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Have a sip of literature

AI Drinkable Novels

Words / Phaedrus Lam
Translation / Iris Heung

在文學的世界裡,咖啡這種飲料一直受到萬般寵幸,不僅文人圈喜歡在咖啡屋裡舉辦文學沙龍,連不少文學大師的作品裡頭,也都把咖啡用作為情節的隱喻或符碼。箇中原因,可能是咖啡本身的滋味極多樣化,其相較於具備200多種芬香物質的紅酒,咖啡的芬香物質卻足足有800多種;彷彿人間所有的酸苦甘甜,都可以在這杯濃稠的黑液裡嚐到。

最近日本資訊科技企業NEC,與東京上野區的咖啡店「Yanaka Coffeeten」聯乘合作,推出了六款不同口味,同以日本經典文學作品命名的「喝的文庫本」(飲める文庫),其取材的對象分別是太宰治的《人間失格》、島崎藤村的《若菜集》、森鷗外的《舞姫》,以及夏目漱石的《我是貓》,《心》和《三四郎》。

NEC一直致力於AI人工智能的研發工作。在這次與「Yanaka Coffeeten」的合作企劃中,NEC蒐集了上萬條相關作品的評論,經過人工智能系統的「深度學習」(deep learning)後,分析轉化為咖啡口味的指標值;例如小說中「悲傷的結局」對應著咖啡的「苦澀」;「需要長時間閱讀但十分滿足」對應「滑順度」;「青春時代懷舊感」則對應咖啡的「甘甜」,最後再交給專業杯測師調味、打包成這六款「喝的文庫本」。其中以太宰治的《人間失格》為例,小說描寫懦弱與渴望被愛的主角,屢屢與愛人殉情不遂,最終還被家人關進精神病院的悲劇命運,讀完後令人悵然若失,也恰恰對應著這一包口味偏重於「苦澀」,「餘韻」與「滑順度」的綜合咖啡豆。

想親自品嚐「喝的文庫本」的讀者,由即日至11月30日為止,可以到位於東京上野區的「Yanaka Coffeeten」的門市購買。不然讀者也可以點開NEC的活動頁面,其上詳盡紀錄了「喝的文庫本」的口味指標值,以及咖啡豆的品種選用;可以依樣畫葫蘆地重現出文學的況味。

Coffee is a drink adored by the literary world. Not only is cafe a popular venue for literary salons, many of the influential literary works used coffee as a metaphor or a symbolic presence. Perhaps writers and scholars are simply attracted by the versatility of coffee which contains more than 800 volatile aroma components, compared to red wine which only contains over 200. Somehow this intense and dark fluid seems to have embodied all the flavors of the world.

The Japanese IT corporate NEC has recently teamed up with Cafe Yanaka Coffeeten in Ueno district to launch a series of coffee blends, inspired by six classic Japanese literature, namely Osamu Dazai’s No Longer Human, Tōson Shimazaki’s Collection of Young Herbs, and Mori Ōgai’s The Dancing Girl, as well as Sōseki Natsume’s Kokoro, I am a Cat, and Sanshirō.

NEC is a devoted pioneer in the research and development of artificial intelligence. In this collaboration with Yanaka Coffeeten, NEC data scientists analyzed over 10,000 book reviews through a deep learning embedded software to develop a “taste chart”. To illustrate the concept with examples, reviews such as “it was a sad ending” was translated into a bitter taste, “it was long but satisfying to read” was regarded as a smooth drink, and “reminiscing about my youthful days” was considered a high sweetness level. The last step was to have the coffee blends tasted and fine-tuned by the professional cup tasters, before being released as the series of six “Drinkable Novels”. Osamu Dazai’s No Longer Human, one of the six blends, recounts the life of the narrator from a childhood alienated from the society, to the end in a mental hospital after several failed attempts of suicides for frustrated love. The novel leaves readers in despondency; the coffee blend named after the novel is, therefore, bitter and smooth and has a strong aftertaste.

From now on until November 30th, you can visit Yanaka Coffeeten to have a taste of the drinkable novels in person. More information about the AI generated “drinkable novels” are available on NEC’s event page. It has a detailed taste chart and beans used in each blend, perhaps you could even recreate the charisma of your favorite masterpiece by following their recipe.