Jozef Banáš (1948) – winner of the Book of the Year 2008 Award for the novel The Zone of Enthusiasm, finalist of the international literature award “Johann Gottfried Seume” (Germany, 2011) with the novel The Zone of Enthusiasm – Jubelzone, holder of the 2009 Grand Prize of the Slovak PEN Centre for the novel Stop Dubček!, of the Golden Pen 2011 for the novel Stop Dubček! and the Platinum Pen 2011 for the novel Code 9. His rapid entry to Slovak literature in 2007 is unprecedented. All of his five books have become bestsellers – Idiots in Politics, The Zone of Enthusiasm, Stop Dubček!? Code 9 and Rat Season.
The making of the novel Code 9 closely relates to some mysterious circumstances, out of which the most remarkable was the author´s encounter with his deceased childhood sweetheart in form of the Goddess Kumari, who became one of the main protagonists of the story. The main character, Michal, travels through attractive destinations starting from the ancient Chinese Xi´an, continuing to the Ganden Monastery, the harsh border town Zhangmu, Nepalese Pashupatinath and Kathmandu, Indian Varanasi, Taj Mahal and Fatehpur Sikri, through Jerusalem to Vatican. In a gripping and adventurous story filled with facts which may literally shock the reader (killing of girls in China and India, the death of Belgian tourists in the Himalayas, the mysterious death of Pope John Paul II, money laundering of the Sicilian Mafia through the Vatican Banks etc.), Michal searches for harmony that has been disrupted and alarmingly tilts the scales to the side of evil.
As a result of loss of harmony, the whole system threatens to collapse. On his journey, Michal recognizes that one of the causes of this tragic imbalance, which continues to deepen (North vs. South, rich vs. poor), is the disharmony between men and women as well. He sees how miserable the position of women in political and social systems he travels through in reality is. Michal shows clearly that this state originates in religions (Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity) which the powerful clergy and politicians have separated from their natural, noble forms. They have turned the teachings of Buddha, Mohamed and Jesus upside down. Michal understands that the good rests upon bringing together and not putting apart.
From the forces of good, Michal receives the task to unite the mysterious diamond from the Golkonda valley, one half of which is placed in the Buddha statue in the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa and the other half in a mysterious tomb in Vatican. By fulfilling this task he not only symbolically units Buddha and Jesus, Buddhism and Christianity, but also the West and the East, the Man and the Woman and thus reestablishes balance and love. The task, however, is not easy; Michal must puzzle out and put together the Code 9 – symbolically expressed in a sign consisting of nine symbols of the main religions. Agents from the secret organization Global Power follow him with the aim to sabotage his mission.
The story resembles The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, offers, however, a much larger philosophic context. Characters like father John, Pope Joseph I., Dalai Lama, Lama Guyta, or Goddess Kumari render the book a deep ethic and moral aspect. Similarly to The Da Vinci Code, Code 9 (the title is derived from the highest number of the number system) has been denounced by representatives of the Catholic Church since the author lets one of the main characters, Jesus Christ, migrate to the East after being removed from the cross during his life time, and simultaneously lets Michal migrate to the West on a similar way in present time. Based on the gospels, Jozef Banáš uproots Christian dogmas – infant baptism, the death of Jesus on the cross and his resurrection, the alleged Islam´s hatred for Christianity etc. He compares the simple life of Jesus Christ with opulent lives of popes, thus arousing resentment amongst Christian dogmatists in Slovakia.
Feedback from readers and critics:
- We enthuse about Brown and Coelho while having both in Banáš. (M. Navrátil)
- The book is controversial and mainly Christian dogmatists will not voice any appreciation for it. (A. Hudáková)
- A wonderful and irresistible story. I have read it without a break. I have always thought that only women can write about love, but Banáš is an exception. His style reminds me of Dan Brown. (L. Lukáčová)
- The author draws us in a big story with a strong dose of mysticism. (R. Dvorový)
- I received the book as a Christmas present and read it within three days. An amazing and captivating story. This is a reading experience of a higher level! (I. Hantáková)
- I am pleasantly surprised, that such a book has been written by a Slovak author. If only one book from Slovak literature should make its way out into the world, let it be Code 9 then. (M. Čukan)
- Mr Banáš, with this book you are asking for the Nobel Prize. The historic aspects of the prophets, stories of Jesus, Buddha, Mohamed, Mary Magdalene, Essenes… are very convincing. And above all, it offers a point of view different from the one that unfortunately still prevails in Slovakia. I found an incredible amount of answers to long asked questions in this book. Concerning not only faith but harmony of man as such. The good of man, in which I strongly believe. (E. Kocúnová)
- Slovak fans of Dan Brown´s literature can finally enjoy a first Slovak novel in Dan-Brown-style. Banáš truly hits the nail on the head and his novel definitely will not remain unnoticed. (L. Glosová)
- Mr Banáš, your book is marvelous! Those devoting themselves to this topic have received a novel with a deep and brilliant story confirming their spiritual orientation. For those still in search, this book may become an excellent first stepping-stone on the path to light. Thank you for the openness and courage to write about themes that in no time will not need coding any more. (D. Hrčková)
Jozef Banáš: Code 9 (review by Jan Fojtík, Czech Republic)
Jozef Banáš is not completely new to Czech readers; within the last two years, three of his books have already been translated into our language. After The Zone of Enthusiasm and Stop Dubček!, however, we notice a theme shift which you probably would not expect from an author of political literature. Code 9 tells us about the quest for love and meaning of life.
I love books that grip your attention right from the first pages. Usually I do not enjoy gradual beginnings so typical of Scandinavian detective stories, for example (although it is recommended to get through it especially in the case of Scandinavian crime stories). Code 9 by Jozef Banáš belongs to those books where you know from the first page on that you have to read till the very end. Not only the end of the story is important. Right from the start, Code 9 fascinates due to the presence of thrilling mystery which you will even be dreaming about at night.
The deeper I get involved in the story the more I am rushed towards the final chapters. This novel offers a mixture of spirituality, travelling, detective story and further ingredients all well-balanced and combined. Jozef Banáš introduces many ideas that remain resonating in the reader for a long time.
It gives you such a feeling that when you close the book, put it on your night table, you constantly have to look at it. The magic image of the Czech cover only enforces this feeling.
The main character of the novel Code 9 is Michal – a famous musician whose life enters a mysterious woman. Michal is assigned a task and in the process of fulfilling it, he travels through nearly half of the world. Through this figure, the author of the book presents thoughts on religion and the different (while in many aspects equal) ways of perceiving faith. He reflects on the importance of male and female aspects of the world existing in mutual symbiosis, harmony. Code 9 reminds us of early books by Paolo Coelho with one main difference – Jozef Banáš does not offer guaranteed manuals for living. Jozef Banáš solely opens up controversial topics – and writes about them in a very attractive way.
Here in the Czech Republic, we miss one important part of the ether created around this book. In Catholic Slovakia, the novel has been much discussed. No wonder, as it overrides Catholic dogmas and writes about the necessity to open people´s eyes and relieve them from the “herd instinct” prevailing in Catholic Church. One may say that in many aspects the novel resembles rather Dan Brown´s Da Vinci Code than Paolo Coelho. Brown as well as Banáš in Code 9, breaks down the existing ideas and myths about the church and brings shocking information. We shall not speculate about its veracity and let us remain with the fact that we are holding a piece of prose in our hands. A story which has developed in the author´s mind.
Code 9, Ikar Bratislava, Slovakia, 2010