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Old 06-08-2009, 03:19 PM   #1
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The Novel of Next Century

This post is a teaser/introduction to JÓKAI Mór's (a.k.a. Maurus Jokai) "The Novel of Next Century".

Wikipedia writes of the book:

His jövő század regénye (The novel of the next century - 1872) is accounted an important early work of Science Fiction though the term did not yet exist at the time (see[1]). In spite of its romantic trappings, this monumental two-volume novel includes some acute observations and almost prophetic visions, such as the prediction of a revolution in Russia and the establishment of a totalitarian state there, or the arrival of aviation. Because it could be read as a satirical allegory on Leninism and Stalinism in the Soviet Union, the book was banned in Hungary in the decades of the Communist régime.
Though I do get the sense it has been translated to English before, I am able to find no presently available translation. I attach though my own (fairly rough and in places overly literal) translation of the author's Foreword which is itself remarkable for a book written/published in the late 1800s.

In a few places, not knowing which word is the better translation I use square brackets and pipes. e.g.: [ideas|ideals] should be read either as ideas or as ideals. In a couple of others, I put a short assistive note in braces. e.g.: {i.e.: mankind}. All else is a reasonably accurate, if insufficiently lyrical translation of the foreword.

I'd love to hear what people think (not of the translation, but of the content) and whether or not they would feel compelled to purchase the book if a quality English translation were to become available.

One final note: some parts of this text might give the impression that the author is a communist(-sympathizer) or a heavily religious man/fanatic. However the views expressed even in the foreword are rather complex and not reducible to such simple labels. In fact all forms of authorities probably had good reason to feel somewhat put in their place.

So, without further ado, here's is the 1872-1874 novel's at times naive, but at at others curiously liberal/modern foreword:



The Novel of Next Century

(1872 - 1874)


This work makes no demand to be considered one among the many so-called "state novels", like Thomas Moor's well known "Utopia" that attempts, through worthy fancies, the [development|bringing about] of mankind's state of artless perfection on a [barren|mere] island; Holberg's "Niels Klim's Underground Travels"; Swift's masterwork of "Gulliver's Travels" that draw a picture through satire of the travestied relations of familiar states; or Campanella's "Civitas Solis"; or Cabet's "Voyage en. Icarie" that was created primarily in the service of party ideologies; or Terrason's "Sethos" that was supposedly compiled in the tradition of Egyptian hieroglyphs; or Fénelon's "Telamach"; or the imaginative and mythical descriptions of the mysterious Kingdom of "Ophir", and the countries and islands of "Scydromedia", "Dimocala", "Ajaoja", "Nova Atlantis", and "La Basiliade de Bilpai"; or the satire of "Eldorado" that mocks the other ideal state novels.

Other novels are called to present a tale, born only of the imagination, in a way that convinces the reader that it could really have happened; this novel will present a historical event that has not "yet" happened, and will grapple with the difficult task, to present the facts and the characters, the future age's inner and outer world, in such a way so as to make the reader say: this might yet happen!

There will not be in this novel Utopian states, Icarian people; its scenes will not be yet to be discovered islands; the story, throughout, takes place in the known world, and develops from situations that exist today, from notions that impact the world today.

I summoned for the task understanding, faith, and imagination.

I studied to understand the historical world: the reasons and phases behind the evolution, development, dissolution, and rebirth of states; I came to admire and envy the civilization-spreading nation gians, and amidst this awe I also felt love, concern, and an inspiring thirst for life toward my own small and backward nation and homeland.

I followed the great [ideas|paradigms] {of the age/ages}, that strive to remake the world in a new mold, and their great struggles with opposing notions. I saw titanic battles amidst armed millions in the wake of these [ideas|paradigms]: for human rights in America, for spiritual freedom and national unity in Italy, for national revival in Poland, for religious superstition in East India, for European power-balance in Crimea, for pride in France, and for an abstract state-concept between Austria and Prussia, and then for a societal principle in Paris. These were battles that consumed millions and an ocean of blood, and their [ideas|paradigms] whether victorious or defeated, continue to live.

And I had to also discover amidst the great struggles, the separate battles of smaller groupings of human interests, in which many small interests continuously boil and chafe against one another, only occasionally calmed by a national catastrophe, but sometimes downright validated thereby: racism, national hatred and an instinct for self-preservation; the inability of political parties to find common ground, the open parliamentary fights, traditions and innovation, the insidious leagues; holy and not holy, and not holy only because of holy unions, on political, social, and religious grounds; Jesuitism, Internationale, Nihilism; among them the Mohamedan fatalism, which impacts world history through its immovability, and the individual interest that stalks beneath great struggles to personalize for the inheritors of royal aspirations: the families that sleep-walk amidst royal dreams, the adventurers that hunt for crowns, and other hunters who make sport against crowned heads.

Behold the building blocks of the eternal war.

And this eternal war demands [general|contiuous] armament. The whole male gender--from childhood unto old age--armed, and the weapons always changing, continuously perfected, surpassing one another with new advantages, the art of war raised to the level of mastery and science.

The continuous arms race binds terrible sums of money: in machines that provide no utility; in constructions that provide no benefit; and in human masses that do no work. The states' debts, on this account, grow to mythical sizes, and the greater they become, the heavier the taxes, the more difficult the life of the worker, the industrialist, and the land owner; while the [flighty-minded] entrepreneurs, the [money chasers] can all the more easily acquire easily-gotten wealth. The war wages on between capital and labour.

And the more easily money is accumulated at the top levels of society's hierarchy, the easier they collapse into society's boglands. The Kings, high priests, ministers, bankers, lords, generals, and people's representatives also have parasites, many of them in fact: men who can be bought, patented cheats, thieves of public property, mercenaries, flatterers, idle men, writers-for-hire, [gatherers], [compromisers|appeasers], transporters, sinecurists, stewards, [concessioners], campaigners, and thirsty, hungry masses of people. The flow of gold will be swallowed by sand, and it will become a swamp. And if the character of men is submerged by the flow of gold, what is woman to do? The people of Phaeax takes payment for all things, and gives all things for payment. Love, art, music, sculpting, painting, and literature all yield to serve the hedonist whose wealth was gained with ease. The war wages on between the moral foundations of life and societal decay.

And as family life grows looser, so will the old world's population grow, and the more people there are, the less bread there is. Slowly every forest is cut down, to plow the land left in its stead, every valley is dug up, to force it to yield its store of coal; but the gifts of nature are not endless, the way old tales reckon; the blackmailed earth will give way to year after year of poorer and poorer yield of crops and produce, the [sky] itself shall turn hostile due to the violent deforestation, and the price of coal shall in a hundred years grow fourfold. The man of the old world is hungry and cold. The war wages on between man and the earth.

And this shall end with the defeat of the former. The overpopulated old world will spill forth foam at its edges. And all that it expells, will hurry to the new world. Therein there is space enough still. The Jesuit and the philosopher, the lot of those who lost their crowns, and the exiled rebels; the aspiring industrialist, and the wandering fraudster, the martyrs of liberal thinking, and the charlatans, the inventors, and the believers of all folly, the German and Russian cosmopolitans, and the smaller ethnicities' unsatisfied members will find enough space for both clever and foolish ideas, for the founding of both praiseworthy and condemnable companies. And the overabundance of these elements will change America's present character. The legions of expatriates will demand influence over Europe's affairs. And that will be easy for North America. The perfection of transportation will bring the old world close to it. It will need no large army, for in its half of the world it shall have no neighbour all, once it absorbs Canada and Mexico as well; its financial sources are limitless, its lands are rich, and its income exceeds its expenses twenty-fold. It also has no responsibility toward anyone in the old world, not from interest, not from friendship, not from alliance, not from debt, not from linguistic kinship, not from religious brotherhood, not from national admiration, nor by its past or its future. It will take full advantage of its position too, and will freely press upon Europe with the whole of its influence. The war wages on between the old world and the new world.

And let us now add that a hundred years from now there will still be people -- many of them -- who love their homelands, who will strive to alleviate humanity's great ills, who ennoble peasant morality, who spread enlightenment, who create something from nothing by striving to raise manpower into god{like}power; the guard of the public good will continue to be "legion!", but in opposition to these shall stand another giant, whose name is Nihil, Nothingness, who believes in nothing, not in God, not in the homeland, not in the nation, not in an afterlife, not in the state, not in human laws, not in family, not in honour, not in poetry; those who deny the past and cares not for the future, those who have no other goal than today, no other ruler than "I", no other law than to do as he pleases.

The war wages on between "God" and "animal" -- both appearing in human form.

Is this not what must come to pass in the next hundred years?

This is no fantasy, no prophecy, this is knowledge! understanding! And does a faith not naturally follow this knowledge, that it cannot forever continue that way?

Upon this faith stands the work that I am writing. My novel has two parts, one is called "the eternal war", until it becomes impossible; the other is called "the eternal peace", once it becomes a necessity and is realised.

But, the whole things is built upon a hypothesis. Upon an invention, that will change the world.

I know, because of this, I will be declared a "madman". However I shall be in good company, with Fulton who in 1805 was called a "madman" by the Parisian Academy of Sciences, because he claimed that steam could power ships. Grey, on account of his notion of railroads, was called a "madman" in 1815 by the Edinburgh Review. S Stephenson, on account of his steam-train, was nearly committed to the madhouse by the members of the English parliament in 1825.

Therefore I believe in the realisation of an invention, that has been sought by so many from Daedalus to Coxwel and Lamountain, in search of the solution to the mystery of the sky, who entered its domain, but could not find what they sought. Somebody will find it one day.

And this will set the limit of the eternal war.

It will force disarmament onto millions prepared to genocide one another, sending cannons and guns back to the smeltery, to create machines of labour from them; the gunpowder will instead be used to avert natural disasters, the soldier along with his horse will be sent home to plow the land instead.

It will turn those demanding thrones into peaceful citizens.

It will put an end to the insanity of racism, and will show the brother in the former enemy. It will put an end to diplomatic scheming.

It will free the slaves, and will make voluntary service a sweet labour.

It will open new avenues for those who yearn for praise and glory; it will spread enlightenment to every part of the world, becoming victorious over blind faith and all its fake apostols.

It will put an end to taxing by the state, to customs duties, monopolies, and will still bring wealth to the governments.

It will bring correct ratios into commerce and monetary circulation, and will divide the income according to intelligence and talent, designating the place of the scientist, the poet, the artist and the {agricultural} day-worker, and will make each satisfied with his lot. It will put an end to mindless behavior and corruption.

It will place societal morals onto stable ground, and will resanctify the altars of family life, love, and ideals.

It will put an end to the death penalty and to jails; and will find for the enemies of civilized society punishment that will fix them and be a blessing unto the whole of humanity. It will correct the imbalance between the old world and the new world.

It will help make victorious the humanitarians, and will force the surrender of the enemies of humanity, some of whom wear masks and some of whom do not.

It will bring back the Siberian exiles to their rejuvenated homelands.

It will exert influence over the weather, and will penetrate the secrets of nature.

It will lighten the impact of epidemics, and will restore man's machinery of life to its ancient state of perfection.

It will dry out the Ganges and La Plata's morasses, terrible hotbeds of cholera and yellow fever, and will liberate three parts of the world from their ravaging plagues.

It will enhance technology with new materials, that will be useful to all, and which will be more noble than gold, but cheaper than iron.

It will take out of ocean water a billion tonne's worth of silver, and will put it into circulation.

It will have one continent's plentitude [exchanged|traded] with that of another.

It will drive extinct ravaging beasts in their jungles and grasslands.

It will take civilization amidst wild peoples, and will bring light to those of other colours, and will give opportunity to every ethnicity to rise gradually; it will turn every man human.

It will populate the great wastelands. It will guide rivers through the Sahara, and will populate the inlands of Africa and Australia, so that humanity's one-time cradle, that is a desert today, can become a paradise once more.

It will take away the ocean's fearsomeness, and will make shipwrecking and the loss of sent goods impossible.

It will put an end to vows of celibacy, and will return priests to family life.

It will give woman an honoured standing in society, it will consider children a treasure of the state and will care for them accordingly.

It will give existence only to a single party, whose motto shall be: patriotism through labour.

It will build churches only for one religion, whose dogma is: clear-headed humanitarianism.

It will lengthen the day for man, and shorten the work therein.

It will raise the word of honour as strong as law, and make conscience the first {or primal?} judge and arbiter.

It will ease traveling, and will make the whole of the earth known to man.

And it will help discover even the nook of land, where {other descendents of} the Magyars ancestors live, cut off form the outside world, and will make them into a kindred nation.

These are the creative [ideals|ideas] of my work.

If knowledge and imagination were as strong as my faith!

Because my faith is strong in that humanity is moved forward by great ideas in each age, which permits no falling back.

The classical age raised man higher through poetry. The Hebrew age by familiarizing man with moral laws. The teachings of Jesus brought salvation through the religion of love. But still remains the honour that raises man to the highest state of perfection -- and that {honour} is [knowledge|understanding].

The triumph of [knowledge|understanding] will be when the mortal who says of himself, "I am God!" puts down his crown before the mortal, who says, "I am Man!"

And then it is possible -- for there is no impossibility in the universe -- that the creator will even indulge the now perfect mankind by correcting the fault in the earth that is primary cause of weather irregularities, namely the tilt of the earth's axis.

It is with this that my novel shall end.


- Ahi
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