, but rather an invitation to navigation and discovery. Jenik's digital media work does not operate on the false premise of a borrowed scientific superego, as the parasitic work of some hypertext theorists does; instead Jenik has set up a dynamic inside her work, as well as between her work and that of Nicole Brossard, that opens a dialogue between languages and media through the processes of negotiation, translation and imagination. Mauve Desert, the CD-ROM and the novel, constitutes two related and overlapping but distinct art objects which resonate with the poetics and sensuality of translation, expanding the potential for collaborative creative resistance in an age of digital dislocation. Mauve Desert invites us into 'a sumptuous dialogue, an unreasonable expense of words and expressions, a suite, built around an idea which would drift... Mauve Desert decomposed and recomposed.' "

- David McIntosh, "Driving Mauve Desert: Borrowing, Translation, and Navigation in Hypertext, " Fuse Magazine, November 1997.

"For me the most singularly fascinating spot of the CD ROM is the delightfully complex author's flowchart. Here one can observe the bifurcating and looping channels of the whole work. The rise of mystery and surprise on the journey contribute to astonishment. Part of the delight is being startled not only by the subject buy by the dexterity with which it is treated. Mauve Desert is a fresh, innovative and highly intriguing work."

- Nina Czegledy, "Gardens of Forking Paths: A journey into the CD-ROMs of Adriene Jenik and Christine Tamblyn."

"Mature audiences, as they say, will fully appreciate Jenik's complexly conceived and vividly realized scenarios. With a protagonist who drives nightly into the sands of the Southwest, the automotive motif at first might seem obvious, even as the dashboard radio begins to reveal its secrets.

But as Jenik's "readers" wend their way through her elliptical landscape, they discover video clips of well-acted scenes out of Brossard's book, ominous animation featuring a shadowy character named Longman, and intriguing snippets of speech in three languages. 

And then Jenik crashes through the boundaries of literal adaption. Supplementing her already-unconventional narrative are examples of the translator's art, copies of Jenik's correspondence with Brossard, video segments of the author discussing her work, and diaries from the making of the disk. Like the middle section Brossard's novel, they chart the progress of Jenik's multimedia 'translation.' 

Holding it together, of all things, is Jenik's color sensibility... she has captured the natural tones of the desert and melded them elegantly with the more man-made hues of neon and nylon."

- Matthew Mirapaul, "2 CDs Retell Canadian Fiction," CyberTimes - The New York Times on the Web, December, 1997.