Gabriella infinita (1999–) is a hypermedia narrative by Colombian author Jaime Alejandro Rodríguez. The narrative is presented via a rich array of lexia, images, and audio files, and we are not provided with established markers such a contents list or page numbers which would normally guide the reader through the conventional print novel. Instead, links to the various lexia and sound files are hidden in the visuals, and it is only through exploring the interface and testing out possible entry routes that the reader/user pieces together the narrative.
A Lecturer at the Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá, Rodríguez is well-known for his theorisations on digital narrative and hypertext (see his bibliography). He is also arguably the leading hypertext author in Colombia and his Gabriella infinita, as well as his later Golpe de gracia (2006), have won him a series of awards and nominations, and put him at the forefront of e-lit in Colombia.
The plot of Gabriella infinita is clearly set in Colombia’s capital, Bogota, with references to immediately identifiable places within the city in several of the lexia. Similarly, the opening image which the reader sees before entering the narrative displays the landmarks of the Monserrate hill, and the Cerro de Guadalupe with its famous statue of La Virgen de Guadalupe appear behind the sky-scrapers of the Centro Internacional. Yet this is a futuristic and dystopian Bogotá, in which the cityscape is in a state of devastation and destruction.
Set in this identifiably Bogotano backdrop is the story of Gabriella, who searches for the missing Federico, and we follow her through the various lexia, images, and audio files as she attempts to piece together clues as to his disappearance.
Yet, more than just her story, what Rodríguez weaves for us is the story of our own encounter with hypermedia narrative. Gabriella’s sensations and experience, as she searches for Federico and tries to make sense of the scraps of evidence that she finds, stand for the experience of the reader of hypertext narratives. For instance, Gabriella’s perusal of Federico’s bookshelves as she attempts to make an order out of the apparent disorder in which the books are arranged is a clear metaphor for the work of the reader of hypertext narrative, constructing an order from the dispersed lexia. Or her examining of the loose sheets of newspaper strewn on the floor of Federico’s apartment, and finding that “al ordenarlas, le han revelado relaciones insospechadas” [‘when she put them together, they revealed unexpected connections to her’] is, again, an image of the reader of hypertext fiction creating his/her own order from the dispersed links, with the primacy on the reader, not the writer, to establish these ‘unexpected connections’.
But does Gabriella ever succeed in her quest? And do we, as reader-users of hypertext fiction, ever gain full control of the narrative we are navigating?