The Reception of H. G. Wells in Europe 9781472543264, 9781441112996

H.G. Wells was described by one of his European critics as a ‘seismograph of his age’. He is one of the founding fathers

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The Reception of H. G. Wells in Europe
 9781472543264, 9781441112996

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Series Editor’s Preface

The reception of British authors in Britain has in good part been studied; indeed, it forms our literary history. By contrast, the reception of British authors in Europe has not been examined in any systematic, long-term or large-scale way. It is the aim of this Series to initiate and forward the study of the reception of British authors in the rest of Europe as a whole, rather than as isolated national histories with a narrow national perspective. The perspectives of other nations greatly add to our understanding of individual contributors to that history. The history of the reception of British authors extends our knowledge of their capacity to stimulate and to call forth new responses, not only in their own disciplines but in wider fields and to diverse publics in a variety of historical circumstances. Often these responses provide quite unexpected and enriching insights into our own history, politics and culture. Individual works and personalities take on new dimensions and facets. They may also be subject to enlightening critiques. Our knowledge of British writers is simply incomplete and inadequate without these reception studies. By ‘authors’ we intend writers in any field whose works have been recognized as making a contribution to the intellectual and cultural history of our society. Thus the Series includes literary figures, such as Laurence Sterne, Virginia Woolf and James Joyce, philosophers such as Francis Bacon and David Hume, historians and political figures such as Edmund Burke, and scientists such as Charles Darwin and Isaac Newton, whose works have had a broad impact on thinking in every field. In some cases individual works of the same author have dealt with different subjects, each with virtually its own reception history; so Burke’s Reflections on the French Revolution (1790) was instantaneously translated and moulded thinking on the power struggles in the Europe of his own day; his youthful ‘Essay on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime’ exerted a powerful influence on aesthetic thought and the practice of writing and remains a seminal work for certain genres of fiction. Similarly, each of Laurence Sterne’s two major works of fiction, A Sentimental Journey and Tristram Shandy, has its own history of reception, giving rise to a whole line of literary movements, innovative progeny and concomitant critical theory in most European countries. Byron’s two major works, Childe Harold and Don Juan, came rather to stand for whole epochs of feeling in Europe, first the melancholic, inward post-Napoleonic Romanticism, then the bitter and disabused mocking tones of the failed Revolution of 1848, and each gave rise to new and diverse genres that in the hands of major poets marked the movements of Romantic

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Series Editor’s Preface

nationalism across the Continent. In the last decade of the nineteenth century H. G. Wells took off in his Time Machine and landed with the impact of his own Martian invasion, creating a bizarre new landscape that has only now become recognizable as the everyday world. His histories and his controversial and prescient political and scientific writings gave substantial backing to his inventive forays and created a wide readership in their own right. While it is generally recognized that the receptions of Byron and Scott in Europe were amongst the most extensive of British authors, it may be surprising to find that Ossian’s was at least as great; yet a minor or regional writer at home may be a major one abroad. H. G. Wells was a popular writer at home and abroad, and paradoxically this has blocked recognition of the quality of his innovation. The sheer extent of reception may not be a true index of its interest. The research project examines the ways in which selected authors have been translated, published, distributed, read, reviewed and discussed throughout Europe. In doing so, it throws light not only on specific strands of intellectual and cultural history but also on the processes involved in the dissemination of ideas and texts. The project brings to bear the theoretical and critical approaches that have characterized the growing fields of reader response theory and reception studies in the last quarter of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first century. These critical approaches have illuminated the activity of the reader in bringing the text to life and stressed the changing horizons of the reading public or community of which the reader is a part. The project also takes cognizance of the studies of the material history of the book that have begun to explore the production, publication and distribution of manuscripts and books. Increasingly, other media too are playing a role in these processes, and to the history of book illustration must be added lantern slides (as in the popular versions of both Scott’s and Dickens’s works), cinema (whose early impact and development is intertwined with the reception of Wells and the scientific romance, sci-fi and futuristic genres) and more recently television (as recounted in the Jane Austen volume). Wells’s writings have almost as extensive a history in images as in prose, startlingly new images in a new medium, imagining other worlds, both sinister and promising, built on new technologies. The Series as published by the Continuum International Publishing Group is open-ended and multi-volumed, each volume based on a particular author. The authors may be regarded according to their discipline, or looked at across disciplines within their period. Thus the reception of philosophers Bacon and Hume may be compared; or Hume may be considered as belonging to an eighteenth-century group that includes writers like Swift and Sterne, historians and political figures such as Gibbon and Burke. As the volumes accumulate they enrich each other and our awareness of the full context in which an individual author is received. The Swift volume shows that in many places Swift and Sterne were received at the same time, and viewed sometimes as a pair of witty ironists, and sometimes as opposites representing traditional satire on the one hand (Swift) and modern sentimentalism on the other (Sterne), and equally or diversely valued as a result. Swift at the end of the nineteenth century joins Wells in the intense political questioning that made utopias and dystopias an object of current hopes and fears. These chronological shifts, bringing different authors and different

Series Editor’s Preface

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works into view together, are common to the reception process, that so often displaces or delays them into an entirely new historical scene or set of circumstances. The kaleidoscope of reception displays and discovers new pairings and couplings, new milieux, new matches and (as Sterne, or Wells with a Darwinian inflection, might say) mismatches; and, of course, new valuations. In the case of Wells, the lapse of a century has brought his alien worlds into the centre of our consciousness and the outlying genre of science fiction into the centre of expressive potency in our time, as J. G. Ballard, one of Wells’s heirs, has pointed out. In period terms one may discern a Romantic group; a Victorian group; a finde-siècle and an early Modernist group. Period designations differ from discipline to discipline, and are shifting even within a discipline: Blake, who was a ‘PreRomantic’ poet a generation ago, is now considered a fully fledged Romantic, and Beckford is edging in that direction. Virginia Woolf may be regarded as a fin-de-siècle aesthete and stylist whose affinities are with Pater or as an epochmaking Modernist like Joyce. Terms referring to period and style often vary from country to country. What happens to a ‘Victorian’ author transplanted to ‘Wilhelmine’ Germany? Are the English Metaphysical poets to be regarded as ‘baroque’ in continental terms, or will that term continue to be borrowed in English only for music, art and to an extent architecture? It is most straightforward to classify them simply according to century, for the calendar is for the most part shared. But the various possible groupings will provide a context for reception and enrich our knowledge of each author. Division of each volume by country or by linguistic region is dictated by the historical development of Europe; each volume necessarily adopts a different selection of countries and regions, depending on period and on the specific reception of any given author. Countries or regions are treated either substantially, in several chapters or sections where this is warranted, for example, the French reception of Sterne, Woolf or Joyce (and nearly all English-language works until after the Second World War pass first through the medium of the French language and the prism of French thought), or on a moderate scale, or simply as a brief section. In some cases, where a rich reception is located that has not been reported or of which the critical community is not aware, more detailed coverage may be justified, for example, the reception of Woolf in the different linguistic communities of the Iberian peninsula. In general, comparative studies have neglected Spain in favour of France, Germany and Italy, and this imbalance needs to be righted. Wells carries us towards Central and Eastern Europe. Brevity does not indicate lack of interest. Where separate coverage of any particular country or region is not justified by the extent of the reception, relevant material is incorporated into the bibliography and the Timeline, as with the Russian reception of Pater. Thus an early translation may be noted, although there was subsequently a minimal response to the author or work, or a very long gap in the reception in that region. This kind of material will be fully described in the database (see below). It is, of course, always possible, and indeed to be hoped and expected, that further aspects of reception will later be uncovered, and the long-term research project forwarded, through this initial information. Reception studies often display an author’s intellectual and political impact and reveal effects abroad that are

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Series Editor’s Preface

unfamiliar to the author’s compatriots. Thus Byron, for example, had the power of carrying and incarnating liberal political thought to regimes and institutions to whom it was anathema; it is less well known that Sterne had the same effect, and that both were charged with erotically tinged subversion; and that Pater suggested a style of aesthetic sensibility in which sensation took precedence over moral values. Woolf came to be an icon for women writers in countries where there was little tradition of women’s writing. By the same token, the study of censorship, or, more broadly, impediments to dissemination, and of modes of circumventing control, becomes an important aspect of reception studies. In Bacon studies, the process of dissemination of his ideas through the private correspondence of organized circles was vital. Certain presses and publishers also play a role, and the study of modes of secret distribution under severe penalty is a particularly fascinating subject, whether in Catholic Europe or Soviet Russia. Much translation was carried out in prisons. Irony and Aesopian devices, and audience alertness to them, are highly developed under controlling regimes. A surprising number of authors live more dangerously abroad than at home. Translation itself may provide a mode of evading censure. There is probably no more complex and elaborated example in the annals of Europe of the use of translation to invent new movements, styles and political departures than that of Ossian, which became itself a form of ‘pseudo-translation’, that is works by writers masquerading under pseudonyms suggestive of ‘dangerous’ foreigners but providing safety for mere ‘translators’. ‘Ossian’ became the cover name for new initiatives. New electronic technology makes it possible to undertake reception studies on this scale. An extensive database stores information about editions, translations, accompanying critical prefaces or afterwords, illustrations, biographies and correspondence, early reviews, important essays and book-length studies of the authors, and comments, citations and imitations or reworkings, including satire and pastiche by other writers. Some, as often Pater, live in the echoes of their style as understood in another language. Some authors achieve the status of fictional characters in other writers’ works; in other cases, their characters do, like Sterne’s Uncle Toby, Trim and his own alter ego Yorick; or even their characters’ family members, as in the memorable novel by a major Hungarian contemporary writer chronicling the early career of the (Hungarian) grandfather of Joyce’s Leopold Bloom. The recording of full details of translations and translators is a particular concern, since often the names of translators are not supplied, or their identity is concealed behind pseudonyms or false attributions. The nature of the translation is often a determining factor in the reception of a work or an author. The database also records the character and location of rare works. Selected texts and passages are included, together with English translations. The database can be searched for a variety of further purposes, potentially yielding a more complete picture of the interactions of writers, translators, critics, publishers and public across Europe in different periods from the Renaissance to the present. Dr Elinor Shaffer, FBA Director, Research Project Reception of British Authors in Europe

Acknowledgements

The Research Project on the Reception of British Authors in Europe is happy to acknowledge the support of the British Academy, the Leverhulme Foundation, the Arts and Humanities Research Board, the Modern Humanities Research Association and the European Science Foundation. We are also greatly indebted to the School of Advanced Study, University of London, where the project has been based during the preparation of this volume; and to the Institute of Germanic Studies, the Institute of Romance Studies and the Institute of Historical Research, and their respective Directors, with whom we have held a series of seminars and colloquia on Reception Studies since 1998, and at which one of the contributors to this volume, Dr Roger Cockrell, presented an early version of his paper and benefited from discussion. We also acknowledge gratefully the advice and guidance of the Advisory Board of the Project, which has met regularly since the launch of the Project in the British Academy. We also gladly acknowledge the indispensable services of the staff of the Project during the preparation of this volume: Dr Wim Van Mierlo (Research Fellow); Benedetta Bassetti, Monica Signoretti and Lachlan Moyle (Administrative Assistants); and Dr Alessandra Tosi (MHRA Research Fellow). Our Technical Collaborator, Dr John Bovey (University of Kent) also receives our thanks. We also wish to acknowledge the School of Advanced Study, University of London, and Birkbeck College, London, where the first Colloquium on Wells, ‘The Writer and New Technologies in the Twentieth Century’, was held on 27 March 2001, with financial assistance from the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Stockholm, and we particularly thank Professor Bo Göranzon. We would also thank Dr Paul Barnaby (National Library of Scotland), who has helped with his usual erudition and resourcefulness to construct the Timeline for this volume, as for others in this Series. Dr R. H. Hibbitt (University of East Anglia) has given his meticulous care to the preparation of the French chapters and their bibliography. Dr Gabriella Hartvig has given us valuable help and advice on the Hungarian reception of Wells; Dr Boika Sokolova on the Bulgarian bibliography; and Adelaida Martin Valverde on the Catalan reception. The Volume Editors wish to thank the following individuals and institutions for their assistance in making this volume possible: Gene K. Rinkel, Curator of Special Collections, and his staff at the Rare Book and Special Collections Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, whose H. G. Wells Collection is an incomparable resource for the study of Wells’s European reception;

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Acknowledgements

Professor Elmar Schenkel and the Institute of English Studies, University of Leipzig, for hosting a conference on ‘The Reception of H. G. Wells in Europe’, 12–14 July 2002, which was attended by many of the contributors to this volume; the British Academy, and the Culture Ministry of the Free State of Saxony and the Friends of the University of Leipzig for financial assistance in respect of the Leipzig conference; the H. G. Wells Society; the British Library; Dr Bernard Loing and Professor Darko Suvin for their scholarly help and advice; and Christian Diepold and Heiko Zimmermann for assistance with the bibliography of Wells’s German reception. We are also grateful for the scholarly resources provided by the School of English and American Literature, University of Reading, and by Reading University Library. For permission to translate and publish a chapter from Joseph Altairac’s H. G. Wells: parcours d’une œuvre we would also like to thank his publisher, Encrage of Amiens. And, for the translation of Joseph Altairac’s chapter, we wish to thank Barbara Ghiringhelli and Richard Hibbitt.

Abbreviations

The following abbreviations of the titles of works by H. G. Wells are used in the Timeline, footnotes and Bibliography. A Anticipations AAA All Aboard for Ararat AD After Democracy AE1 Atlantic Edition of the Works of H. G. Wells, Volume 1 AE2 Atlantic Edition of the Works of H. G. Wells, Volume 2 AF The Anatomy of Frustration AMP The Autocracy of Mr Parham AOD Apropos of Dolores AT The Adventures of Tommy AV Ann Veronica B Bealby BB The Bulpington of Blup BDW Babes in the Darkling Wood BH Brynhild BRO The Brothers CAF Christina Alberta’s Father CB The Country of the Blind and Other Stories CHGW The Correspondence of H. G. Wells CP The Croquet Player CPM Certain Personal Matters CSWAP The Common Sense of War and Peace CSWP The Common Sense of World Peace D The Dream DF The Discovery of the Future DUR Democracy Under Revision DW The Door in the Wall EA Experiment in Autobiography ELW An Englishman Looks at the World Essay(s) [not a title – just a bibliography subsection] FA The Future in America FG Floor Games FHS The Fate of Homo Sapiens FLT First and Last Things FMM The First Men in the Moon

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Abbreviations

FOTG The Food of the Gods GIK God the Invisible King GNW Guide to the New World GS The Great State HA The Human Adventure HaT The Happy Turning HGWL H. G. Wells in Love HMP The History of Mr Polly HT The Holy Terror IDC In the Days of the Comet IDM The Island of Doctor Moreau IFY In the Fourth Year IM The Invisible Man JP Joan and Peter K Kipps KK The King Who Was a King LML Love and Mr Lewisham LW Little Wars M Marriage MBRI Mr Blettsworthy on Rampole Island MBST Mr Britling Sees It Through MET Mind at the End of Its Tether MLG Men Like Gods MM Mankind in the Making MU A Modern Utopia MW Meanwhile NA The New America NM The New Machiavelli NWFO New Worlds for Old NWO The New World Order OC The Open Conspiracy OH The Outline of History OHS The Outlook for Homo Sapiens Omnibus volume(s) [not a title – just a bibliography subsection] P Phoenix PF The Passionate Friends PSO The Plattner Story and Others RM The Research Magnificent ROM The Rights of Man RS Russia in the Shadows SA The Sleeper Awakes SB Star Begotten SBI The Stolen Bacillus and Other Incidents SC The Salvaging of Civilisation Selected essays [not a title – just a bibliography subsection] SGS The Story of a Great Schoolmaster Short stories [not a title – just a bibliography subsection] Short story collections [not a title – just a bibliography subsection]

Abbreviations SHW SL SOB SOL SPH SS SSS STC SWT TB TC TF TFS TM TMB TRR TSD TST UF WA WC WEW WF WHP WIC WIH WSF WSW WV WW WWC WWDL WWG WWHM WWP YCBTC YP 42–44

A Short History of the World The Sea Lady The Soul of a Bishop The Science of Life The Secret Places of the Heart Short Stories Selected Short Stories The Shape of Things to Come Stalin–Wells Talk Tono-Bungay Things to Come The Treasure in the Forest and Other Tales Two Film Stories The Time Machine This Misery of Boots Travels of a Republican Radical in Search of Hot Water Twelve Stories and a Dream Tales of Space and Time The Undying Fire The War in the Air The Wheels of Chance The War That Will End War War and the Future Washington and the Hope of Peace What Is Coming? The Wife of Sir Isaac Harman The World Set Free When the Sleeper Wakes The Wonderful Visit The War of the Worlds The World of William Clissold What Are We to Do With Our Lives? The Way the World Is Going The Work, Wealth and Happiness of Mankind The Way to World Peace You Can’t Be Too Careful A Year of Prophesying ’42 to ’44

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Timeline: European Reception of H. G. Wells

Year

Translations

Criticism

Other

1896

First French translation?: ‘The Sea Raiders’

France: Henry-D. Davray first comments on Wells’s new books in Mercure de France

First Wells volume published by Tauchnitz (Leipzig)

1897

1898

1899

1900

First Swedish translation: Short story collection France: Davray becomes Wells’s French translator Sweden: SBI First Danish translation: IDM

First Dutch translation: WW First Hungarian translation: WW First Norwegian translation: WW First Polish translations: TM, WW First Portuguese translation (Brazil): TM First Russian translation: Short story collection France: TM First Italian translation?: IM (approximate date)

Russia: I. Shklovsky on Wells holidays in Italy with George Gissing Wells in English intellectual life; K. Tolstoy’s article on Wells; summary of WW’s plot in Sem’ya France: Rachilde reviews TM Russia: K. Medvedsky’s article on WW; Yu. Veselovsky’s review of WSW

France: T. de Wyzewa compares Wells to Dickens

Wells holidays in France, visits Paris Exposition

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Timeline

Year

Translations

Criticism

1900 (cont.)

France: WW

Russia: P. Morozov on IDM

1901

1902

1903

Hungary: TM, WSW (approximate date for latter) First Czech translation: IDM Austria/Germany: WW France: FMM, IDM, IM, short stories Hungary: IDM Italy: WW Norway: IM Poland: IM Russia: TM, Collected works First Portuguese translations (Portugal): FMM, ‘A Story of the Stone Age’ First Spanish translation: WW France: Short stories Hungary: IM Italy: TM Poland: WSW Russia: A First Finnish translation: ‘The Star’

Bohemia (Czech): WW

1904

France: LML, WV Italy: DF Portugal: FMM, ‘A Story of the Days to Come’ France: A, DF, FOTG, WSW

Germany: FOTG, IDM, TM Italy: LML

Other

Wells holidays in Italy and Switzerland

France: Méliès, Le Voyage dans la lune (film)

France: Jules Verne speaks about Wells

Spain (Catalan): Nicolau Serrafina’s essay on Wells

France: ‘Frank Blunt’ attacks Wells’s style; Marcel Réja, ‘H. G. Wells et le merveilleux scientifique’ in Mercure de France

Wells holidays in Switzerland; rushes to George Gissing’s deathbed in France in December

Timeline Year

Translations

1904 (cont.)

Poland: A Russia: FOTG, IDM Spain: WV Bohemia (Czech): IM, TM Denmark: FOTG Germany: A, FMM Italy: 2 collections of short stories Poland: FMM Portugal: IM Russia: FMM, MU ‘A Story of the Stone Age’ Spain: A, FMM, FOTG, IM, LML, MM (approximate date), WC, WSW France: SL Finland (Swedish): S. Frosterus, H. G. Wells Germany: WSW France: Wyzewa calls IDC a ‘sad disappointment’ Italy: IDC Russia: S. Rapoport on A Modern Utopia Netherlands: FOTG, IDC, IM, LML, TSD, TST Spain: IDM (approximate date) Sweden: WW Finland: FMM, SBI, Russia: I. Shklovsky on WSW, 3 collections of In the Days of the Comet short stories France: MU, short stories Italy: WSW Netherlands: A, SL Portugal: FOTG Sweden: SL Bohemia (Czech): Russia: V. Tan on Wells FMM Finland (Swedish): WSW France: WC Germany: IDC Italy: SL, WV Netherlands: WA Spain: FA, IDC, K (approximate date)

1905

1906

1907

1908

Criticism

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Other

Wells meets Gorky in New York

Wells holidays in Switzerland

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Timeline

Year

Translations

1909

Bohemia (Czech): WA Hungary: H. Ignotus on Wells and Fabianism France: TSD, WA Russia: N. Abramovich on Wells; V. Tan’s biographical profile of Wells Germany: WA Hungary: WA Italy: WA Russia: IDC, IM, SBI, SL, WA, WSW, New collected works, short stories Finland: WA France: Firmin Roz on Wells in Revue des Deux Mondes France: IDC Russia: I. Shklovsky on HMP Italy: FMM Germany: SBI Hungary: NWFO, ‘The Stolen Bacillus’ Spain: TB, WA (approximate dates) Sweden: AV, NWFO First Estonian France: R. Séguy on translation: MM Wells’s thought in Mercure de France France: AV, HMP, short stories Germany: FA, IM, MU Denmark: WW Sweden: TB Estonia: IM Russia: M. Braginsky on Wells and socialism Finland: Short stories France: GS, Selected essays Hungary: SL Italy: AV Norway: NWFO Poland: HMP First Serbo-Croat Russia: V. Nabokov on translation (Croatia): his conversations with IM Wells Estonia: WA France: CB Italy: PF Sweden: IM

1910

1911

1912 1913

1914

Criticism

Other Wells in France with Amber Reeves France: A. Cappellani, The Invisible Thief (film)

Wells and family holiday in Germany

Wells and family holiday in Switzerland and France

France: Joë Hamman, L’Ile d’épouvante (film)

Wells’s first visit to Russia; visits St Petersburg, Moscow

Timeline xxvii Year

Translations

Criticism

1915

Denmark: IM, WEW

Russia: Ya. Perel’man on The First Men in the Moon

1916

Italy: HMP Norway: A Russia: WEW, WSF Sweden: TMB Denmark: MBST

1917

1918

1919

France: B, WEW Italy: WIC Norway: Short stories Russia: B Sweden: WV Denmark: GIK, WIC Finland: TM France: GIK, MBST, WF, WIC Italy: WF Russia: WIC, New collected works Sweden: GIK, MBST Switzerland (German): MBST First Icelandic translation: CB

Denmark: M, NWFO Finland: MBST France: IFY Hungary: FOTG, WC Italy: IFY Norway: FMM, IFY Russia: MBST, New collected works, short stories Sweden: B, IFY, NM, SOB, WSF Czechoslovakia (Czech): WSF Denmark/Norway: GS France: PF Italy: SOB Portugal: WIC Spain: B, CB Sweden: FA, IDM, UF

France: Jean de la Hire, L’Europe future (response to WEW)

Other

Wells tours war fronts in France and Italy for WF

France: E. Guyot, H. G. Wells, a member of Wells Enemy Propaganda Committee, writes official memorandum on propaganda against Germany

Russia: Gorky’s letter to Wells published

xxviii Timeline Year

Translations

Criticism

Other

1920

Estonia: IDC

Russia: Zamyatin on Wells

Second visit to Russia, meets Lenin; visits Czechoslovakia, meets Edvard Benesˇ and President Masaryk Russia: Zamyatin, We

France: M. Bloch on Wells as historian Germany: H. Richter on Wells in Anglia Russia: Zamyatin, Herbert Wells

Hungary: F. Karinthy, Capillaria

Russia: Zamyatin lectures on Wells

Wells lectures in Madrid

1921

1922

1923

Finland: IDM France: TMB, UF Hungary: FMM, PF, WEW Spain: RS Sweden: M, WC First Bulgarian translation: RS First Ukrainian translation: WW Czechoslovakia (Czech): RS Denmark: AV France: RS Hungary: NM, WIC Norway: RS Poland: JP Spain: MU, SC Czechoslovakia (Czech): ELW, LML, MU, TMB Finland: IM

France: JP, K, TF Germany: RS, SC, WHP Hungary: OH (extract), SC, WSF Iceland: TM (through 1924), ‘In the Abyss’ Italy: A, FOTG Norway: SPH Russia: RS, UF, WV First Slovak Russia: Leon Trotsky’s translation: Short story attack on Wells collection

First Slovenian translation: IM Croatia: FMM, WW

Italy: Marinetti, Gli Indomabili

Wells visits Czechoslovakia, meets President Masaryk. Count CoudenhoveKalergi founds PanEuropean Union Russia: A. N. Tolstoy, Aelita

Timeline Year

Translations

1923 (cont.)

Estonia: ‘Jimmy Goggles, the God’ Finland: OH (through 1924) France: WHP Germany: OH, SPH, ‘A Story of the Stone Age’ Hungary: M, LML, OH Russia: D, FG, LML, MLG, SC, SPH, WC Sweden: OH, TM Spain (Catalan): C. A. First Catalan translation (Spain): Jordana, ‘Les novel·las de ‘The Country of the Wells’ Blind’

1924

1925

Criticism

First Lithuanian Russia: Zamyatin, translation: WW ‘Gerbert Uells’ Estonia: MLG France: NM, SPH Italy: IM Norway: TB Poland: SHW Russia: HMP, K, PF, SHW, SOB, New collected works (through 1926) Sweden: SGS Austria: FG France: G. A. Connes, Etude sur la pensée de Wells Czechoslovakia (Czech): K, TB Finland: NWFO France: OH, SGS Germany: M Hungary: B, MLG, TB, D (approximate date) Italy: IDM Lithuania: OH (through 1935) Norway: NM Spain: OH, UF Spain (Catalan): OH (extracts; through 1926), TMB Sweden: Short stories

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Other

Wells in Portugal; attends League of Nations assembly in Geneva; takes house in France with Odette Keun; meets Karel Cˇapek ˙. Poland: Anton C Słonimski, Time Torpedo

Wells meets Count Coudenhove-Kalergi Russia: Bulgakov, The Heart of a Dog

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Timeline

Year

Translations

Criticism

1926

Czechoslovakia (Czech): MLG, OH

France: Connes, A Germany: H. Sörgel, Dictionary of the Characters Atlantropa project and Scenes in the Novels, Romances and Short Stories of H. G. Wells Hungary: Tivadar Szinnai, H. G. Wells

Finland: CAF, D

1927

France: M, MLG, ‘The Pearl of Love’ Germany: SHW Hungary: AV, IDC, K, SPH Italy: K Norway: CAF Russia: CAF Spain: D, JP, MLG, SHW, SL, TM Sweden: D First Yiddish translation (Poland): SHW

France: D, RM

1928

Germany/Austria: D, MLG, WWC Austria: Paul Zsolnay begins publishing Collected Works Hungary: CAF, CB, JP, MBST, MW, UF, WWC; SHW (approximate date) Norway: OH Russia: ‘The Cone’ Spain: SOB (approximate date), SPH, TSD, WHP, WIH, WSF, WWC (approximate date) Sweden: WWC (through 1928) Germany: B, OC, SGS Hungary: HMP, KK, SOB Lithuania: FMM

Hungary: A. Szerb, ‘The World of H. G. Wells’

Other

Wells lectures on ‘Democracy under Revision’ at Sorbonne, Paris; is banned from Italy after publication of his anti-Fascist novel MW Germany: Fritz Lang, Metropolis (film)

Timeline Year

Translations

1928 (cont.)

Norway: WWC Poland: MLG Russia: MW, WWC Spain (Catalan): ‘The Pearl of Love’ Spain: CAF, NM, RM (approximate date), SGS Sweden: CAF First Esperanto translation (Great Britain): WSW

1929

Estonia: CB, FMM

1930

1931

France: MBRI, OC, TB Germany: CAF, MBRI Hungary: DUR, MBRI, OC Poland: IDM Russia: MBRI, Collected fantasy novels (through 1931) Spain: KK, MBRI, MW, OC, WWG (approximate dates for last four) Spain (Catalan): IM Denmark: SHW Estonia: Short stories France: AMP Germany: MW, Short stories Hungary: SOL Italy: SHW Netherlands: KK Poland (Yiddish): OH Russia: Collected fantasy novels and stories Spain: M, SOL Spain (Catalan): LML Croatia: SHW Czechoslovakia (Czech): SHW, SOL Germany: AMP Italy: Short stories, WWC

Criticism

xxxi

Other

Netherlands: J. Bouten, Wells lectures on ‘The H. G. Wells en zijn roeping Common Sense of World Peace’ at Reichstag, Berlin Russia: Anatoly Germany: Fritz Lang, Lunacharsky, Frau im Mond (film) introduction to Wells’s works

Germany: Photographic supplement to OH

xxxii Timeline Year

Translations

1931 (cont.)

Poland: B Slovakia: FMM Spain: AMP Sweden: LML France: Short stories

1932

1933

Criticism

Wells lectures in Madrid, Barcelona

Germany: WWHM Netherlands/Belgium: SOL (through 1933) Serbia: OH Czechoslovakia (Czech): WWHM

Wells becomes international president of PEN, attends Ragusa conference; meets Zsolnay in Vienna Hungary: Babits, Elza pilóta

Estonia: OH, WW

1934

France: AD Hungary: STC Slovakia: WW First Irish translation: WW Hungary: BB

1935

Italy: JP, RM Lithuania: IM Netherlands/Belgium: WWHM Portugal: WW Slovenia: WW Sweden: BB First Romanian translation: IM

Croatia: SWT

Czechoslovakia (Czech): SWT France: BB Hungary: EA Iceland: IM Norway: SOL (through 1937)

Other

Germany: O. Barber, H. G. Wells’ Verhältnis zum Darwinismus Russia: Karl Radek’s attack on Wells at Soviet Writers’ Congress

Third visit to Russia, meets Stalin; visits Estonia, Norway

Germany: H. Mattick, H. G. Wells als Sozialreformer; Ernst Toller attacks Wells’s views on Soviet Russia Switzerland: U. Sonnemann, Der soziale Gedanke im Werk von Herbert George Wells

Wells attends PEN congress, Barcelona

Timeline xxxiii Year

Translations

1935 (cont.)

Russia: SWT Spain (Catalan): SWT, Short stories Sweden: EA (through 1936), SOL First Latvian Hungary: F. Karinthy, translation: IM T. Szinnai and G. Kovács, Az ezerarcú író. B. Nánay, Wells, aki tanít Czechoslovakia Russia: Yu. Olesha on (Czech): HMP IM Estonia: LML Finland: SOL (through 1939) France: EA Hungary: ‘The Country of the Blind’ Portugal: TC, Short stories Spain: SWT (approximate date) Sweden: ‘Keeping the Peace’, TC Denmark: OH, SOL Germany: W. Simon, (both through 1938) Die englische Utopia im Lichte der Entwicklingslehre Estonia: SHW Russia: Yu. Olesha on (through 1938) Wells Great Britain (Esperanto): TM Russia: MBRI, TC Slovenia: OH France: BRO, CP

1936

1937

1938

Criticism

Iceland: SHW

1939

Ireland: FMM Poland: EA Russia: CP, TC, ‘Aepyornis Island’ Sweden: BRO, CP France: CAF, SB Norway: AOD Serbia: Short stories Sweden: BH, SB

Ireland: Picture Post banned for serializing FHS Spain: KK banned Russia: V. Shklovsky and A. Ivich, ‘Uells i Vern’

Other

Wells signs anti-Franco manifesto at start of Spanish Civil War

Wells lectures on world encyclopaedia in Paris

Wells attends PEN congress, Prague, meets President Benesˇ; Paul Zsolnay forced to flee to London

Wells in Stockholm for aborted PEN congress

xxxiv Timeline Year

Translations

Criticism

Other

1940

Spain/Argentina: NWO

Ireland: A. O’Rahilly attacks Wells’s view of Catholicism

Switzerland (German): HT

Spain: SHW and other works banned

1940–44: The Rights of Man translated into several European languages, dropped into occupied Europe by Royal Air Force; Count CoudenhoveKalergi, Europe Must Unite

1941

1942 1943

Denmark: D Netherlands: Selected stories Spain: ‘Pollock and the Porroh Man’ Denmark: BRO Norway: BRO Spain/Argentina: EA, YCBTC

1944

Russia: NM

1945

Denmark: CP Hungary: AOD Portugal: K Finland: K

1946

1947

1948

France: AOD, BH, MET, YCBTC Spain: CP Spain/Argentina: WWHM Switzerland (German): MET France: AAA, BDW, OHS Hungary: FHS, YCBTC Italy: CP Netherlands/Belgium: HMP Portugal: Short stories Spain/Argentina: BB Czechoslovakia (Czech): MET Slovakia: IDM Spain/Argentina: AOD

Great Britain: A. Pragier, H. G. Wells o s´wiecie i o Polsce Portugal: J. V. Claro, Uma acusação contra a Igreja Católica (response to CA)

Russia: First doctoral dissertation on Wells (I. Eber) Spain: MLG banned by censors

Germany: H.-J. Lang, Herbert George Wells

Austria: E. Friedell, Die Reise mit der Zeitmaschine

Timeline xxxv Year

Translations

1949

Croatia: ‘A Story of the Stone Age’ Poland: K Serbia: WW Slovakia: SWT Slovenia: Short stories Bosnia: IDM, Short France: A. Vallentin, stories H. G. Wells (English translation: 1950) Croatia: MLG Netherlands: OH Sweden: CB, FMM, FOTG First Macedonian translation: ‘The Man Who Could Work Miracles’ Yugoslavia (Romanian): WW Spain: Complete fantastic fiction (through 1954) Spain/Argentina: STC First Greek France: J.-J. Bridenne translation: IM on Wells and Verne Greece: OH Italy: Short stories Slovenia: FOTG Poland: TB Portugal: OH, Short stories Serbia: NWFO (approximate date), TB Slovakia: IM Slovenia: MLG Ukraine: WW Portugal: Short stories Russia: YCBTC Denmark: AT Norway: AT First Albanian translation: IM First Moldovan translation: IM Hungary: SBI Netherlands: TM and selected stories Romania: Short stories Serbia: IM

1950 1951 1952

1953

1954 1955 1956

1957 1958 1959

Criticism

Other

xxxvi Timeline Year

Translations

1959 (cont.)

Slovakia: HMP Slovenia: FMM Sweden: AT Finland: AT Sweden: HMP Bosnia: FMM, IM Macedonia: IM Poland: RS Serbia: SBI Romania: FOTG, MBRI, MLG, TM Bulgaria: MBRI

1960 1961

1962 1963

Latvia: IDM, TM

1964

1965 1966

1967 1968

1969

Criticism

Norway: I. Raknem, H. G. Wells and his Critics Germany (West): L. Russia: A. and B. Borinski, Meister des Strugatsky, Hard To Be a modernen englischen God Romans Russia: Julius Kagarlitsky, Gerbert Uells: ocherk zhizni i tvorchestva (English translation: 1966)

Romania: FMM, WSW Russia: AMP Bulgaria: IM, WW Russia: New collected works Slovenia: TM First Georgian translation: IM Romania: MLG Estonia: Short stories

Other

France: K. Steiner, Le Disque rayé

Russia: Levidova and Parchevskaya’s bibliography of Wells in Russian

Italy: Complete fiction Macedonia: ‘A Story of the Stone Age’ Serbia: K Spain: TMB Macedonia: IM Romania: TB First Faroese translation: AT Denmark: FMM Sweden: K Croatia: CB, TM Hungary: E. Róna, H. G. Wells. Greece: FMM, TM Italy: B. Sabatini, H. G. Wells, un pioniere della fantascienza

Russia: A. and B. Strugatsky, The Second Invasion from Mars

Timeline xxxvii Year

Translations

1969 (cont.)

Switzerland/ Germany (West): Short stories Ukraine: MBRI Czechoslovakia (Czech): Short stories Latvia: WW, WSW Moldova: WW Bulgaria: Short stories

1970

1971

Greece: SHW

1972 1973

Romania: B Greece: WW

1974

Norway: TM

1975

1976

Denmark: TM

1977

Germany (West): SWT Latvia: FMM, FOTG Netherlands: ‘Sir Basil Zaharoff’, from WWHM Romania: IDC Switzerland/Germany (West): Short stories Lithuania: IDM, TM

1978

Georgia: RS

Criticism

Other

France: J.-P. Vernier, H. G. Wells et son temps Germany (West): H. G. Hönig, Studien zur englischen Short Story am Ende des 19. Jahrhunderts; B. Schultze, H. G. Wells und der Erste Weltkrieg Russia: I. Maisky, Iz vospominanii o Bernarde Shou i Gerberte Wellse Poland: Stanislaw Lem, afterword to WW Austria: W. Schepelmann, Die englische Utopie im Ursprung: von BulwerLytton bis H. G. Wells Poland: J. K. Palczewski, Utopista bez złudzen´: Herbert George Wells

Germany (West): H. Jansing, ‘Die Darstellung und Konzeption von Naturwissenschaft und Technik in H. G. Wells’ “scientific romances” ’

Poland: Film of WW shelved after martial law imposed

xxxviii Timeline Year

Translations

Criticism

1979

First Azerbaijani translation: IM

Germany (West): K. Ludwig Pfeiffer, Wissenschaft als Sujet im modernen englischen Roman

1980

1981 1982

Austria/Germany (West): Short stories Finland: WW First Basque translation (Spain): IM

Spain (Catalan): IDM 1983

1986

Russia: A. Zakharov, The Invisible Man (film) Germany (West): W. Faulstich, Medienästhetik und Mediengeschichte: mit einer Fallstudie zu ‘WW’ von H. G. Wells Italy: A. Monti, Invito alla lettura di H. G. Wells

Austria/Germany (West): SB Germany (West): ‘The Door in the Wall’, CB

1984 1985

Germany (West): W. Erzgräber, Utopie und Anti-Utopie in der englischen Literatur: Morus, Morris, Wells, Huxley, Orwell

Austria/Germany (West): Short stories Bulgaria: 2 collections of short stories Netherlands: IDM, Selected stories Austria/Germany (West): TB Austria/Germany (West): K, UF, WV, Short stories

France: B. Loing, H. G. Wells à l’œuvre Austria/Germany (West): WSF Spain: HGWL

Other

France: Wells and Rosny special issue, Europe

Spain (Catalan): WW Italy: Carlo Pagetti’s I Marziani alla corte della Regina Vittoria, a study of Wells’s science fiction

Timeline xxxix Year

Translations

Criticism

1987

Slovakia: TB

Poland: A. Kowalska, Od utopii do antyutopii

1988 1989 1990

1991 1992 1993 1994 1995

1996

1997

1998

Slovenia: SB Spain (Catalan): FMM Sweden: ‘A Story of the Days to Come’ Portugal: IDM Spain (Catalan): TM Ukraine: Short stories Macedonia: WW Italy: MU Macedonia: TM

Other

Germany: Wim Wenders, Until the End of the World (film)

Portugal: TM Serbia: IDM First Gallegan translation (Spain): IM Spain (Basque): WW Bulgaria: FOTG, IDM Germany: K. E. Aust, Der Skandal um ‘Ann Veronica’ First Bable translation (Spain): TM Germany: HMP Finland: Short stories Poland: FOTG Estonia: IDM, TM Italy: F. Porta, La scienza come favola: saggio sui scientific romances di H. G. Wells Belgium (French): WSF Serbia: CB France: Special Wells number of Cahiers Victoriens et Edouardiens Italy: N. Vallorani, Utopia di mezzo: strategie compositive in When the Sleeper Wakes Romania: I. Hobana, Un englez nelinist: H. G. Wells si universul SF Greece: CB Moldova: TM Spain (Catalan): ‘The Door in the Wall’ Sweden: Short stories France: Joseph Altairac, France: Cèdric H. G. Wells Klapisch, Peut-Etre (film)

xl

Timeline

Year

Translations

1999

Finland: UF Russia: HGWL (selections)

2000

2001

Croatia: IDM

2002

Estonia: Short stories Spain (Gallegan): TM Spain: AV Slovakia: TM Portugal: ‘A Dream of Armageddon’

2003 2004

Criticism

Other

Denmark: R. Engelhardt, I. Hejlskov, and K. Mørk, Kloner og stjernekrig: science fiction fra H. G. Wells til Svend Age Madsen Germany: E. Schenkel, H. G. Wells: der Prophet im Labyrinth

This Timeline has been prepared from bibliographical material provided by the contributors to the volume and from the following bibliographical, biographical and critical sources: British Library Catalogue; National Union Catalog; UNESCO’s Index Translationum; the national library and/or national union catalogues of Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Macedonia, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain (and Catalonia) and Sweden; vol. 11 of the Catalog of the Rare Book Room, University Library, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 11 vols (Boston: Hall, 1972); J. R. Hammond, An H. G. Wells Chronology (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1999); I. M. Levidova and B. M. Parchevskaya, Gerbert Dzhordzh Uells. Bibliografiya russkikh perevodov I kriticheskoi literatury na russkom yazyke, 1898–1965 (Moscow: Kniga, 1966); Patrick Parrinder (ed.), H. G. Wells: The Critical Heritage (London: Routledge, 1972); and David C. Smith (ed.), The Correspondence of H. G. Wells, 4 vols (London: Pickering & Chatto, 1998).

Introduction: An Outline of Wells’s Reception in Europe Patrick Parrinder

As he neared the age of sixty, Herbert George Wells (1866–1946) set himself the task of rereading all his earlier books as he prepared the standard English collected edition of his works. There was, he modestly concluded, ‘something said [. . .] that was not said before, and something shaped that was not shaped before’ in his collected writings (1924, xx). He preferred to use the term ‘writings’ rather than ‘works’ for his literary output, because, as he said, it was ‘so miscellaneous and uneven’ (1924, ix). This is at once the difficulty and the fascination of investigating his European reception. Moreover, Wells, as the Hungarian writer Lajos Pál Bíró remarked, was more than merely a novelist. He was a ‘seismograph of his age’, whose writings constitute a kind of museum or encyclopaedia of the early twentieth century (1942, 215). We may divide these writings (as Joseph Altairac does in Chapter 1) into scientific romances, social novels and ‘social prophecy’ or essays in futurology, but it is necessary to add his series of universal textbooks beginning with The Outline of History (1920), his film scripts and contributions to the cinema, his utopian writings and his forays into intellectual controversy and political journalism, to go no further. The reactions to these different facets of his work varied considerably in the different political regions and language-areas of the Europe of his day, while the response to his science fiction (as we would now call his ‘scientific romances’) was almost unanimous throughout the industrialized world. Books like The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds and The Invisible Man are still current as popular classics and are taught on school and university syllabuses; at the same time, much of Wells’s large non-science fictional output is now known only to specialists. To examine the whole of Wells’s European reception in depth in a single volume would be an impossible task. The present book emphasizes his impact in the ‘great power’ states of France, Russia and Germany and in the Central European nations of Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland, with additional chapters devoted to Italy, the Iberian countries and Ireland. The period covered in greatest detail is that between the two world wars when Wells’s intellectual, political and literary impact was at its height. During this time, he himself could easily be regarded as a European rather than merely an English writer. He travelled widely, and gave public lectures in the major European capitals; he was

2

The Reception of H. G. Wells in Europe

elected President of International PEN (Poets, Essayists, Novelists); he wrote on European political affairs, and published his conversations with Lenin and Stalin; he built a house in the Alpes-Maritimes and wrote a number of his books there; and his works were banned and, in some cases, publicly burned, in Nazi Germany and elsewhere. He exercised a direct literary influence on numerous European writers, and his existence as a precursor did much to shape the literary careers of novelists such as Yevgeny Zamyatin and Karel Cˇapek. As the Timeline indicates, the geographical spread of Wells’s reception in Europe was, and is, wider than it has proved possible to consider in detail in this volume. In 1935 he became aware of an apparently unauthorized Icelandic translation of The Invisible Man; sixty years later, new scholarly work was being published on Wells in Romania and Turkey (Hobana 1996; Ege 1995, 99–121). Thanks to the riches of the Wells Collection at the University of Illinois, researchers can now study his business correspondence with at least seventy European publishers, translators and journals. His personal library, also preserved at the University of Illinois, includes translations of his writings into nineteen European languages, including Finnish, Irish, Norwegian and Serbian. There are fifty-three titles in French, forty-seven in Spanish and thirty-two in German. Biographies, critical monographs and academic theses devoted to his work appeared during his lifetime in Dutch, French, German, Hungarian, Polish and doubtless other languages. Perhaps more impressive than these statistics, however, is the evidence of Wells’s impact on so many of the twentiethcentury’s major European writers. In addition to Zamyatin and Cˇapek, those mentioned or discussed in the present volume include André Gide, Paul Valéry, F. T. Marinetti, Maxim Gorky, Mikhail Bulgakov, Frigyes Karinthy and Stanisław Lem. Since the Spanish-language publishing area extends across the South Atlantic, perhaps we may add Jorge Luis Borges, who wrote in a 1946 obituary article that ‘I gratefully profess almost all of Wells’s doctrines, although I deplore his inserting them into his narratives. [. . .] Of the vast and diversified library he has left us, nothing has pleased me more than his narration of some atrocious miracles [. . .]. They were the first books that I read; perhaps they will be the last’ (1961, 127–8).1 At the time of Wells’s death, writers from all over Europe might have echoed these words. Collected and uniform editions The Atlantic Edition of the Works of H. G. Wells, the title of his standard collected English edition, suggests that Wells was never content to be considered as merely a British writer. He saw himself first and foremost as a cosmopolite, a prophet of globalization and world government who wrote in the General

1

‘agradezco y profeso casi todas las doctrinas de Wells, pero deploro que éste las intercalara en sus narraciones. [. . .] De la vasta y diversa biblioteca que nos dejó, nada me gusta más que su narración de algunos milagros atroces [. . .] Son los primeros libros que yo leí; tal vez serán los últimos’.

Introduction

3

Introduction to the Atlantic Edition that a single planetary community was ‘swiftly and steadily replacing the practically separate national and racial communities of the past’ (1924, xvii). The genre of science fiction was particularly calculated to exert a cosmopolitan appeal, since, like the new technology and new inventions that it described, it showed little respect for national boundaries. Wells was not, indeed, the first internationally famous writer of science fiction, since the first of Jules Verne’s Voyages extraordinaires dates from more than thirty years before The Time Machine. As late nineteenth-century writers, Verne and Wells were uniquely fortunate in that theirs was an age of global mass communications (beginning, perhaps, with the invention of the telegraph) in which the printed word had yet to be challenged by radio, television and the cinema. Both Verne and Wells benefited greatly from the international regulation of the book trade, which began with the Berne Convention of 1885. Some countries were slow to sign up to the Convention, but from a very early stage it offered legal protection of authorial copyright throughout Western and most of Central Europe. Wells, a highly commercial author whose first book was published in 1893, was able from the start of his career to profit from the translations of his works and to exert control over them. The Atlantic Edition of 1924–27 was a limited edition of twenty-eight volumes, printed in the United States and published simultaneously in London and New York. Several other collected editions of Wells’s writings were published in England during his lifetime, including sets given away as part of the newspaper ‘circulation wars’ of the 1930s (Hammond 1977, 161–66). Much earlier, however, there had been uniform, multi-volume editions of his writings in translation. In the relatively unregulated turn-of-the-century Russian market, for example, Wells’s books were normally serialized in magazines and then reprinted in various collected editions. He was already a famous writer in Russia when he paid his first visit there in 1914. A threevolume set of his novels and stories had been published in St Petersburg without Wells’s authorization as early as 1901. This was succeeded by a nine-volume collection (extended to thirteen volumes), for which Wells wrote a specially commissioned preface formally introducing himself to the Russian public, in 1909. In the same year a twelve-volume collection appeared in Moscow, and another, abortive ‘collected works’ was started in 1918. All this activity preceded the four substantial collections of Wells’s works produced under the Soviet regime, beginning with Yevgeny Zamyatin’s twelve-volume edition (1924–26) and culminating thirty years later in a fifteen-volume edition overseen by the noted Wells scholar Julius Kagarlitsky, of which 350,000 sets were printed (Levidova and Parchevskaya 1966, 43–48; Kagarlitsky 1966, viii). Another measure of Wells’s European success is the popularity of his works in the uniform paperback English-language edition published by Bernhard Tauchnitz of Leipzig. ‘Sold by all Booksellers and at all Railway Bookstalls on the Continent’, according to the legend on the back cover of many of their editions, the Tauchnitz Collection of British and American Authors is often described as being aimed at English travellers to European watering places. Nevertheless, they could be found (and probably can still be found) on the shelves of Anglophile readers from Scandinavia to the Balkans. Between 1896,

4

The Reception of H. G. Wells in Europe

when the firm published The Stolen Bacillus and Other Incidents, and 1929, Tauchnitz published forty-five Wells titles, more than for any other twentiethcentury author except John Galsworthy. The great majority were novels, though the list also includes his principal non-fictional books from Anticipations onwards, and for the most part they appeared in the same year as the first English edition. From very early in his career Wells took an active interest in his European translations. His correspondence with Henry-D. Davray, his principal French translator, began in January 1897 and continued until 1941. The sale of translation rights produced a small but significant income, and Wells, an energetic literary businessman, never lost interest in tracking down his foreign fees and royalties. He became adept at dealing with currency fluctuations and exchange controls, and he invariably complained bitterly about publishers who were dilatory or failed to pay up. At the beginning of the century he was prepared to license translations for an outright fee of forty pounds per book in the German and French markets, twenty-five pounds in Italy and as little as ten pounds in the Netherlands (Wells, Catherine 1905). By 1906 he was arranging for simultaneous publication of his novel In the Days of the Comet in English, French, German, Dutch and Italian. But, as it happened, the novel fell flat (Macmillan 1906; Mackenzie and Mackenzie 1973, 209). The story of Wells’s relationships with his publishers, translators and literary agents was, from the beginning, full of frustrations and setbacks, since however triumphant his success, he was always looking for more. The setbacks increased towards the end of his life, when not only was his individual popularity on the wane but his works encountered political censorship and suppression. French criticism and the scientific romances The critical reading of Wellsian science fiction, like so much else in his European reception, began in France. At the beginning of the twentieth century it was essential for an English writer to be noticed in France if he or she was to gain a general European reputation. Wells himself spoke eloquently of French cultural pre-eminence in a passage in Anticipations: The French reading public is something different and very much larger than the existing French political system. The number of books published in French is greater than that published in English; there is a critical reception for a work published in French that is one of the few things worth a writer’s having, and the French translators are the most alert and efficient in the world. (1902a, 237–38)

Not only were French books disseminated very widely, but they were quite often used as a basis for retranslation into other languages. To have a good French translator and to be in vogue amongst the Parisian literary intelligentsia were immeasurable assets, and Wells was lucky in both respects. Davray, as Annie Escuret shows in Chapter 2, was unquestionably devoted to Wells’s reputation, and he was a leading commentator on contemporary English literature as well as a translator. Under his auspices, Wells’s name appeared with remarkable

Introduction

5

regularity in the review pages of the journal Mercure de France (Mercury of France), as well as in its publishing catalogue. The titles of some of the French translations of Wells’s books would themselves exert a considerable influence. In rendering The Time Machine as La Machine à explorer le temps (1899), for example, Davray converted Wells’s symbolic concision into something more Cartesian and more logical. A ‘time machine’ might, after all, be no more than a clock or watch; a ‘machine for exploring time’ confronted book-purchasers with the reality of the Fourth Dimension. The book became La máquina exploradora del tiempo in Spanish and A Machina de Explorar o Tiempo in Portuguese. Some of Davray’s titles are witty and creative, notably Place aux géants (1904a) for The Food of the Gods. Another translator, however, was responsible for the notorious misrendering of Mr Britling Sees It Through (1916) as M. Britling commence à voir clair, on which Annie Escuret comments below. And this rendering, too, was perpetuated in other languages, such as the Swedish Mr Britling kommer till klarhet. Perhaps in Davray Wells had found a translator who was too good, and who systematically improved upon his original? Such was the startling allegation made in la Nouvelle Revue (The new review) in 1904 by one ‘Frank Blunt’, whose true identity has, to my knowledge, never been disclosed. According to Blunt, Wells’s literary style was so shapeless, repetitive and phonetically clumsy that the French public would find him intolerable if they had to read him in English. It was his translators who had added a degree of refinement and sophistication to his style. Wells, according to this critic, was a phenomenon in the history of publicity, not of art: ‘Carried away by his passionate ideas and dazzling paradoxes, Wells has no idea of literature’ (1904, 188).2 This article was noticed in England, causing a lively correspondence in the Westminster Gazette under the heading of ‘H. G. Wells and his French Critic’. Davray (1904), commenting in the Mercure de France, found the whole affair laughable and was amused that the English took Blunt’s pedantries seriously. But Davray himself had already complained about Wells’s stylistic carelessness, as Escuret remarks. Eleven years after this controversy, the novelist would quarrel with Henry James about journalism and art, and in his preface to the Atlantic Edition he would concede that ‘Possibly these writings, in whole or in part, are literature, but certainly, with one exception [. . .], they are not Works of Art’ (1924, xi). French criticism may have been the first to register this as sharply as it no doubt deserved. It can also be argued that Wells’s success at the beginning of the twentieth century was bound to evoke a little national resentment in France, since critical opinion was virtually unanimous in proclaiming that he had far outstripped the ageing and much revered Jules Verne. Verne, already in his seventies, had suddenly been tipped from his pedestal. According to a reviewer of The War of the Worlds in André Gide’s magazine l’Ermitage (The hermitage), Wells was an artist

2

‘Entraîné par ses idées passionnantes et ses paradoxes éblouissants, M. Wells n’a aucun souci de l’écriture.’

6

The Reception of H. G. Wells in Europe

where Verne was not (review of The War of the Worlds 1900, 387). Henri Ghéon wrote in 1901 that Verne was for schoolboys where Wells was for adults; the English writer had more in common with Nietzsche than with his supposed French rival (Parrinder 1972, 99–100). Three-quarters of a century later, when both writers were long dead, the battle between Verne and Wells was still being fought out in French science fiction, as George Slusser and Danièle Chatelain show in Chapter 18. The fame of Wells’s early science fiction spread very quickly to other countries, especially Poland and Russia where the earliest translations were almost certainly unauthorized. In Chapter 9 Juliusz Palczewski comments on the poor quality of the original Polish translations, which began with The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds in 1899. In Russia The War of the Worlds was both serialized in a St Petersburg journal and published in book form in 1898, the year of its first publication in England (Levidova and Parchevskaya 1966, 82). Other nations were slower off the mark, but by 1903 The War of the Worlds had appeared in Czech, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish. The wide diffusion of Wells’s scientific romances and short stories in the first decade of the twentieth century accounts for their influence on European modernism. The Wellsian ‘discovery of the future’ and his forecasts of aerial warfare, genetic modification, new forms of the city and new modes of transportation had an evident appeal to authors who were beginning to think of themselves as Futurists, ‘dynamical realists’ and the like. Nor was it invariably Wells’s best books which had the widest and deepest effects. As Katalin Csala reveals in Chapter 12, The Sea Lady (1902), though generally overlooked among Wells’s romances, left an important trace in the fiction of his Hungarian translator Frigyes Karinthy; and Nicoletta Vallorani, in Chapter 19, shows how When the Sleeper Wakes (1899; revised in 1910 as The Sleeper Awakes) exerted a wide influence on twentieth-century cinema, beginning with Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1926). The aviator comes down to earth: the social novels At the turn of the century Wells’s literary career underwent a startling change of direction. The result was that, just as the first European readers were discovering Wells’s scientific romances, his best work in the field was already done. After 1900 he determined to make his reputation as a novelist and social essayist rather than as a writer of fantastic fiction. Above all, he wanted to shake off what he increasingly felt was the humiliation of being described as a second Jules Verne. He was determined to enter the literary mainstream, as represented by his friends and fellow-novelists such as Joseph Conrad, George Gissing and Henry James. At the same time, he saw in the beginning of the new century an opening for prophecy and sociological speculation of a kind that he was uniquely fitted to provide. At first the transition seemed to go well. His novel Love and Mr Lewisham (1900) and his futurological treatise Anticipations (1901) were both enthusiastically received. Teodor de Wyzewa, the Polish critic living in Paris who was one of the leading French commentators on contemporary foreign literature, did not hesitate to compare Love and Mr Lewisham to David

Introduction

7

Copperfield (1900, 943).3 But Wells as a social novelist would never come to enjoy the triumphant European reception of Wells the scientific romancer, even though the French literary scholar Georges Connes would set his novels beside those of Balzac and Zola (1926, 233–34). As early as 1907, Wyzewa wrote of him as a fine novelist ruined by the didactic impulse and, above all, by his conversion to socialism. He had squandered his chance of becoming Dickens’s successor (Parrinder 1972, 143–44). Another critic writing in 1912 noted that Wells’s ideas on a topic such as free love, however shocking they might be to English readers, were scarcely a novelty across the Channel. Wells’s literary fame had been born in France and had spread from there to England, this critic maintained; now, perhaps, his French readers would be the first to desert him (Séché 1912, 506). Yevgeny Zamyatin in his 1922 essay on Wells put this rather more gently. Wells as a writer of science fiction was unique (which was not quite what the critics had been saying twenty years earlier); but Wells as an English social novelist was merely one among many, so that the peerless aviator had come down to earth (Parrinder 1972, 270). What soon became a measured and almost reluctant response to Wells’s early social novels had curious results for his European reception. In England and America his 1909 ‘Condition of England’ novel Tono-Bungay has remained in the forefront of his reputation, while his Edwardian social comedies Kipps (1905) and The History of Mr Polly (1910) long remained popular favourites. The record of European translation of these novels is comparatively patchy. Partly this must be due to Wells’s sheer productivity, since very few foreign markets were able to absorb several new translated works per year (albeit in different genres) by the same author. Once a novel had lost its place in the ‘queue’ of Wells titles awaiting translation, it was likely to be overlooked for many years. Wells’s general European fame reached its zenith in the 1920s, and since he was always keen to push for the translation of his very latest fiction, readers were treated to books such as The Secret Places of the Heart (1922) and The World of William Clissold (1926), nowadays regarded as being among his worst novels. Unsurprisingly, as Adelaida Lyubimova and Boris Proskurnin remark in Chapter 4, critics and reviewers regarded these books as being somewhat marginal. In the long run, this created an unbalanced impression of his work and must have harmed his reputation. Tono-Bungay, though serialized in Russia in 1909 and published in book form there in 1910 (Levidova and Parchevskaya 1966, 79), did not appear in French until 1929. The only other translations during Wells’s lifetime were into Czech, Hungarian, Norwegian, Spanish and Swedish. Kipps appeared in Russian in 1906 (Levidova and Parchevskaya 1966, 66), but not in French until 1922. Mr Polly, though published in French and Polish before the First World War, did not find a Russian translator until 1924 (Levidova and Parchevskaya 1966, 62), nor has it ever been translated into Spanish. Neither Kipps nor Mr Polly published during Wells’s lifetime in the German market, which soaked up such relative arcana as Floor Games (1911; German translation 1925) and The Story of a Great Schoolmaster (1924; German translation 1928).

3

A letter from Wells to Wyzewa dated 30 July 1900 is reprinted in Duval 1961, 150.

8

The Reception of H. G. Wells in Europe

There are numerous European languages into which some or all of Wells’s Edwardian social novels have never been translated. This means, among other things, that Wells as a humorous writer has not been very widely appreciated, although he certainly has affinities with contemporaries such as the Czech novelist Jaroslav Hasˇek, author of The Good Soldier Svejk (1922–23). Wells himself doubted whether his comic characters had ‘that sort of vitality which endures into new social phases’ (1966, 2: 499). The question remains open. In search of hot water: the embattled social prophet Anticipations, the book in which Wells attempted to discern the political and technological shape of the forthcoming century, was much more widely discussed than Love and Mr Lewisham. Within six years it had been translated into Dutch, French, German, Polish, Russian and Spanish. Wells’s non-fiction after Anticipations was less widely disseminated. A Modern Utopia (1905), for example, appeared in Czech, French, Russian and Spanish, but there was no translation into such a major language as Italian until 1990. Nevertheless, Wells’s essays in social forecasting had a great impact, and commentators did full justice to their intellectual daring and novelty. English readers might be struck, by and large, by his practical grasp of new technological possibilities and his eye for detail, while Anticipations, as Joseph Altairac shows, had a very special appeal for the readers of the cycling magazine Vélo (Cycling). But there was a theoretical as well as a practical side to his writings about the future, and a number of European critics took notice of this. The former biology student whose first published article had been titled ‘The Rediscovery of the Unique’ found himself being taken seriously as a contributor to contemporary European thought. Wells’s scientific rationalism suggested that his roots lay in the Enlightenment, while the pragmatist philosophy outlined in his essays ‘Scepticism of the Instrument’ (1904) and First and Last Things (1908) associated him with the widespread revision and rejection of nineteenth-century Positivism. Could he, perhaps, be destined to rival Rousseau and Voltaire in his impact on his own times? The numerous articles on his work in the French press included expositions of ‘Wells’s ideas on the future of humanity’, ‘Wells as a sociologist’ and ‘Wells and contemporary thought’ (Duquet 1908; Simart 1917; Séguy 1912). Henri Bergson and Emile Durkheim were among the names evoked by way of comparison. Later, when Wells had become known as an educationalist and the author of a universal history, Arnaud Dandieu (1927) wrote a lengthy and flattering comparison of his life’s work to Diderot’s. At much the same time Georges Connes (1926), in his monograph on Wells’s thought, revealed his lack of philosophical originality and his indebtedness to such nineteenth-century rationalist precursors as T. H. Huxley and Winwood Reade. The discussion of Wells’s philosophical and ideological outlook took a particular turn in Germany, where, as Richard Nate shows in Chapter 7, four doctoral theses were written and published on his work during the Nazi period when his writings were officially blacklisted. Otto Barber (1934) defined Wells as a social Darwinist and a promoter of eugenics in the broad sense, without giving these terms the narrowly racist inflection that they were rapidly acquiring

Introduction

9

after Hitler’s seizure of power. Heinz Mattick (1935) sought to interpret Wells’s version of Fabianism as an intellectual precursor of National Socialism. Mattick, whose views apparently changed during the course of his work on Wells, later became an outspoken Nazi apologist. Wolfgang Simon (1937) condemned Wells as a sentimental humanitarian liberal and a voice from the past. Finally, Ulrich Sonnemann (1935) was a member of the renowned Frankfurt Institute of Social Research who was forced to continue his studies outside Germany after Hitler came to power. Sonnemann approved of Wells’s ‘liberal socialism’ but (as one might expect from a product of the Frankfurt School) found his scientific rationalism historically and epistemologically naïve. Wells’s ideas were influential in many other countries. According to Gabriella Vöo´´ in Chapter 11, he was the most widely discussed English writer in Hungary between the wars. In Czechoslovakia, as Bohuslav Mánek writes in Chapter 10, he was ‘hailed as a prophetic thinker and social reformer who combined collectivism with individualism’. Edvard Benesˇ, the President of the Czechoslovak Republic who was ousted by the Nazi invaders in 1938, described Wells’s futurological imagination as ‘a source of great enlightenment for every politician’ (quoted by Mánek below). These sentiments were not, however, reflected in Poland where, as Andrzej Juszczyk shows in Chapter 8, Wells’s reception before 1945 was often hostile. While right-wing anti-Wellsian polemicists could be found in all countries, none went so far as the Polish author Adam Pragier, whose 1943 monograph written in English exile accuses the writer of anti-clericalism, anti-Semitism and, above all, hostility to the Polish nation. One of the key features in Wells’s reception in Central Europe during the halfcentury after 1917 was, naturally enough, his attitude to the Soviet Union. In Russia itself, where he was welcomed as an ally, serious discussion of his thought became increasingly restricted once his intellectual opposition to Marxism had been set out in Russia in the Shadows (1920), though his literary popularity continued unabated. As Roger Cockrell shows in Chapter 5, Anatoly Lunacharsky gave the ‘Utopian’,‘fantasist’ Wells credit for analysing the inevitable decay of capitalism, while Leon Trotsky poked fun at the English writer who supposedly claimed that his Outline of History had supplanted Marx (1974, 2: 56n). At the notorious Soviet Writers’ Congress of 1934, Karl Radek lampooned Wells as an overinflated representative of the bourgeois West (1935, 87–89). By 1934, as Elmar Schenkel puts it in Chapter 6, Wells was everywhere; perhaps he had grown too big. Certainly he had become something of a ‘world statesman’, travelling across Europe and the United States and exerting an influence, so far as he could, on the leaderships of the great powers. He attended world peace conferences, lectured to prestigious audiences at the Reichstag and the Sorbonne and for many years owned a home in the south of France. In 1933 he succeeded John Galsworthy as international president of PEN, attending its conferences in Ragusa (Dubrovnik), Barcelona and Prague. Teresa Iribarren i Donadeu in Chapter 14 records how he offended his hosts in Barcelona by falling asleep while chairing a plenary session (possibly a lapse that was caused by his diabetic condition). He was in Stockholm for the aborted PEN congress when war broke out in September 1939, but the speech that he had planned on ‘The Honour and Dignity of the Free Mind’ (1939, 122–50) was never delivered. Much the most celebrated of his travels, however – and one for which

10

The Reception of H. G. Wells in Europe

he was roundly abused by the then politically correct left – was his 1934 meeting with Joseph Stalin. Wells’s three visits to Russia, in 1914, 1920 and 1934, make a fascinating story, retold from hitherto unfamiliar contemporary sources in Chapter 3 by Maria Kozyreva and Vera Shamina. After his 1920 visit, Wells sent a copy of Russia in the Shadows to Lenin, whom he had visited in the Kremlin. Lenin read the book, including the famous chapter on ‘The Dreamer in the Kremlin’, and annotated it. After the post-Stalinist ‘thaw’, Lenin’s annotations were eventually published in Czech and Polish editions of Russia in the Shadows; it is disappointing to learn from Andrzej Juszczyk in Chapter 8 that they merely consisted of underlining certain passages. Wells’s Russian readership, as we have seen, was evidently unaffected by his disagreements with Lenin, and they were certainly never told about his attempt to raise PEN’s demands for intellectual freedom with Stalin, though this was widely publicized elsewhere. As Lyubimova and Proskurnin show in Chapter 4, there was a more or less unbroken line of ‘Russian Wellsiana’, leading eventually to at least one remarkable example of Wellsian scholarship, Julius Kagarlitsky’s doctoral thesis, Gerbert Uells: Ocherk zhizni i tvorchestva (1963), which was translated into English in 1966 (as The Life and Thought of H. G. Wells) by Moura Budberg, Wells’s long-time companion whom he had first met at Maxim Gorky’s flat in St Petersburg. Kagarlitsky found evidence that at the very end of his life Wells had moved closer to the Soviet position, at least to the extent of promising his support for the Communist Party in the 1945 British general election (1966, 204). Wells’s writings might be criticized in Soviet Russia, but they were never suppressed. His experience of the Fascist regimes was very different. Since political memories are short it cannot be repeated too often that Wells was a vociferous anti-Fascist. His novel Meanwhile (1927), which is not one of his better works of fiction but is partly set in Italy, has been described as ‘the first antiFascist novel in English literature’ (Kagarlitsky 1966, 193). Very few of Wells’s works appear to have been translated into Italian during Mussolini’s rule, and Meanwhile was not one of them although it appeared in German, Hungarian, Polish, Russian and Spanish. Then in 1933 Hitler came to power and, as Schenkel records, on 10 May of that year Erich Kästner, the German author of Emil und die Detektive (Emil and the Detectives), had the experience of watching his own books being burnt together with Wells’s in the Opernplatz, Berlin. In the same year Wells paid a private visit to Vienna, though he had to abandon plans to go on to Munich. As he wrote (1933) to his German-language publisher Paul Zsolnay, ‘I do not care in the present state of political feeling to make any public appearance.’ A year later (1934), Zsolnay felt unable to fulfil his contract to publish the biological encyclopaedia The Science of Life because of the hostility created by Wells’s ‘anti-German attitude’. Attempts to produce a German translation of The Shape of Things to Come (1933) got nowhere. No new Wells titles were published in Tauchnitz English-language editions after 1929.4 By 1936 4

The Tauchnitz firm underwent a financial crisis in 1929, leading to the deletion of many existing titles. However, the majority of Wells’s titles remained available until at least 1939 (Todd and Bowden 1988, 1019).

Introduction

11

Wells was responding to enquiries from Donau-Verlag in Bratislava, who planned to publish authors forbidden in Germany such as Theodore Dreiser, John Dos Passos and Upton Sinclair in editions to be distributed in the remaining German-language territories. The evidence is that, until the outbreak of war, Zsolnay, a Czech national with offices in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, remained Wells’s only German-language publisher. However, after 1937 Wells lost contact with him until he was able to relaunch his business in London in 1945. In Chapters 6 and 7 both Schenkel and Nate observe that, for all his manifest anti-Fascism, Wells could from a certain point of view be regarded as one of Fascism’s intellectual ancestors. To this day, discussion of this question has tended to focus on the final chapter of Anticipations (1901) in which Wells seems to allow for, if not actually to anticipate, the Nazi notions of eugenics and racial evolution. The views put forward in this chapter of Anticipations were soon disavowed, but Wells’s retractions were much less widely read than his initial prophecies. Does the vehemence of Wells’s anti-Fascism in the 1930s stem from his confrontation with aspects of his own past? Schenkel very suggestively links his defence of freedom of speech and his support for writers in exile in the 1930s to his outspoken hostility to Fritz Lang’s film Metropolis a few years earlier. Lang had openly borrowed motifs from When the Sleeper Wakes, written immediately before Anticipations, and Wells’s anxiety to discredit the German director’s vision of a totalitarian future apparently influenced his own futuristic film Things to Come, produced by Alexander Korda, where a catastrophic world war leads ultimately to the rebuilding of civilization in the twenty-first century on – some might protest – equally totalitarian lines. In 1936, the year in which Things to Come was released, the Spanish Civil War broke out. As Alberto Lázaro observes in Chapter 15, some British historians have inexplicably described Wells as neutral in this conflict even though he signed two letters to The Times, widely reproduced in the Spanish press, supporting the democratic government against Franco’s rebellion. The terms of the letter of 19 August 1936, which described the Spanish government as ‘Liberal democratic’ and as containing ‘no Socialist or Communist’, may have become an embarrassment once Stalin and the world Communist movement had come to the aid of the Spanish republic. Nevertheless, as both Lázaro and Iribarren show, Wells’s support for Spanish democracy was clearly understood by his Iberian readers. His novella The Brothers (1938) was influenced by the traumatic events in Spain and may be read as an allegory of the Spanish Civil War (Hammond 1979, 212–14). It was translated into French, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish and, appropriately, into Spanish, being published in Santiago de Chile in 1941. Once Franco’s victory was assured, Wells’s writings again fell victim to censorship, though the censorship came to be exercised in the name of Catholic, rather than Fascist, values. There was a long history of antagonism between Wells and Catholic apologists, going back to his debate with G. K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc over The Outline of History, which was eagerly followed in Catholic Europe, as Iribarren shows with respect to Catalonia. Wells in his final years became more openly hostile to the Catholic Church, culminating in his indictment of the Papacy in Crux Ansata (1943). In The Fate of Homo Sapiens

12

The Reception of H. G. Wells in Europe

(1939), written during an Irish Republican bombing campaign against mainland Britain, he turned his attention to Catholic intellectual censorship in Ireland, blaming the Church, in effect, for the violence and fanaticism of Irish youth. Lucian Ashworth in Chapter 17 describes the fierce controversy over Wells’s remarks, and notes that some of his earlier books, including The Work, Wealth and Happiness of Mankind (1931), had been banned in Ireland. In Spain, too, clerical censorship continued throughout the Franco period, and, as Lázaro reports, a request to import copies of The Shape of Things to Come was refused as late as 1967. It can be said that the controversy between Wells and Catholicism still rumbles on, since writers with Catholic sympathies have played a prominent part in Wellsian criticism and biography (both favourable and hostile) since his death. Part of his appeal in countries like France, Hungary and Spain must always have been the partisan support he offered to a scientifically minded, anticlerical readership, and it seems possible that his argument with the Catholic Church will long outlive his arguments with Marxism and Communism. Wells’s posthumous reputation: time traveller or invisible man? Given the fame that he enjoyed in Europe throughout the first half of the twentieth century, there are some countries in which the response to Wells can only be described as belated. José Manuel Mota in Chapter 16 describes the curious case of Portugal where, apart from a single work of political journalism, none of Wells’s books was published between 1908 and 1934. It is true that in Portuguese, as in Spanish, the largest readership is to be found in Latin America, but whereas Spanish translations of Wells’s books continued to be published in the homeland until after the Fascist victory, the first (1899) Portuguese translation of The Time Machine came from Rio de Janeiro. Wells’s own library contained nine Brazilian translations of his work, and only three (The Invisible Man, The War of the Worlds and Kipps) from Portugal. A crucial factor is that, in Mota’s words, ‘there was never a Portuguese literary tradition of fantastic or sciencefiction literature.’ Wells’s continuing presence in the European science-fictional imagination is what keeps his books current today, and seems to promise him a measure of immortality. But will Wells’s be a literary immortality? If so, it will doubtless reflect the continuing appeal of his early scientific romances, and above all of The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds which, as Slusser and Chatelain show in Chapter 18, came to be recognized as archetypal literary models, providing inspiration for modern French and Russian science fiction respectively. In regions such as Catalonia where science fiction itself is a relatively new genre, Wells has also made an impact; but this is due as much to his presence in the cinema – beginning, as Iribarren shows, with the 1933 United Artists production of The Invisible Man – as on the printed page. Wells’s own involvement with the cinema, including his films Things to Come and Man Who Could Work Miracles, indicates his own readiness to consider that the film script might be destined to replace the literary novel. In Chapter 19, ‘ “The Invisible Wells” in European Cinema and Television’, Vallorani demonstrates that, if there is any one field in which Wells’s influence remains pervasive, it is today’s science-

Introduction

13

fiction cinema. Nor is this simply a question of Hollywood, despite what was, at least to Wells’s admirers, the obvious Wellsian presence behind such late twentieth-century Hollywood blockbusters as Time After Time and Independence Day. Vallorani outlines the Wellsian influence on recent European films by Antonio Albanese, Cèdric Klapisch, Wim Wenders, Alexander Zakharov and others. The final chapter, by John S. Partington, considers another aspect of what we might call Wells’s invisible presence in modern culture and society: his political legacy. Can the twenty-first century European Union look back to him as one of its prophets or founding fathers? As Partington demonstrates, from as early as 1901 Wells envisaged a united Europe, either by force under German hegemony or cooperatively through a Franco-German entente. With the outbreak of the Great War, a European settlement became imperative for the peace of the world according to Wells, and as early as 1916 he was referring to a prospective ‘United States of Europe’ (1916, 216). Throughout the 1920s and into the 1930s, Wells continued to provide support for the idea of a united Europe, though after 1931 he gave this up in favour of advocating a federal world state. Indeed, his change of emphasis ultimately resulted in a complete volteface, with his condemnation, in 1939, of all proposed transnational unions that did not embrace the whole globe. Nevertheless, Wells’s earlier position made a lasting impact on European politics through his influence on Count Coudenhove-Kalergi, who founded the International Pan-European Union in 1923. Coudenhove-Kalergi and ‘Paneuropa’ provide the link between Wellsian thought and the construction of European unity during the half-century after 1945. As with his role in the politics of human rights which a number of recent scholars have investigated (see Dilloway 1998), it does not ultimately matter much whether or not Wells’s contribution to ideas of federal union is recognized; what is important is that, consciously or not, there are people who continue to share his vision. As a writer, too, there seems no doubt that Wells’s creative inventions will continue to fascinate new generations, and the only question is whether audiences will encounter them in the traditional literary medium or in new media, perhaps media yet to be invented.5 Will Wells survive as a literary time traveller of genius, or as an ‘invisible man’ of whose works Jorge Luis Borges’ prophecy has come true? Borges was speaking of the early scientific romances: ‘I think they will be incorporated, like the fables of Theseus or Ahasuerus, into the general memory of the species and even transcend the fame of their creator or the extinction of the language in which they were written’ (1961, 128).6

5

6

One example of Wells’s work in new media is the computer game, Jeff Wayne’s The War of the Worlds, devised by the director of the 1978 musical version of WW. The game was developed by Rage Software Ltd and published by GT Interactive. ‘Pienso que habrán de incorporarse, como la fórmula de Teseo o la de Ahasuerus, a la memoria general de la especie y que se multiplicarán en su ámbito, más allá de los términos de la gloria de quien los escribió, más allá de la muerte del idioma en que fueron escritos.’

1

H. G. Wells’s Critical Reception in France1 Joseph Altairac; trans. Barbara Ghiringhelli and R. H. Hibbitt

The ‘English Jules Verne’, or the triumph of the ‘scientific romances’ There are writers, nowadays revered, who had to wait a long time before they were acknowledged by the critics, not to mention the public. This was by no means the case with H. G. Wells. In England and the English-speaking world, after the publication of The Time Machine in 1895, he was praised by the critics and enjoyed rapid and enduring success both as a novelist and an essayist, a success which was to spread to the rest of the world. In France, the Mercure de France (French Mercury) published a serialized translation of The Time Machine. The book version came out in 1899 under the Mercure de France imprint. Paul Valéry, who would later befriend Wells and meet him on several occasions at Grasse, was immediately impressed. Wells became a pillar of Mercure de France which, up to the eve of the First World War, published around twenty of his novels, collections of short stories and essays in the legendary series with a yellow cover marked by a winged helmet, all of which were translated by Henry-D. Davray and Bronisław Kozakiewicz. Wells’s most important works were all represented, with the curious exception of L’Homme invisible (IM), which was published by Ollendorff. Part of the appeal of the Mercure de France volumes was that they were sometimes accompanied by a supplementary section consisting of a collection of press extracts entitled ‘H. G. Wells et la critique’ (‘H. G. Wells and the critics’). Since these commentaries aimed to promote both author and publisher, one would hardly expect them to contain negative reviews. In any case, such reviews were extremely rare. We will refer to one of these below, a review which constitutes a real exception, and which seems to have been dictated by motives other than the wish to produce an objective analysis. Honour where honour is due: let us begin with an appraisal by Rachilde, a famous contributor to the Mercure de France, and a significant advocate of Wells in France:

1

A longer version of this chapter originally appeared in French as ‘Réception critique’, in my H. G. Wells: parcours d’une œuvre in 1998 (pp. 116–32).

Wells’s Critical Reception in France

15

I would like to say a few words about the distinctive way in which the author sees and makes us see the movement of the crowd. H. G. Wells has no apparent plot, character, nor framework in his strange novels of scientific adventure, and this is what makes him far superior to Jules Verne [. . .]. H. G. Wells seems to be writing for future readers. [. . .] He writes for educated people, not to educate them, but to entertain them, which is more difficult, and it is in accordance with this method that his crowds evolve like armies of atoms or microbes destined to change the face of the globe, rushing either fearfully or rationally from one side to the other of this same globe. [. . .] The passage describing London’s panic when faced by the Martians is one of the finest examples of contemporary naturalist writing. It is as lifelike as possible and it has nothing of the fictional.2 (1900, 475)

The comparison of Wells with Jules Verne, to the detriment of the latter, is an almost ubiquitous feature of the criticism of the time. Augustin Filon, writing in La Revue des Deux Mondes (Two Worlds Review), is no exception, although he pretends to refrain: I have no desire whatsoever to denigrate Jules Verne, to whom I owe hours of very agreeable recreation. [. . .] Such a prolonged and universal success as that of Jules Verne (abroad he is one of our most popular writers) is, at least, symptomatic and it marks him out as ‘representative’. But has Jules Verne ever made you think? I believe that the answer will be negative. When Verne is not content simply with curious facts taken from some geographical dictionary or traveller’s tale, his favourite subject is the science of tomorrow, in other words, topical questions which he presumes to resolve with the help of discoveries that have already been made. Thus he has lived to see the exploits of his Nautilus and Victoria already equalled or surpassed by presentday submarines and airships. Mr Wells has, in my view, more originality and invention in his choice of themes and the manner in which he deals with them. [. . .] I never forget, as I read Jules Verne, that he is a writer who makes use of science in order to document his novels; when I read Mr Wells, I am convinced for a moment that he is an inventor who makes use of the novel to emphasize and popularize an invention.3 (1904, 582)

2

3

‘Je voudrais dire quelques mots au sujet de la façon toute particulière dont l’auteur voit et fait voir les mouvements de foule. H. G. Wells n’a pas d’intrigue, pas de personnage et pas de trame, au moins apparents, dans ses étranges romans d’aventures scientifiques, et c’est pour cela qu’il est bien supérieur à Jules Verne [. . .]. H. G. Wells semble écrire pour des lecteurs futurs. [. . .] Il écrit pour des gens instruits, non pour les instruire, mais pour les distraire, ce qui est plus difficile, et c’est selon cette méthode que ses foules évoluent comme des armées d’atomes ou de microbes destinées à changer la face du globe en se précipitant soit par peur, soit par raisonnement, de tel ou tel côté de ce même globe. [. . .] Le morceau de la panique de Londres devant les Marsiens est une des belles pages de tout le roman naturaliste contemporain. C’est aussi vivant que possible et il n’y a rien de romanesque.’ ‘Je n’ai aucune envie de dénigrer M. Jules Verne, auquel j’ai dû des heures de très agréable récréation. [. . .] Un succès aussi prolongé et aussi universel que celui de Jules Verne (il est, à l’étranger, l’un des plus populaires de nos écrivains) est, tout au

16

The Reception of H. G. Wells in Europe

Augustin Filon’s commentary reminds us that, at the beginning of the twentieth century in France, the ‘roman scientifique’ (scientific novel) – known today as science fiction – was already a recognized genre, which was even appreciated by the critics. Jean Lionnet, in la Quinzaine (The Fortnightly), insists upon Wells’s superiority over Verne to an extent that aficionados of the latter will rightly find excessive, to say the least: Oh yes, Wells has read Jules Verne: he even quotes him in his last book (the only one which slightly resembles in its subject the works of the author of Voyage autour de la Lune [sic]).4 Besides, we would be wrong not to take Jules Verne seriously: he has been of great help to French youths in awakening their energy and giving them, so to speak, lessons in curiosity. But one doesn’t have to believe that these works count as literature! The characters are little more than puppets; the invention, though sometimes ingenious, has no artistic merit; long passages of mediocre scientific popularization interrupt the action almost in every chapter. [. . .] Finally the language, so flat, so often incorrect, in a word so ‘journalistic’, makes everything even worse [. . .]. Wells, by contrast, not only has a more powerful imagination, but knows how to bring his characters to life, in the same way as our best contemporary novelists do [. . .]. And I must add that Wells interests me even for his ideas. His considerable study of science, at the service of an exceptionally inventive mind, enables him to observe humanity in a way unlike our own.5 (Lionnet 1905, 229–31)

cont. moins, un symptôme, et le classe parmi les “représentatifs”. Mais Jules Verne vous at-il jamais fait penser? Je crois que la réponse sera négative. Lorsque M. Jules Verne ne se contente pas de mettre en œuvre des faits curieux extraits de quelque dictionnaire géographique ou de quelque récit de voyage, son domaine favori, c’est la science de demain, ce sont, en somme, les questions à l’ordre du jour, qu’il suppose résolues en s’aidant des découvertes déjà obtenues. Ainsi il a vécu assez pour voir les exploits de son Nautilus et de son Victoria égalés ou dépassés par nos sous-marins ou nos ballons dirigeables. M. Wells a, ce me semble, plus d’originalité et d’invention dans le choix de ses problèmes et dans la façon dont il les traite. [. . .] Je n’oublie jamais, en lisant Jules Verne, que c’est un écrivain qui se sert de la science pour documenter son roman; quand je lis M. Wells, je me persuade par moments que c’est un inventeur qui use du roman pour mettre en relief et populariser une invention.’ 4 Wells’s ‘last book’ here is presumably FMM. 5 ‘Eh! oui, Wells a lu Jules Verne: il le cite même dans ce dernier livre (le seul qui ressemble un peu par le sujet aux œuvres de l’auteur du Voyage autour de la Lune [sic]) [allusion probable aux Premiers hommes dans la Lune]. D’autre part, on aurait tort de ne pas prendre Jules Verne au sérieux: il a rendu de vrais services à la jeunesse française en lui inspirant l’énergie et en lui donnant, pour ainsi dire, des leçons de curiosité. Cependant il ne faudrait pas croire que ses ouvrages appartiennent à la littérature! Les personnages semblent à peine des figurants; l’invention, parfois ingénieuse, n’a jamais rien d’esthétique; les longues pages de médiocre vulgarisation scientifique interrompent l’action presque à tous les chapitres: [. . .]. Enfin la langue, si plate, si souvent incorrecte, si “journalistique” en un mot, aggrave encore le cas [. . .].

Wells’s Critical Reception in France

17

It cannot be said, at any rate, that French critics at the beginning of the twentieth century were remarkable for their chauvinism! Adolphe Brisson, in Les Annales politiques et littéraires (Literary and Political Annals), extends the usual comparison with Jules Verne to other writers: Mr Wells is a novelist-prophet of the school of Jules Verne and Robida [. . .]. He tries to foresee what the future of humankind will be when the scientific progress which is presently in its infancy has been accomplished. Sometimes these ingenious storytellers deal exclusively with the domain of facts – like Jules Verne – and sometimes they are concerned with the moral destiny of humankind; they add a grain of philosophy to their palette. This is the case with Swift and Edgar Poe. Mr Wells draws on both methods and that is his originality.6 (1901, 92)

After reading these incessant and sometimes rather offensive references to the work of Jules Verne, one can better understand the hint of exasperation evident in the famous interview that he gave to the American journalist Robert H. Sherard in 1903 (Lacassin 1979). When asked what he thought of Wells, Verne replied: Je pensiez bien que vous alliez me demander cela [. . .]. His books were sent to me, and I have read them. It is very curious, and, I will add, very English. But I do not see the possibility of comparison between his work and mine. We do not proceed in the same manner. It occurs to me that his stories do not repose on very scientific bases. No, there is no rapport between his work and mine. I make use of physics. He invents. I go to the moon in a cannon ball, discharged from a cannon. Here there is no invention. He goes to Mars [sic] in an airship, which he constructs of a metal which does away with the law of gravitation. Ça c’est très joli, [. . .] but show me this metal. Let him produce it.7 (Parrinder 1972, 101–02)

Of course, any slightly critical reader of De la Terre à la Lune (From the Earth to

cont.

6

7

‘Tandis que Wells, outre qu’il possède une imagination autrement puissante, s’entend à faire vivre ses héros autant que nos meilleurs romanciers contemporains [. . .]. ‘Et je ne crains pas d’ajouter que Wells m’intéresse même par ses idées. Ses fortes études scientifiques, utilisées par son esprit exceptionnellement inventif, lui permettent d’observer l’humanité d’une façon qui n’est point la nôtre.’ ‘M. Wells est un romancier-prophète de l’école des Jules Verne, des Robida [. . .]. Il s’attache à pressentir ce que sera l’humanité future quand les progrès scientifiques qui sont actuellement en germe seront accomplis. ‘Tantôt ces conteurs ingénieux se placent exclusivement sur le terrain des faits – tel Jules Verne – et tantôt ils se préoccupent des destinées morales de l’humanité; ils mêlent à leurs peintures un grain de philosophie. C’est le cas de Swift et d’Edgar Poe. M. Wells s’inspire des deux méthodes et, par cela, il se montre original.’ This interview was originally published in English in T. P.’s Weekly (ii, 589) on 9 October 1903. The French exclamations were printed in the original publication, and they translate as follows: ‘Je pensiez bien que vous alliez me demander cela’ as ‘I really thought you were going to ask me that’, and ‘Ça c’est très joli’ as ‘this is very nice’.

18

The Reception of H. G. Wells in Europe

the Moon) and Hector Servadac might wish to dispute Verne’s credentials as a specialist in gravitation. The minor role of the social novels The scientific romances were, then, unanimously welcomed by the critics who, with a certain injustice, were happy to use Verne’s work as a foil. By contrast, the social novels were cited less often, perhaps because of the delays in their translation. Kipps (1905), Tono-Bungay (1909), The New Machiavelli (1911), Marriage (1912) and The Passionate Friends (1913) were published in France only after the war, and by publishers other than Mercure de France. André Chaumeix, in the Journal des Débats (Parliamentary Record), after once again praising the quality of Wells’s scientific novels, remarks: At this juncture the novelist abandons his usual style and gives us a book which is not at all fantastic and which owes much less to his imagination than to his faculties of observation. Love and Mr Lewisham is a story taken from reality, and H. G. Wells, unconcerned on this occasion with the physics, the metaphysics, the scientific reveries and illusions of the prophet, has modestly restricted himself to an everyday theme.8 (1904, 4)

This is less than enthusiastic. However, Teodor de Wyzewa, in the Revue des Deux Mondes, considered that ‘Mr Wells, if he has changed his style, has not changed his spirit or his talent. [. . .][A]lready one could [. . .] recognize [in the scientific romances], without much effort, the sentimental humorist who has just written Love and Mr Lewisham’9 (1900, 944). We might add that Henri Ghéon, in the Nouvelle Revue Française (New French review), pronounced a favourable judgement on L’Histoire de M. Polly (HMP) (1912, 126–28), which was an occasion for him, as Jean-Marc Gouanvic remarks in Europe (1986), ‘to assert the importance of adventure in the novel’10 (1986, 15). We are, all the same, far from the eulogies heaped on the scientific romances. The admired ‘prophet’ As the precursor of futurology, on the other hand, Wells was highly appreciated. One critic in la Lecture (Reading) of Geneva saw Anticipations as ‘A tremendous work, a formidable accumulation of facts, of appeals for discussion, of utopian 8

9

10

‘Voici que le romancier abandonne son habituelle manière et nous donne un livre qui n’est point du tout fantastique et qui doit beaucoup moins à son imagination qu’à ses facultés d’observation. L’Amour et M. Lewisham est une histoire prise du réel, et H. G. Wells, insouciant cette fois de la physique, de la métaphysique, des rêveries scientifiques et des chimères de prophète, s’est tenu modestement à un problème pratique.’ ‘M. Wells, s’il a changé de manière, n’a pas changé d’esprit ni de talent. [. . .] déjà on pouvait [. . .] deviner [dans les romans scientifiques], sans trop d’effort, l’humoriste sentimental qui vient d’écrire L’Amour et M. Lewisham.’ ‘d’affirmer l’importance de l’aventure dans le roman’.

Wells’s Critical Reception in France

19

dreams, of humanitarian prophecies, of ironies, sarcasm, wishes, practices and improvements, but an accumulation which is ordered according to the rules of an implacable and lucid logic.’11 Georges Art, writing in the Phare de la Loire (Loire Beacon), was eager to distinguish between the Wellsian vision in Anticipations and simple fiction: It is certainly not a novel, a work of pure imagination, like the famous Battle of Dorking, but a scientific prophecy so to speak, which follows a rigorous method deduced from actual facts that are carefully examined. In the light of this method the author brings together the elements which contribute to the formation of the human community around the year 2000. He sees its roads, its residences, he reads its newspapers, analyses its moral and aesthetic condition, and pictures this community during wartime.12

The same position was taken by Gustave Kahn in L’Aurore (The dawn): Nearly every hypothesis about the future of civilization starts out from a scientific premise. Neither Thomas More nor Campanella is without reason, and Cyrano was no mere crank. However, all these visionaries of the future have framed their erudite research with an adventure narrative and have sought the aid of literature. To present his investigations, hypotheses and utopias quite scientifically, without any hint of artistic ornamentation; such is Wells’s desire in his book Anticipations, a new word which says what it means. Wells does not give us prophecies, but predictions [. . .] Anticipations is not a novel, but a book of social criticism.13

We learn from this passage that the word ‘anticipation’ was new to France at the beginning of the twentieth century, and that Wells therefore contributed to the enrichment of the French language. That is hardly surprising on the part of an Englishman who, as Marius-Ary Leblond emphasized in the Revue scientifique

11

12

13

‘Une œuvre énorme, formidable amoncellement de faits, d’appels à la discussion, de rêves utopistes, de prophéties humanitaires, d’ironies, de sarcasms, de souhaits, de pratiques, perfectionnements, mais amoncellement ordonné selon les règles d’une implacable et lumineuse logique.’ ‘Ce n’est point un roman, une œuvre de pure imagination, comme la fameuse Bataille de Dorking, mais une prophétie scientifique pour ainsi dire, suivant une méthode rigoureuse et déduite des faits actuels mûrement examinés. ‘A la lumière de cette méthode l’auteur rassemble les éléments qui concourront à former la communauté humaine aux environs de l’an 2000. Il voit ses routes, ses demeures, il lit ses journaux, analyse sa condition morale et esthétique, et se représente cette communauté en temps de guerre.’ ‘Presque toute hypothèse sur la civilisation future part d’une constation scientifique. Ni Thomas Morus, ni Campanella, ne sont déraisonnables, et Cyrano n’est point un illuminé. Pourtant, tous ces envisageurs d’avenir ont toujours donné comme cadre à leur recherche savante, un épisode d’aventure et ont mis de la littérature dans leur cas. Présenter des recherches, des hypothèses, des utopies tout scientifiquement, sans ombre d’ornement artiste, tel a été le désir de Wells dans son livre Anticipations, mot nouveau qui dit bien ce qu’il veut dire. Ce ne sont point des prophéties que nous donne Wells, ce sont des prévisions [. . .] Les Anticipations de Wells ne sont point un roman, mais un livre de critique sociale.’

20

The Reception of H. G. Wells in Europe

(Scientific Review), had predicted that French would eventually triumph over English and German. Other critics, such as Gustave Lanson in the Revue universitaire (Universities’ Review), were critical of Wells’s Anglocentrism. Another of those expressing reservations was Léon Daudet, the future co-founder of Action Française. In an article in le Gaulois (The Gaul) he compared Anticipations to Ernest Renan’s L’Avenir de la science (The Future of Science), arguing that both works were marred by their dedication to scientific perfectionism (1904, 1). Arsène Alexandre, of the cyclists’ magazine Vélo (Cycling), welcomed Anticipations more warmly, perhaps because he recognized in Wells a fellow cyclist: You have, sir, one of the most inquiring and sensible minds of your time. [. . .] One reason why your book is so inspired is that the starting point of all your Anticipations concerns the modifications that new means of transport will impose on the conditions and aspects of life.14

One critic, writing in Pages libres (Free Pages), even managed to review a work which was destined to remain unpublished in French: In his excellent book Mankind in the Making, H. G. Wells says that modern academics have not known how to take advantage of an invention as widespread as that of printing. They give lectures, just as they did in the Middle Ages, a time when lectures were indispensable because books were expensive. [. . .] This observation, which sounds like an inspiration of the moment, is most apposite.15

One could give many more examples of the French critical admiration for Wells. His reputation, on the eve of the First World War, was almost as great in France as it was in England and in the United States. Wells was known as the author of the scientific romances and as a pioneer futurologist, but much less as the author of social novels, which were barely known to the French public. An acute crisis of envy In order to be impartial, and to amuse the reader, we have found it useful to reproduce a truly negative piece of criticism. Searching among the rubbish heaps of forgotten science-fiction novels, one comes across the preface to L’Amour dans cinq mille ans (Love in five thousand years’ time), the masterpiece

14

15

‘Vous avez, Monsieur, un des esprits les plus curieux et les plus avisés de votre époque. [. . .] Une des raisons pour lesquelles votre livre est tout à fait génial, c’est que le point de départ de toutes vos Anticipations réside dans les modifications que feront subir à la vie, à ses conditions, à ses aspects, les nouveaux moyens de transport.’ ‘Dans son beau livre Mankind in the Making, H. G. Wells dit que les universitaires modernes n’ont pas su tirer parti d’une invention assez répandue, l’imprimerie. Ils conférencient, comme au Moyen Age, époques où les conférences étaient indispensables, parce que les livres coûtaient cher. [. . .] Cette observation, qui a les apparences d’une boutade, est très juste.’

Wells’s Critical Reception in France

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– now somewhat forgotten – of Fernand Kolney. The work, undated, must have been published around 1905. I will quote some highlights: What is, in fact, the Wellsian style as opposed to that of these three masters [Heine, Goethe and Swift]? [. . .] Wells, though ‘scientific’ in appearance, is tainted by that Calvinist spirit which poisons virtually all Anglo-Saxon authors, which freezes everything, gives a coldness to the light and imposes on Eros a code of behaviour approved by Luther. Like his predecessors, he writes for a race afflicted by a perpetual cold in the head. For Wells, no matter what it does, the human species is divided into two parts: the pure and the impure, or, if you prefer, the useful and the useless. [. . .] That is his socialism and his ethics. Always second-hand, he does not invent anything, appropriating Rosny’s technique and borrowing almost all his ideas from Jules Verne. For example, the means of locomotion which enables the Martians to land on Planet Earth is nothing but the projectile or shell of Voyage dans la Lune [sic] [Voyage to the Moon]. The plot of When the Sleeper Wakes is taken from Mercier’s Paris en l’an 2240 [sic] [The Year 2440]: a man who falls asleep in 1780 and wakes up in the twenty-third century. Furthermore, Wells is moral in the Genevan sense of the word, that is to say that there are certain places he is forbidden to explore. He will never explore life in the future in its sexual or philosophical aspects. [. . .] And in the style of an engineer, with the prose of a mechanic, sentences that impact on us like algebraic formulas, in a form as distant as possible from what we Latins call Art, he advances his thesis, a thesis of the odiously utilitarian sort where there is no room, in the end, for genuine pity or dispassionate justice.16

Apart from some well-chosen observations, particularly on Wells’s social theories, it seems that this unrestrained critique reflects an emotion akin to envy. This hypothesis is confirmed by the fact that L’Amour dans cinq mille ans was

16

‘Quelle est, en effet, la manière de Wells à l’opposé de celle de ces trois maîtres [Heine, Gœthe and Swift]? [. . .] Wells, quoique “scientifique” d’apparence, est entaché de cet esprit calviniste qui empoisonne la quasi-totalité des auteurs anglosaxons, qui glace toute chose, donne des humeurs froides à la lumière et inflige à Eros des comportements approuvés par Luther. Comme ses devanciers, il écrit pour une race affligée d’un inexorable rhume de cerveau. Pour lui, quoi qu’il fasse, le genre humaine a été divisé en deux parties: les purs et les impurs, ou, si vous voulez: les utiles et les inutiles. [. . .] Voilà son socialisme et son éthique. ‘Toujours de seconde main, il n’invente rien, s’empare de la technique des Rosny, emprunte à Jules Verne presque toutes ses conceptions. Exemple: le moyen de locomotion qui a permis aux Marsiens d’arriver sur notre globe terraqué et qui n’est autre que le projectile, l’obus de Voyage dans la Lune [sic]. [. . .] L’affabulation de Quand le dormeur s’éveillera est imitée de Paris en l’an 2240 [sic], de Mercier: un homme qui s’endort en 1780 pour se réveiller au XXIIIe siècle. En surplus, il est moral au sens genevois du mot, c’est-à-dire qu’il y a des coins interdits à son exploration. Jamais il n’etudiéra la vie ultérieure sous l’angle sexuel ou philosophique. [. . .] Et dans un style d’ingénieur, une prose de mécanicien, une phrase aux incidences pareilles à des formules algébriques, dans une forme aussi éloignée que possible de ce que nous, Latins, nous appelons l’Art, il formule sa thèse, une thèse d’ordre odieusement utilitaire où nulle place, en somme, n’est faite à la réelle Pitié ni à la sereine Justice.’

22

The Reception of H. G. Wells in Europe

published at the author’s own expense. Nevertheless Kolney’s novel is not without merit, and in some ways it anticipates Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Kolney must have felt subsequently that he had gone a little too far, since in the revised version published in 1928, he altered the preface and deleted his attack on Wells. Fernand Kolney’s attitude was virtually unique among French writers of scientific romance. In contrast, Maurice Renard was a passionate admirer of Wells who dedicated one of his masterpieces to him, Le Docteur Lerne, sous-dieu (Doctor Lerne, under-god) (1908) in the most flattering terms. Wells in France after the Great War After the First World War, Wells’s work aroused markedly less interest among French critics. It is clear he had profoundly seduced the French critics and public with his scientific novels, but with them alone. Indeed, some of them have become undisputed classics, and whenever a novel of ‘scientific wonders’ was reviewed, reference to Wells was practically automatic. By contrast, the craze for Wells as the ‘prophet’ and pioneer futurologist of Anticipations was to be short-lived. The reasons for this loss of affection are complex, but one can say with certainty that the dreadful slaughter of the First World War had crushed much of the enthusiasm. The essays in social reform which constitute the majority of Wells’s production after the war were in fact only sparsely and sporadically published in France. Wells was not neglected, however. The publisher Payot took over from Mercure de France as the French publishers of his novels. Despite a sometimes considerable delay vis-à-vis the English publication, this resulted in the appearance of M. Britling commence à voir clair (MBST) (which was a best-seller in the Anglo-Saxon world during the war), Dieu l’invisible roi (GIK), La Flamme immortelle (UF), Kipps (published in France in 1922, although the novel dates from 1905), Jeanne et Pierre (JP), Les Coins secrets du cœur (SPH), Tono-Bungay (TB) (the French translation in 1929 came twenty years after its first appearance in England), La Recherche magnifique (RM) (in 1927, twelve years after its publication in England) and Mariage (M). In 1925, Payot also published the monumental Esquisse de l’histoire universelle (OH), this time with much less delay. Albin Michel published Le Nouveau Machiavel (NM) in 1924 (the novel dates from 1911), the collection Le Trésor dans la forêt (TF), which finally allowed French readers access to Conversations choisies avec un oncle maintenant défunt (SCU), a series of humorous texts dating from 1895. They also published Le Père de Christine-Alberte (CAF) in 1939 and, above all, M. Barnstaple chez les hommesdieux (MLG) in 1926. Even though Gallimard, in a fine gesture, published Une tentative d’autobiographie (EA) in 1936, Le Joueur de croquet (CP) in 1938 and the extraordinary Enfants des étoiles (SB) in 1939, one cannot say that after the end of the 1920s Wells really interested the major publishers. Less prestigious houses took on his output: M. Blettsworthy dans l’île Rampole (MBRI) was published by Aubier in 1929, La Dictature de M. Parham (AMP) by the Société Française d’Editions

Wells’s Critical Reception in France

23

Littéraires et Techniques in 1930, Châteaux en Angleterre . . . (BB) by the Editions de la Nouvelle Revue Critique in 1935, Dolorès (AOD) and Les Enfants dans la forêt (BDW) by the Editions des Deux-Rives in 1946 and 1947 respectively, and Un homme averti en vaut deux (YCBTC) by the Editions Universelles in 1946. The latter also published in 1947, somewhat unexpectedly, an essay from 1942, De l’Homme de Cro-Magnon à l’humanité de demain (OHS). Curiously enough, no French publisher seems to have been tempted by the novel The Shape of Things to Come (1933), which was, however, a commercial success in England to the point of inspiring the film Things to Come (1936). The consignment to oblivion of another scientific romance, La Destruction libératrice (WSF), finally introduced to the French public by the small but adventurous Brussels publisher Grama in 1995, can doubtlessly be explained by the unfortunate coincidence of its original publication date (1914) and its subject (a world war). Wells and academic criticism Wells’s stature as a novelist and an essayist rapidly attracted the attention of academic critics worldwide. In France, the indispensable critical works are those by Edouard Guyot and Georges Connes from the 1920s (while Wells was still alive), and much later, those of Jean-Pierre Vernier. Here we will only consider those works dealing with Wells’s oeuvre in its entirety, rather than specialist theses such as Bernard Loing’s H. G. Wells à l’œuvre: les débuts d’un écrivain, 1894–1900 (H. G. Wells at work: the debut of a writer, 1894–1900) (1984). H. G. Wells by Edouard Guyot was published by Payot in 1920. It constitutes a kind of introduction to the works of Wells which Payot had yet to publish. Guyot was also the translator of Tono-Bungay and the monumental Outline of History. The work of this great connoisseur of English civilization – author of books including La Durée du travail dans le mines de Grande-Bretagne (Working hours in the mines of Great Britain) (1908) and L’Idée socialiste chez William Morris (The socialist idea in William Morris) (1913) – is remarkable. In a language that seems by today’s standards a little grandiloquent, but which always remains lucid, he comments upon the whole of Wells’s work as it stood in 1920, bringing out with clarity and precision the relationship between the discourse of the novelist and that of the social reformer. While Guyot is always perfectly fair towards Wells and refrains from passing value judgements on his thought, the same is not quite the case, I would suggest, with Georges Connes’s study. Let me say immediately, to avoid any misunderstanding, that his Etude sur la pensée de Wells (A study of the thought of Wells), published by Hachette in 1926, is a monument of erudition, a mine of references and valuable documents and a source of incisive analyses which no Wellsian worthy of the name could afford to ignore. Connes undertook the task of studying all of Wells’s works, and one must admit that the result equals the ambition. Rarely, we think, would a writer (who, we must remember, was still active when Connes was writing) have seen the most modest of his works dissected with such conscientiousness so as to extract their quintessence. In his foreword, Connes declares:

24

The Reception of H. G. Wells in Europe We have aimed to draw up a first balance sheet of this thought – a balance sheet, not a judgement – which does not mean that we have renounced all traces of personality in our study.17 (1926, i)

The problem is that, manifestly, Connes yearns to pass judgement on Wells’s thought. This is a perfectly legitimate desire, since Wells, who sees himself as a reformer, always tries to initiate intellectual debate and invites criticism and commentary from his readers, however negative. But Connes aims at objectivity without wholly achieving it. Let us take, for example, the following extract from the fifth chapter of his study (‘Les Vies étiolées’ [The etiolated lives]), where he comments upon Wells’s revolt against poverty and the mediocrity to which it condemns its victims: He is ignorant of the fact that there is some happiness in those sombre subterranean kitchens, those lives of drudgery and slavery, some happiness which it would be imprudent to interfere with, since some of the destitute would hurry to go back to their destitution if one took them away from it: might that be because we have not prepared them for anything else? Maybe because of nature too: if Wells, instead of only being in contact with the elite at the University of London, had had to teach average schoolchildren for any length of time, he would know that intelligence is rare and that mediocrity is entirely satisfied with a routine existence; but, as a novelist in search of subjects, he is naturally attracted by the radicals who stand out against universal apathy: among the destitute, he will single out the rebels.18 (1926, 194)

We might venture that this passage on the rarity of intelligence among schoolchildren belongs more in a pub conversation between tired teachers than in an academic thesis, unless Georges Connes’s elitism – an attitude that Wells himself is sometimes reproached for – really reaches disagreeable proportions. Another passage which we find rather comical concerns the Wells of The Outline of History. Connes comments upon the polemics between Wells and his critics, among whom Hilaire Belloc was doubtlessly the most notable and the most combative: Thus, Wells’s final position, when he has demonstrated throughout his biased view of history, consists in denying passionately that history could be anything but passionate

17

18

‘Nous avons vraiment voulu faire effort pour dresser un premier bilan de cette pensée – dresser un bilan n’est pas porter un jugement – ce qui ne signifie pas que nous ayons abdiqué toute personnalité dans ce travail.’ ‘Il [Wells] sait donc mal qu’il y a des bonheurs dans ces sombres cuisines souterraines, ces vies de forçats et d’esclaves, des bonheurs auxquels il serait imprudent de toucher, des étiolés qui s’empresseraient de retourner à leur étiolement si on les arrachait: parce qu’on ne les a pas préparés à autre chose? Peut-être aussi par nature: si Wells, au lieu de n’avoir eu de contact, à l’Université de Londres, qu’avec les élites, avait exercé longuement des fonctions d’enseignement parmi la moyenne des enfants d’âge scolaire, il saurait comme l’intelligence est rare, et la médiocrité entièrement satisfaite à la règle; mais, romancier en quête de sujets, il sera naturellement attiré par les révoltes qui émergent de l’acquiescement universel: il préférera, parmi les étiolés, les rebelles.’

Wells’s Critical Reception in France

25

and biased: and at the same time, in flagrant contradiction, he expresses the hope that his book might come to be used universally. All too evidently, he is mistaken: an impartial history of humanity is possible: one is in course of publication here, in the form of the series of monographs constituting the Bibliothèque de synthèse historique (Library of historical synthesis): and let us not be too optimistic: for even this work is acceptable only to the scholarly, and then only in those rare moments when the soul and body are untroubled and at rest, in the peace of their studies, when they can achieve an impartial view of things: such a work will, no doubt, be quite unacceptable to Catholics, Marxists and Wellsians.19 (1926, 438)

We seem to detect a hint of self-importance and vanity in this passage, which, once again, is a digression. Georges Connes carefully distinguishes between himself and Wells, that muddled and superficial spirit: Connes alone is capable of objectivity, not to mention modesty. Clearly, having disposed of the Catholics, the Marxists, the Wellsians and the dilettantes, he can breathe the rarefied atmosphere and find an audience worthy of his efforts. Let the publisher of the Bibliothèque de synthèse historique worry about his sales figures: Georges Connes must have been far removed from considerations of that sort. Enough of irony. Wells’s ideas as a reformer and educator are highly debatable, and should be debated. But, what is inadmissible in Connes’s numerous digressions into the area of value judgement is that more often than not he seems to reproach Wells for wanting to share his knowledge with as many people as possible. This is a paradoxical position for a former student of the Ecole Normale Supérieure and a lecturer in the Faculty of Arts at Dijon, and thus entirely statefunded, a fact which does not seem to bother him unduly – the same person who mercilessly tracks down the contradictions in Wells’s thought. This regrettable attitude detracts somewhat from a work which is, as I have said, irreproachable in many other respects. H. G. Wells et son temps (H. G. Wells and his time) by Jean-Pierre Vernier came out in 1971, published by Didier and the University of Rouen. Twentyfive years after Wells’s death, and forty-five years after Georges Connes’s study, passions had calmed down, and Vernier’s measured work is free from the lapses of his hot-headed predecessor. Moreover, this may also be because Vernier belongs to an altogether different school of thought from Georges Connes and he displays, let us say, a more ‘progressive’ state of mind. Unlike Georges Connes who, with his proliferation of very detailed analyses, sometimes ends up by losing sight of the main points of Wellsian thought,

19

‘Ainsi, la position finale de Wells, lorsqu’il a démontré partout la partialité de son histoire, consiste à nier avec passion que l’histoire puisse être autre chose que passionnée et partialle: et en même temps, contradiction flagrante, il exprime l’espoir que son livre pourra devenir d’usage universel. Trop évidemment, il se trompe: une histoire impartiale de l’humanité est possible: elle est en voie de publication chez nous, sous forme de la série de monographies de la Bibliothèque de synthèse historique: et ne soyons pas trop optimistes: même celle-ci n’est acceptable qu’aux savants, et seulement dans les moments rares où, paisibles, le corps et l’âme en repos, dans la paix de leur cabinet, ils peuvent s’élever à la vue impartiale des choses: elle ne l’est point, sans doute, à des catholiques, à des marxistes, à des wellsiens.’

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The Reception of H. G. Wells in Europe

Vernier opts for a clear synthesis which brings them into full view. It is true that Vernier does not face the same difficulties as Connes in trying to understand the ideas of a living writer: he has the whole Wellsian corpus at his disposal, which does facilitate the task. Although rather imposing (it numbers more than 500 pages), Vernier’s study, composed in an appealing style, is highly readable. One feels that for him, as for Edouard Guyot and Georges Connes, the writing of a thesis was also an exercise in style. They hark back to happier times, when French academic prose was not yet spoilt by the grotesque mannerisms of narratology! Vernier takes a critical yet affectionate look at Wells and his work, which is epitomized magnificently by the last lines of his conclusion: Without any doubt he could have been a greater writer had he accepted the need to bow to the necessities of his art, a greater thinker had he been able to distance himself from his personal desires, a greater prophet had he not changed his mind so often. Such regrets come readily enough to the critical pen, but they seem beside the point: one has to accept Wells as he was, with his contradictions, his impatience and all those ambiguities which are born out of the confusion in his thought. [. . .] Wells remained the incarnation of the eternal dream of a better society. Maybe this is his greatest claim to fame: even in our time, men who, without adopting Wells’s lifelong millennial vision, believe that humanity remains perfectible in spite of everything, cannot fail to recognize him as one of their own.20 (1971, 530)

The homage of a great Wellsian In 1952, the publishing house Stock brought out H. G. Wells ou la Conspiration au grand jour (H. G. Wells: Prophet of Our Day). The author, Antonina Vallentin (1893–1957), had met Wells in 1929, while she was working for the German Foreign Ministry under Gustav Stresemann. Her book on Stresemann, cosignatory of the Treaties of Locarno, was published by Flammarion in 1931 with a preface by Albert Einstein. She shared with H. G. Wells a passion for Heinrich Heine, to whom she devoted a monograph which Wells considered to be a classic. It was Vallentin who invited him to deliver his famous speech at the Reichstag in April 1929, ‘Que veut dire paix universelle?’ (‘The Common

20

‘Sans doute aurait-il pu être plus grand écrivain s’il avait accepté de se plier aux exigences de son art, plus grand penseur s’il avait su faire abstraction de ses désirs personnels, plus grand prophète s’il n’était point si souvent revenu sur ses propos. Ce sont là regrets qu’on trouve fréquemment exprimés sous la plume des critiques, mais qui semblent bien vains: il faut accepter Wells tel qu’il fut, avec ses contradictions, son impatience, et toutes les ambiguïtés qui naissent de la confusion de sa pensée. [. . .] Wells resta l’incarnation du rêve éternel d’une société meilleure. Peut-être estce là son plus grand titre de gloire: même à notre époque, les hommes qui, sans adopter la vision du millénium qui servit Wells pendant toute son existence, croient que l’humanité reste, malgré tout, perfectible, ne peuvent manquer de reconnaître en lui l’un des leurs.’

Wells’s Critical Reception in France

27

Sense of World Peace’, collected in Faillite de la démocratie? [AD, 1932] in 1933), a speech delivered not to the German parliament itself, but on behalf of a literary association. Antonina Vallentin’s essay takes the form of a biography of Wells, together with a commentary on his main works up to his last essay A fin de course (MET, 1946c). Deeply involved in the political and cultural life of her time, Vallentin does not neglect the essays of Wells the reformer, which she summarizes conscientiously; in fact, one could say that she particularly focuses on this aspect of the writer. The tone is quite enthusiastic; Vallentin does not hide her admiration for Wells. In the foreword, she even draws up a list of Wellsian ‘anticipations’ which have actually happened. The list is worth quoting: In 1898 – Talking machines; Television; Motion pictures; Air-conditioning; Intercontinental airplanes; Moving sidewalks In 1900 – War in the air; Dirigible balloons; Motor coaches; Special motor highways; Prefabricated houses; Electric cookers with thermostatic control; Dishwashing machines; The servant problem; A ‘world state’ In 1903 – Armored tanks In 1908 – War with Germany; Blitzkrieg; Police state; ‘Free love’ In 1912 – Planned economy In 1913 – The atom from uranium; The vulnerability of dreadnoughts; Helicopters In 1914 – ‘The war to end war’ In 1915 – Revaluation of gold In 1918 – ‘Citizen of the World’ In 1929 – World War II In 1930 – Nazi dictatorship; Air raids on London In 1932 – ‘The age of dictators and popular saviors’ In 1933 – Rain-making; Remote-control air torpedoes; ‘Total war’ In 1936 – ‘Freedom from war and freedom from want’ (phrases used in the Atlantic Charter) In 1942 – Germany’s quick recovery after defeat; Victory of Chinese Communists over Chiang Kai-shek; Stalin’s split with the Allies In 1944 – America ‘the great problem-child of humanity’21

This somewhat naïve list may raise a smile. Wells did not have exclusive rights on some of the ‘anticipations’ mentioned above, while others are rather debatable (the entry for 1944 makes one wonder). It shows, in any case, that after his death the image of Wells the ‘prophet’ remained extremely vivid among many of his readers. H. G. Wells: Prophet of Our Day, the work of an authentic Wellsian, remains despite these reservations a magnificent testimony to Wells’s reforming influence.

21

Quoted from the back cover of the dust-jacket of Vallentin’s H. G. Wells: Prophet of Our Day. The list appears in slightly different form in the French text.

2

Henry-D. Davray and the Mercure de France Annie Escuret

The reception of a writer in a particular country often depends on the commitment of one or several enthusiasts and on the influence of the newspapers or magazines,1 and Wells’s case was no exception to this rule. The Mercure de France (French Mercury) was founded by Alfred Vallette in 1890. It first came out twice a month, and then only once, and it ceased publication in 1965. There were several literary columns and Henry-D. Davray’s name appears from an early date as he was in charge of reviewing new books under the heading of ‘Lettres anglaises’ (English literature) for many years. In 1923, Jean Catel started his own column ‘Lettres anglo-américaines’ (Anglo-American literature). Davray’s name disappears about 1940, and Jacques Vallette took over with his ‘Lettres anglo-saxonnes’ (Anglo-Saxon literature) after the Second World War. Davray obviously admired Wells from the very beginning and did his best to introduce him to his French readers. Little did he know when he embarked on this adventure where it would lead him, or that he was in danger of biting off more than he could chew, but, as his capacity for work was phenomenal, he managed to keep pace with some of Wells’s tremendous output since he translated, in whole or in part, fourteen books published between 1895 and 1910 and five volumes of his short stories.2 He was the single person most responsible

1

2

Apart from Davray and the Mercure de France, there were quite a few other critics writing in other journals, although Davray’s influence was dominant. We have in mind critics like Augustin Filon and Teodor de Wyzewa (Revue des Deux Mondes [Two Worlds Review]), Gabriel de Lautrec (Le Monde moderne [The Modern World]), Adolphe Brisson (Les Annales politiques et littéraires [Literary and Political Annals]), Eugene Ledrain (L’Illustration [The Illustration]), etc. Robert M. Philmus (1992) explains that the French version of IDM was not based on the Heinemann first edition but on a particular copy of the ‘Colonial Edition’ (which appeared towards the end of 1896, about six months after the Heinemann edition) emended in Wells’s own hand and which is now in the Wells Collection at the University of Illinois. Philmus thinks that Wells was responding to restrictions on space in the Mercure de France and that he agreed to delete mention of the wreck of the Medusa because it might have reminded the French of a painful episode.

Henry-D. Davray and the Mercure de France

29

for Wells’s reception in France.3 And yet, as the years went by, their relations became so strained that Wells did his best to find a new translator, although he went back to Davray when he had problems with other translators. In a letter to Wells dated 19 September 1899, Davray insisted that he did not look upon translating Wells’s books merely ‘as a way of making a little money’ for both of them, but was doing ‘his utmost’ to establish him ‘among the foremost as such works as [his] [were] sure to impress themselves deeply on French minds’: I daresay I have now succeeded to make you known, well known and appreciated by all literary people, by all the ‘Intellectuels’, and I think this is the best beginning. You are much talked of, and your works discussed. Soon I expect, the bookbuyers will take to it, and, after the ‘succès d’estime’, the ‘succès d’argent’.4

Davray as the architect of Wells’s reception Henry Durand-Davray, who wrote under the pen-name ‘Henry-D. Davray’, was born in 1873 in Bricquebec (Manche, France) and died in London on 21 January 1944. His mother came from the Cévennes region but his father was Alsatian, which probably accounts for the son’s deep hatred of Germany and love of England, where he spent most of his holidays. He read English at the Sorbonne but never graduated because he spent most of his time abroad. He became a well-read man who knew all about London and Paris, and was accustomed to moving in artistic, political and literary circles. He spent more years in England than in France and he met many writers in Wells’s circle, such as Arnold Bennett5 and Joseph Conrad. He visited Hardy at Max Gate several times, and he called on Meredith at Box Hill. He also met Oscar Wilde, Aubrey Beardsley, Frank Harris, Arthur Symons, George Moore, W. B. Yeats and many others. When he was in France, he moved in literary circles in Paris where he met writers and painters like Pierre Louÿs, Henri de Régnier, Paul Fort, Pierre Bonnard, Toulouse-Lautrec and Edouard Dujardin. In 1917 he was among the founders of the Anglo-French Society, whose aim was to promote the Entente

3

4

5

Davray was primarily a translator and a critic, but his own books include Chez les Anglais pendant la Grande Guerre (With the English during the Great War) (1916) and L’Œuvre et le prestige de Lord Kitchener (The work and prestige of Lord Kitchener) (1917). He translated Meredith, Wilde, Kipling, Yeats and many other writers. We would like to thank Professor Gene Rinkel of the Rare Book and Special Collections Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and his Technical Assistant Madeline Gibson for their help with Davray’s letters. All letters from Davray to Wells cited in this chapter are from this collection. In Books and Persons, Bennett mentions Davray: ‘I happened to meet Mr Henry Davray several times while he was translating [De Profundis] into French. Mr Davray’s knowledge of English is profound, and I was accordingly somewhat disconcerted when one day, pointing to a sentence in the original he asked “What does that mean?” I thought: Is Davray at last “stumped”? I examined the sentence with care, and then answered: “It does not mean anything.” “I thought so” said Davray’ (Bennett 1917, 220).

30

The Reception of H. G. Wells in Europe

Cordiale. Davray was even humorously called ‘the Channel Tunnel’6 by his friends (Brochard 1953, 57), as he was a distinguished comparative scholar and cultural mediator between England and France for many years. He could not stand either Anglophobia or Gallophobia and did his best to strengthen the ties between the two countries. It must be remembered that relations between France and England were rather bitter in 1898; when Kitchener confronted Marchand at Fashoda, many feared war between the two countries. But by 1914 the differences had been ironed out and Britain and France entered the war together as allies. This change was the result of political action but also of individual actions such as Davray’s. Davray was a critic, a translator and, at the age of twenty-five, he became the general editor of a series devoted to Foreign Authors (‘Collection des Auteurs Etrangers’). Davray had often told Vallette that the Mercure de France should publish translations in volume form, but Vallette refused because it was too expensive. When Davray proposed a partnership which would permit him to publish books under the imprint of the Mercure de France, Vallette finally agreed. Soon afterwards, he translated The Time Machine and published it in the Mercure de France (vol. 28, December 1898, 583–647, and vol. 29, January 1899, 90–150).7 The writer Rachilde8 wrote a review in 1899 praising the book, and in the same issue there was a fascinating article signed ‘Dr Faustroll’ (Alfred Jarry’s pen name), entitled ‘Commentaire pour servir à la construction pratique de la machine à explorer le temps’ (How to build the time machine). Joseph Altairac points out in Chapter 1 that, whereas most writers have to wait many years before becoming famous at home and abroad, Wells’s case was quite different as he became well known overnight in England and elsewhere. In France, Davray was the architect of Wells’s early reception as he translated many novels and short stories, but he also wrote articles in praise of Wells’s achievement as he was in charge of the journal’s coverage of English literature. As soon as the publishers sent him the books, he reported on them and, from time to time, added a comment of his own, either briefly (a few lines) or at length (two or three pages). In his letters to Wells (from January 1897 to March 1941), it is quite easy to trace the ups and downs of their relationship over the years. When the reception was good, he wrote to tell Wells about the letters of praise that readers sent: This very morning I received a letter from Stuart Merrill, the poet, who writes of The Time Machine. A few days after the appearance of ‘Le Mercure’ I met at our office Albert Samain, a poet also, who told me ‘you have upset my mind with the story of The Time Machine, and to know the end of it, I went and bought the English text at Tauchnitz – Pierre Louÿs says it is one of the most interesting things The Mercure has published this year.’

6 7

8

‘le tunnel sous la Manche’. All parenthetical references in this chapter are to the Mercure de France unless otherwise stated. Marguerite Vallette (known as ‘Rachilde’) was Alfred Vallette’s wife. They started the Mercure de France together, and she was also a novelist and a playwright.

Henry-D. Davray and the Mercure de France

31

Our editor, Alfred Vallette, and the subeditor, Louis Dumur, read the manuscript and got very excited. Herold, Danville, Fort, De Régnier and many others entreated me or Vallette to let them read the proofs of the last part. And all of them came and surrounded me, asking: tell us who is Wells; and what else he has done etc. [. . .] I don’t know how the public will receive the book but you are sure to have conquered the sympathy and esteem of the ‘hommes de lettres’. (21 December 1898)

This good reception was also due to the fact that Wells was able to strike a responsive chord because he was conveying something quite different from Jules Verne’s positivism. Although Verne’s scientific novels had succeeded in firing the imagination of several generations of readers, his didacticism was rather conservative and people were ready to welcome something new in the name of imagination and mystery. There are no alien life forms in Verne’s novels and his protagonists explore exotic regions, tell us all about their discoveries and come back unscathed (as if nothing had happened to them). He did manage to popularize the science-fiction genre, and his influence was so deep during the latter years of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth that he overshadowed most of his rivals.9 Verne was looked upon as a man of the nineteenth century, whereas Wells, who explored the consequences of scientific innovation for mankind, was considered as a twentieth-century writer and thinker. Wells’s fame grew steadily, as is evidenced by some of Davray’s letters. On 28 February 1908, he asks Wells to agree to being named ‘among the committee members of the Constantin Meunier monument’,10 and adds that the French are keen on this type of ‘glorification’: it is a French mania to have the most famous people associated with such ‘glorifications’; and, for my own part, I am glad that they now think of you in this guise. It means you are ‘naturalisé’ in the French elite. You have also received a few bottles of Mariani Wine, with albums of contemporary portraits. This is an inducement to join yourself in the choir of praise of the famous tonic wine, to send me your portrait, signed, with some lines, or words, on the excellency of the liquor and you will receive more phials, and your portrait and biographical notice will be inserted in a forthcoming album. Don’t think it is ridiculous, or improper, or I don’t know what other objections. When the pope did it, the king is bound to do it too. [. . .] I am going in haste to the other end of Paris to see Anatole France, who quoted you in the preface of his ‘Jeanne d’Arc’, and who mentions and quotes you a hundred times in his forthcoming ‘Histoire des Pingouins’.11

9

10

11

He even overshadowed Rosny the Elder, who could be considered as the true father of ‘modern’ French science fiction as his narratives go well beyond the traditional patterns of utopian postulation and scientific didacticism and offer his readers parallel worlds and frequent ‘alien encounters’. Constantin Meunier (1831–1905) was a famous Belgian artist (a painter and a sculptor). Anatole France was the pseudonym of Anatole François Thibault (1844–1924), the famous French satirist. La Vie de Jeanne d’Arc (The Life of Joan of Arc) and L’Ile des pingouins (Penguin Island) were published in 1908.

32

The Reception of H. G. Wells in Europe

Almost two years later, on 8 November 1909, he wrote again, asking Wells not to object to Louis Dumur’s12 request for his opinion on a survey entitled ‘Depopulation in France’: You know how well known your name is in France, and most certainly people will be curious to see your opinion about our national evil. It will increase your fame, (and consequently the sale of your books, which interests me not a little). . . . You are considered as an enlightened friend of France and your opinion will be more resounding than any other, even French ones.

When Wells’s reception was disappointing, Davray’s tone became rather bitter: If it were not that England is by now so little popular, the sales would be much better. It is unquestionable that the present state of unsympathetic feeling towards England has done a considerable prejudice to the art – and business – of translating. (20 March 1902)

On 28 August 1902, Davray pointed out that things were more difficult in France than in England because there was no reviewing of books: We have not in France your copious reviewing of books. There are no Academy, Athenaeum, Speaker, Spectator, Saturd. Rev. etc; in the periodicals very little room is afforded to criticism. As to the dailies, there is no gratuitous critic of books. To have an article in the Journal costs from £40 to £100, depends upon the writer. In the Figaro, it goes up to £200. (28 August 1902)

Although Davray’s tone is usually friendly and polite, when he does not agree with Wells his letters become colder and even ‘bossy’ at times. Politically, Davray must have been left wing or radical because he always seems to share Wells’s social and political ideas, as illustrated by a letter dated 23 November 1932: You may wonder why you are pelted with copies of French radical dailies. Well, I am the culprit, as I gave your name and address to my friends in Paris. If you ever have a look at them you may find articles, editorials and paragraphs that you could have signed. Some time ago, I noticed the striking identity of opinion between French and English radical thought, on peace, disarmament, treaty revision, cancellation of debts etc. [. . .] Many big provincial papers are radical – and if you read the Petit Niçois [Little Nice] and other papers on the Riviera, you may have already noticed it.

Davray’s admiration never flagged but, as the years went by and he felt that he had devoted most of his time to Wells’s fame, he found it more and more difficult to put up with Wells’s growing coldness, as if he had been betrayed by a

12

Louis Dumur was a friend of Davray and one of the founders of the Mercure de France together with Edouard Dubus and Georges-Albert Aurier.

Henry-D. Davray and the Mercure de France

33

lifelong friend.13 Whenever he was confronted with a difficult passage, he wrote to Wells for help. He also kept him informed about his current translations and publications, forbidding him to send his books to other translators and insisting on the fact that he worked ten hours a day for Wells’s sake. Apart from Bronisław Kozakiewicz, Davray was never eager to engage other translators for Wells’s work. When Achille Laurent wrote to Davray to inform him of his wish to translate some of the short stories, Davray warned Wells against him, because he had not even read all the stories and was unable to tell Davray which ones he wanted.14 The scientific romances and Love and Mr Lewisham In 1896, Davray mentions the publication of The Time Machine, The Island of Doctor Moreau and The Wonderful Visit. He fell in love with The Time Machine and translated it at once for the journal, but The Wonderful Visit was translated much later, by Louis Barron in 1903. In 1896 Davray also published his translation of ‘The Sea Raiders’ (‘Les Pirates de la mer’). In April 1897, Davray refers to The Wheels of Chance: ‘Another book by H. G. Wells. One can sincerely praise the imagination, the exquisite lightness of touch [. . .] All this for the adventures of a cyclist – what a topic! But who has never ridden a bicycle?’15 Davray tries hard to make his readers share his admiration for this sentimental comedy which gave Wells’s readers a respite from monsters and, to lure them on, he adds that they will also find scenes of ‘conjugal prostitution’,16 which shows that he was quite aware of the readers’ love for cycling and sex (Mercure de France, 22: 173–74).

13

14

15

16

Wells’s growing coldness was mainly due to Davray’s difficulties at times with the payment of his fees, which were caused either by his divorce (his bank accounts had been blocked by his ex-wife in 1902) or by the fact that the books did not sell well. In a letter dated 7 March 1899, Davray mentions Laurent again: ‘I have seen Laurent. We have settled matters. He keeps the short stories and IM up to the date you said. I have accepted one of the short stories: The “Strange Orchid”, for the Mercure; his version of it, of course; that had been just refused by a magazine. WW will run serially in the Mercure from November to March next. – IDM will probably be published this very summer serially too and early-in-autumn in book-form. As to WSW, I think we can publish it next spring. What about the copyright? Our “Collection” is rather a success as far as now Kipling meets a considerable sale. I wish it would be OUR BOOK! which does. It would be rather a nuisance if Laurent were going to give IM to another publisher. It would spoil the all lot, as we intend, very probably, to have an illustrated edition – of TM as well as the others to come. Now my dear Wells, is that what we agreed upon? You don’t give any rights to anybody before offering me the refusal. We are partners, I daresay, and you may be sure that our united interests are in good hands.’ ‘Encore un livre de M. H. G. Wells. On ne peut que sincèrement louer la fantaisie, l’exquise légèreté. [. . .] Tout ceci pour les aventures d’un cycliste – quel sujet! Mais qui n’a jamais fait de bicyclette?’ ‘des scènes de prostitution conjugale’.

34

The Reception of H. G. Wells in Europe

In November 1897, Davray first summarizes the plot of The War of the Worlds and then praises the book which he finds ‘powerful and dramatic’.17 The description of London is ‘most impressive’,18 and he wonders why the Martians should be so intent on destroying the Earth. Davray praises Wells’s imagination and skilfulness and adds that the book is far superior to ‘Jules Verne’s inventions’.19 He thinks that Wells is just as ‘serious as Stevenson’,20 and even reminds one of Poe, the American apostle of the mystery of nature, but he ends by regretting Wells’s ‘careless style’.21 If Wells did not write so many books, he ‘would write much better’22 (Mercure de France, 24: 630–31). In Vol. 30 (April–June 1899), Achille Laurent published a translation of ‘The Flowering of the Strange Orchid’ (‘Une orchidée extraordinaire’) (40–51) and Davray offered his translation of the tale ‘The Man who Could Work Miracles’ (‘L’Homme qui pouvait accomplir des miracles’) (289–315): two stories meant to show the French public that Wells not only wrote novels but was a talented author of short stories and tales. In July 1899, Davray mentions When the Sleeper Wakes, a futuristic sciencefiction novel and, as usual, he summarizes the story and then praises it as a good example of Wells’s unfailing imagination: The author does not content himself with building a future based only on his own imagination; everything that he imagines is the logical and never improbable outcome of the contemporary conditions of existence, and the result of current contributions towards the perpetual transformation of the world. We feel perfectly the successive developments which must have taken place between our own time and the time when the sleeper wakes [. . .] this result is hardly desirable and we are relieved when we realize that we shall be dead when all this happens.23 (1899, 264)

Davray found the idea of a man who falls asleep a socialist and who wakes up a tyrant a most fascinating starting point for a novel that shows a world in which capitalism has been carried to its extreme – a world which reminds us of The Time Machine with its division between an upper class living idly in pleasure cities and a lower class toiling away on underground assembly lines.

17 18 19

20 21 22 23

‘puissamment dramatique’. ‘produit un grand effet’. ‘supérieur aux fantaisies de Jules Verne’. In his chapter in the present volume, Altairac rightly points out the total lack of jingoism in the French press as regards the comparison with Jules Verne. ‘avec les préoccupations sérieuses de R. L. Stevenson’. ‘style négligé’. ‘écrirait mieux’. ‘Non pas que l’auteur se borne à construire sans autre base que sa fantaisie cet avenir, non; tout ce qu’il imagine est la conséquence logique et toujours probable des conditions actuelles de l’existence et le résultat des formes actuellement en mouvement vers la transformation perpétuelle du monde. On sent parfaitement, entre notre époque et celle où le dormeur s’éveille, les développements successifs qui ont dû s’accomplir [. . .] ce résultat n’est guère souhaitable et l’on se réjouit à penser que l’on sera mort quand tout cela arrivera.’

Henry-D. Davray and the Mercure de France

35

In October 1899, Davray published the translation of ‘L’Œuf de cristal’ (‘The Crystal Egg’) (32: 110–35) and La Guerre des Mondes (WW). In Vol. 35 (July– September 1900), we find the translation of ‘Un étrange phénomène’ (‘The Remarkable Case of Davidson’s Eyes’) (351–66) and, in the same issue, Davray devoted many pages to Love and Mr Lewisham. He had chosen the latter as a ‘bedside book’,24 and he advised his readers to do the same because its main theme, human love and the impact of sexual love on the life of a young man, was a universal topic. He also announced the publication of the translation (as L’Amour et M. Lewisham). Davray’s enthusiasm was due to the fact that Wells kept on writing book after book and that he obviously had more than one string to his bow because he could write the best scientific romances and, at the same time, offer his readers interesting novels. Readers of his new novel were not asked to think about the past or the future of mankind, but to share a character’s plight in the present (as if the hero’s psychological conflict had been magnified by using a microscope). Although Davray’s criticism remains on the whole old-fashioned and traditional, he is quite able, from time to time, to point out some interesting aspects because his knowledge of English literature was huge and he could compare Wells’s production to that of other contemporary writers, including French writers. He knew that most of Wells’s works were gradually gaining recognition, even if some of them (i.e., his science fiction) were far more popular in France and elsewhere than others, but we need critics like Patrick Parrinder to understand Wells’s contradictions. Parrinder has observed an opposition between ‘the Hebraic notion of the preacher and the sage – a literary Moses pointing the way to his own version of the Promised Land and warning of dire consequences if the message is unheeded’ and ‘the classical images of the Delphic priestess, sphinx and Sibyl’ (1995, 22). Whenever Wells felt caught between the two modes of prophecy, he tried to escape by writing novels like Love and Mr Lewisham in which he is not expected to assume either the Hebraic mode of social prophecy or the oracular and Hellenistic revelation of future events. Volume 36 (October–December 1900) comprises the translation of ‘A Story of the Stone Age’ (I and II: 50–96; III, IV and V: 325–68),25 as well as The Island of Doctor Moreau,26 whereas Vol. 33 (January 1900) includes The War of the Worlds.27 In the same issue, Davray announced the publication of Tales of Space and Time (1899) and briefly summarized the plot of each tale, strongly recommending them to his readers.

24 25

26

27

‘livre de chevet’. In a footnote, Davray specifies that there are five tales in this collection and that he has chosen to translate and to publish only two: ‘Une histoire des temps à venir’ (‘A Story of the Days to Come’) (1897) and ‘Récits de l’âge de pierre’ (‘A Story of the Stone Age’) (1901). Chapters 1 to 6: (Dec. 1900) 577–639; 7 to 10: (Jan. 1901) 99–154; 11 to 14: (Feb. 1901) 420–80. Book 1, Chapters 1 to 13: (Dec. 1899) 577–665; 14 to 17: (Jan. 1900) 120–76; Bk. 2, Chapters 1 to 5: (Feb. 1900) 405–45; 6 to 10: (March 1900) 703–55.

36

The Reception of H. G. Wells in Europe

In July 1901, Davray declared that too many people associated Wells with Verne; he rejected this comparison and quoted a recent article in La Revue des Deux Mondes written by Teodor de Wyzewa,28 who also thought that this association was irrelevant because the two writers were quite different: Verne’s didactic fiction was mainly meant for juveniles whereas Wells wrote for adults, which explained his success in France. Verne’s inventions were not inventions but rather extrapolations from contemporary technological and scientific discoveries. He advocated positivist scientism and believed in the material and moral evolution of humanity, unlike Wells, who chose to examine the impact of science on mankind. From Anticipations to the First World War 1901 was also the year of Wells’s Anticipations, which Davray and Kozakiewicz translated in 1904. In other words, Davray showed that he valued Wells’s book of prophecies for the twentieth century as much as he valued his fiction, and that he believed the French should be better acquainted with his theories. In a letter dated 22 August 1902, Davray informs Wells about the translation of Anticipations: I translated some important parts in the chapters and did a summing up of the rest – in order to offer the entire work to the Revue de Paris (Paris Review) whose editor is strongly disposed to take it. I have not his answer yet. Had I got it, I would have at once begun translating, not single handed, but with the help of Alfred Jarry who is the sort of man with a scientific training, quite able not to miss anything of your meanings. I did so on account of your permission, as you gave it in a letter of 19–11/01 saying: ‘What do you say to getting the book, to extracting and translating a number of passages that are expressly calculated to excite and interest the French public, sending them, duly ascribed to my book [. . .].’ The dozen passages were sent, not to papers (except a few), that would have asked to be paid for it, but to a good many people who could use them in paragraphs or articles and I began negotiating with papers and periodicals about an integral translation of the book. On Wednesday, I saw Vallette in Paris and he explicitly said that he is ready – next season – to make a large expense for a ‘lancement’ [‘promotion’] of your books at the occasion of either Anticipations or When the Sleeper Wakes. I am certain that we will succeed in getting a large sale not only for the one book then published but for all previously done.

In Vol. 41 (January–March 1902), Davray announced the publication of The First Men in the Moon, specifying that it was an illustrated edition and adding that

28

Teodor Wyzewski, alias Teodor de Wyzewa, was a learned man, a well-known journalist and an expert in musicology. He was born in Russia, of Polish parents, in 1862 and died in Paris in 1917 and he was viewed as ‘a critic without a country’ because he spoke French, German, English, Russian, Polish, Dutch and Italian. He wrote articles for La Revue des Deux Mondes, Le Temps, La Gazette des beaux-arts and the Mercure de France.

Henry-D. Davray and the Mercure de France

37

the French public would be able to enjoy the book because it had just come out in translation (Les Premiers hommes dans la Lune). In short, Davray was a critic, a translator and an editor (since he belonged to the staff of the Mercure de France) and this triple role obviously made him a leading figure in the world of French literature at that time. In October 1902, he published the translation of ‘The Argonauts of the Air’ (‘Les Argonautes de l’air’) (64–82) and announced the publication of The Sea Lady, as well as adding a comment on the book, once more with the aim of making people read it. He insisted on the fact that the clever mermaid who happened to come ashore was also quite sensuous and that Wells used her to satirize the hypocrisy of his own times. Davray added that the tale reminded readers of The Wonderful Visit (1895), but this time a mermaid rather than an angel acts as a foil for conventional life. 1903 was devoted to the publication of the translation of Love and Mr Lewisham.29 In December 1903, Davray alluded to the publication of Twelve Stories and a Dream as well as Mankind in the Making, and a paragraph was devoted to the two books to inform the reader that, together with Anticipations, they offered a general theory of social development. Davray thought that these books were quite remarkable and he announced their forthcoming translation.30 In November 1904, Davray reported on The Food of the Gods, a fantastic tale about the invention of a miracle food, ‘Herakleophorbia’, that causes incredible growth when given to chickens. When the experiment gets out of control and giant wasps and rats appear, people become quite scared. Davray also mentioned the fact that he had alluded to an article by ‘Frank Blunt’ (which had appeared in La Nouvelle Revue [The New Review]) in which the critic complained about Wells’s style. When he went to England, he realized that everybody was talking about this article. Davray thought that there was nothing to make such a fuss about, since the article was meant as a joke and it was obvious that Wells could not care less. In October 1906, Davray referred to In the Days of the Comet and stated that, in England, people preferred Love and Mr Lewisham or Kipps to Anticipations, Mankind in the Making or A Modern Utopia. Davray insisted again and again that Wells was one of the most inventive thinkers, a satirist and a prophet at the same time, and that no one could point out our weak points and failings as he did. He added that the translation of the book (as Au Temps de la comète) was ready and that it was worth reading as Wells described the changes in people’s attitudes caused by the gas coming from a comet that passes very close to the Earth. Among these changes, Wells mentioned sexual freedom (to which some readers objected). Davray regretted that this vision of a regenerated humanity was rather vague and he recommended that Wells should pay less attention to his readers and be more outspoken about sexual matters. In the following issue (November 1906), he informed his readers about the publication of the translation of The Sea Lady, oddly enough entitled Miss

29

30

Chapters 1 to 7: (April 1903) 5–64; 8 to 17: (May 1903) 406–71; 18 to 23: (June 1903) 693–752; 24 to 27: (July 1903) 112–61; 28 to 32: (Aug. 1903) 406–50. In fact, he did not translate MM.

38

The Reception of H. G. Wells in Europe

Waters, and, as usual, summarized the plot in order to arouse his readers’ interest by demonstrating that this tale was a bedside book and that it was quite funny, thus promising sea, sex and fun. In 1907, Charles Derennes wrote an article entitled ‘H. G. Wells et le peuple Marsien’ (H. G. Wells and the Martian people) which was well documented and full of praise, but, in a letter addressed to Mrs Wells (21 December 1907), Davray sadly noticed a decline in Wells’s popularity: You must have received by now four copies of the Utopie Moderne I have had sent you. It looks a very sympathetic book and I have made a special distribution of review copies among prominent socialists and the socialist papers. But, in general, the press begins not to like the advanced ideas expressed in the master’s last books. There was lately an important article in the Revue des Deux Mondes, where M. de Wyzewa argues rather angrily against the utopia and the Comet and that makes Koza[kiewicz] rather uneasy and fidgety, as the sale is rather impaired, by those articles, until the public gets used to it.

Davray and Kozakiewicz signed the translation of ‘A Dream of Armageddon’ (vol. 76: 67–94) and, in 1908, Davray advertised the publication of The Wheels of Chance. He corrected a mistake by indicating that, although many French critics thought that this book resembled Tristan Bernard’s Mémoires d’un jeune homme rangé (Memoirs of an angry young man) (1899), they were wrong because The Wheels of Chance was published earlier (in 1896). In 1908, Davray indicated that Wells had just published one more book, The War in the Air, explaining that this realistic and captivating tale was about air warfare, and arguing that such a narrative was very moving and could only make the reader hate air warfare or any kind of war. The reader could only hope that those wonderful inventions would be used solely for pacific purposes (December 1908) (76: 745). In Vol. 83 (January–February 1910), he informed his readers about Ann Veronica, quoting an article by André Chevrillon published in La Revue de Paris (15 December 1909). This article emphasizes Wells’s merits as a satirist (and not just as a writer of science fiction); Davray was quite sure that the French would like this ‘other Wells’ just as much as they had enjoyed the science-fiction writer,31 and that they would appreciate Kipps and Tono-Bungay as well as Ann Veronica, Love and Mr Lewisham and The Sea Lady. He ended up by saying that the French would enjoy Ann Veronica all the more as it is a bitter attack against militant suffragettes and a certain type of social reformer. The History of Mr Polly was announced in Vol. 86 (July–August 1910). Davray stated that the theme of this book was similar to that of Kipps and he confessed that, although Wells apparently ‘repeats himself’,32 in fact it is Wells at his best because it is comic from beginning to end. The publication of The New Machiavelli is mentioned in Vol. 90 (March– April 1911, 854–55). Davray declared that he was glad because the French

31 32

‘cet autre Wells’. ‘se répète’.

Henry-D. Davray and the Mercure de France

39

newspapers now reported every new book by Wells as soon as it was published in England, and that he had done everything he could to make Wells popular in France. The writer had become a ‘French citizen’,33 because daily papers that never published anything about foreign books now devoted pages full of comments to his latest book. Davray reminded his readers that he had worked hard, very hard indeed, for fifteen years to get that result and to convince the French that the author of Anticipations was a genius. Even in his own literary ‘review’ he often wished he had more space. Some critics said that The New Machiavelli broached ‘scandalous matters’,34 (it was boycotted by some libraries and was even refused by a timorous publisher) but Davray did not think that the situations described in the novel were ‘objectionable’35 at all. Davray next mentions Wells’s articles in Le Temps (The times) (18–21 June 1911), drawing attention to their concern with the freedom of the press (July– August 1911) (vol. 92: 874) and, in the following issue (September–October 1911) (93: 204), he referred to the publication of The Country of the Blind and Other Stories, speaking very highly of this collection of tales. He compared France and England with regard to the writing and the publication of short stories, quoting a few pages from Wells’s ‘Preface’ to the collection and concluding by saying that, together with Wells’s article on the novel that Le Temps had just published, he thought that the ‘Preface’ would enable the French to understand Wells’s art much better. Wells was too hard on some of his own short stories. Davray thought that ‘The Country of the Blind’, ‘The Beautiful Suit’ and ‘The Door in the Wall’ are ‘Wells at his best’.36 Apart from Davray, some other critics began to champion Wells in articles in the Mercure de France. René Séguy published an ambitious article entitled ‘H. G. Wells et la pensée contemporaine’ (H. G. Wells and contemporary thought) in 1912 which offers an epistemological reading of Wells’s works and concludes by saying that Wells is not a philosopher but a ‘thinker’37 who rightly condemns classification (like William James and Henri Bergson) and sides with pragmatism against rationalism. Séguy also compares Wells to Emile Durkheim, who stands halfway between rationalism and empiricism with his sociological definition of knowledge. Wells has a ‘positive mind’38 because he wants to reform present society. His works are mainly descriptive and critical but he was the first to define the main cause of revolution as being mechanical. For Séguy, Wells understands the part played by the machine better than anyone and, as such, is far more convincing than Durkheim. In 1912 (May–June), Davray announced the publication of The Great State: a collection of political and sociological studies which Wells co-edited with G. R. Stirling Taylor and the Countess of Warwick, which was meant to present a

33 34 35 36 37 38

‘Wells est à ce point naturalisé en France.’ ‘questions scabreuses’. ‘pas objectionables’ (Davray’s coinage). ‘Toutes trois sont du meilleur Wells.’ ‘un penseur’. ‘un esprit positif’.

40

The Reception of H. G. Wells in Europe

modern social ideal. Davray concluded by saying: ‘not a cure-all but a suggestive whole’39 (97: 871). Marriage is advertised in Vol. 101 (January–February 1913, 204) and a comment is to be found further on in the same issue: ‘There is no shortage of novels in England at the present moment [. . .] as there is a rapid proliferation of new ones’40 (207). Davray complained about the fact that he received far too many novels each month and that he cannot mention them all, but he does manage to say a few words about Marriage, which advocates monogamy. This surprised Davray, who remembered that In the Days of the Comet recommended sexual freedom. How can a man write two books so obviously contradictory? Davray’s article in the issue dated January–February 1914 begins with a rhetorical question: ‘We wonder why the principal bookshops have not banned Wells’s book The Passionate Friends because almost all the characters in it commit adultery and the realism of certain passages is such that it may well offend the Puritans’41 (107: 428). This novel about a woman who fears the imprisonment of marriage was, after Marriage, the second of Wells’s books about male– female relations, and Davray concluded by saying that if people wanted to understand it, they should read Mme Bulteau’s latest book The English Soul, which threw an interesting light on the passionate temper of the English. Davray mentioned the publication of The Research Magnificent (September– December 1915) (112: 721) and specified that Wells had in fact just published two books, Bealby and The Research Magnificent, which had nothing to do with science fiction. Bealby tells the comic story of a young man who is visiting a country estate on holiday and, as it came out in 1915 during the war, we can imagine that Wells wanted to cheer up his readers. As for The Research Magnificent, it is about the love of a poor boy for a rich girl. Davray thought that Wells did not want to be the prisoner of just one genre and that is why he managed to write novels, although his fiction often sounds like an intellectual debate as he uses his characters to suit his own purposes. Exchanges in wartime In 1916, Davray published his book Chez les Anglais pendant la Grande Guerre. He met Wells during the war and a whole chapter is devoted to their interview. Davray congratulated Wells on his ‘anticipations’ because they had all come true, on his caricature of the Kaiser and on his prediction of the bombing of all European capitals. Wells answered: ‘I had not anticipated that the Americans would remain neutral and would put up with the schemes of the Pro-Germans.

39 40

41

‘pas une panacée mais un ensemble suggestif’. ‘Il n’y a pas de crise du roman en Angleterre à l’heure actuelle [. . .] car il y a un pullulement de nouveaux romans.’ ‘On se demandera pourquoi les grandes librairies n’auraient pas interdit le livre de M. H. G. Wells PF. Presque tous les personnages y commettent l’adultère et il y a certains passages d’un réalisme qui peut choquer les puritains.’

Henry-D. Davray and the Mercure de France

41

But forget all about my so-called vaticinations and let’s not exaggerate their importance.’ Davray replied, ‘I don’t want to offend your modesty but what are your present predictions?’, to which Wells answered: Oh! So you want to drag me onto a dangerous ground, do you? It is less easy to comment on real facts than to be a writer of fantastic romances. A novelist only needs to be logical, to dwell on one or several facts that he develops according to the rules of reasoning. He lays the foundations on which he builds up convincing episodes that hang together. But reality is far more fantastic than imagination. [. . .] In this war, as in all wars, it is always the unexpected that happens. [. . .] I only mean that this war is worse than all we had imagined and feared. We had deceived ourselves with chimerical illusions. We thought that the belligerents would scrupulously comply with the countless conventions of international law, just as two boxers abide by the rules of a certain code of fighting. The ‘kultur’ champions have changed all this. To begin with, they declared that no one was bound by any promise or any signed agreement as soon as there was a war. Then they committed the most inhuman atrocities and devastation, thinking that they need to terrify and paralyse the opponent – and that was where they were wrong, as they can see for themselves. (47–58)

Wells added that he had put his trust in the Allies because he thought that they were far more inventive than the Germans. He advocated the use of aircraft of all kinds to drop thousands of bombs and set fire to the German factories such as Krupps. Davray then asked him, ‘Haven’t you thought of any decisive and rapid way to break through the German lines?’, to which Wells replied, ‘I’ve already mentioned the huge air squadrons which would systematically destroy all the rallying points of the Germans behind their lines, which would unceasingly pound the junctions, the railway lines, the bridges, the stations and which would jeopardize all their main lines of supplies as well as all transport of troops and munitions. We should build ten thousand, twenty thousand planes!’ Davray was flabbergasted: ‘You would really go for it!’ Wells replied: ‘Why not? It is less expensive and quicker to build than a cannon or a submarine which demand special factories and equipment.’42 When Davray suggested that the Allies

42

‘Je n’avais pas deviné que les Etats-Unis demeureraient neutres et se montreraient si tolérants pour les intrigues des progermains. Mais laissons là mes prétendues vaticinations, n’en exagérons pas l’importance. – Que votre modestie ne s’offense pas, et dites-moi alors quels sont vos pronostics actuels. – Oh! Oh! vous voulez m’entraîner sur un terrain dangereux. Le rôle de commentateur de la réalité est moins facile que celui du romancier fantastique. Il suffit au romancier d’être logique: il s’arrête à une ou plusieurs données qu’il développe selon les règles du raisonnement; il établit une base sur laquelle il échafaude des péripéties qui se tiennent et s’enchaînent. Mais la réalité est bien plus fantastique que l’imagination. [. . .] Or, dans la guerre actuelle, comme dans toutes les guerres, c’est toujours l’imprévu qui arrive. [. . .] Je veux seulement dire que la guerre actuelle dépasse tout ce que l’on avait imaginé, tout ce que l’on redoutait. On s’était bercé de chimériques illusions; on se figurait que les belligérants se conformeraient minutieusement aux innombrables conventions du droit international, comme deux champions de boxe respectent les règles d’un

42

The Reception of H. G. Wells in Europe

should use Martian weapons, Wells replied that the government should send someone up there, unless the Germans had already sent their own agent and convinced them to remain neutral, just like the United States. In March 1917, the Mercure de France published an article by Maurice Simart, ‘Herbert George Wells, sociologue’ (Herbert George Wells as a sociologist). Simart indicates that, before the war, most French people looked upon Wells as another Jules Verne, albeit a more modern and more scientific one, but the war had turned Wells into a writer who dealt with present-day problems and who had predicted such things as poison gas as early as The War of the Worlds. In the following issue (May 1917), Davray devoted a whole page to Mr Britling Sees It Through (121: 125).43 He did not share the critics’ enthusiasm: Wells’s attempt at combining rationalism and religion was a failure. The book was not as well constructed as Kipps, Tono-Bungay, Ann Veronica or even Love and Mr Lewisham, but it would be remembered as a document on the war because it depicted the way in which English people felt about it and coped with it. In August 1917, he commented again upon Mr Britling Sees It Through as well as on God the Invisible King and The Soul of a Bishop (124: 522–25). In God the Invisible King, Wells developed the thesis of Mr Britling: he attacked belief in the Trinity because he thought that the idea of God was within man. He is not the Creator but the Captain of Mankind whose main virtue is courage. Davray pointed out that, although Wells rejected the notion of the Trinity, he seemed to re-establish it with his notions of the ‘Veiled Being’ that can be interpreted as ‘God the Father’, the ‘Captain of Mankind’ that can be interpreted as Christ, and the ‘Life’ that proceeds from the Father in the same way as the Holy Spirit; basically, it is as if Wells could not free himself from received ideas. Finally, The Soul of a Bishop also deals with religion, but this time through the portrait of a provincial bishop, who has little in common with Trollope’s bishops insofar as he does not seem to know much about theology, takes drugs and has visions before eventually returning to reality. Davray concluded by saying that, although Wells’s ideas

cont. certain code de combat. Les champions de la kultur ont changé tout cela. Ils ont d’abord déclaré qu’aucune parole donnée, qu’aucun engagement signé ne liait personne dès qu’on est en état de guerre. [. . .] Puis ils ont commis toutes les atrocités et toutes les dévastations, d’après ce principe qu’il faut terrifier et paralyser l’adversaire – ce en quoi ils se sont trompés, jugeant d’après eux-mêmes [. . .] – Ne voyez-vous pas un moyen décisif et rapide d’enfoncer les lignes allemandes? – Je vous ai indiqué de grandes escadres volantes qui détruiraient méthodiquement tous les centres de rassemblement des Allemands derrière leurs lignes, qui démoliraient sans cesse les embranchements, les bifurcations, les voies ferrées, les ponts, les gares et qui rendraient quasi impossibles les ravitaillements ennemis, le transport des troupes et des munitions. Il faut construire dix mille, vingt mille avions! – Comme vous y allez! – Pourquoi pas? C’est moins coûteux et plus rapide à construire qu’un canon, qu’un sous-marin, qui exigent des usines et des outils spéciaux.’ 43 This book was mistranslated into French as M. Britling commence à voir clair (which means ‘Mr Britling sees through it’). It was an anonymous translation published in Paris in 1918.

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were not new, his novels were far more realistic and enjoyable (for the man in the street) than the works of Plato, Leibniz or Herbert Spencer. Davray’s later articles on Wells In 1919, two books were advertised: Joan and Peter and The Outline of History (131: 707, 790). Davray summed up the former as a violent indictment of English education and the latter as a monument that bore witness to Wells’s tremendous energy since twenty parts had been announced with 600 illustrations, maps and drawings: ‘Wells is like the world: his evolution never stops’44 (793). First Wells had shown that the present system of education was a failure, then he got down to work to produce his remedy, an ambitious work to educate the masses. Davray was obviously flabbergasted by this huge enterprise, and he was not sure that Wells would manage to carry it out. However, Davray agreed that the teaching of history needed a complete change and that German education had contaminated the brains of the German nation by overpraising force and war. If the League of Nations wanted peace, it must devise a new way of teaching the same history to all citizens in order to prevent further wars. Therefore, Wells was right to embark on such a tremendous adventure and his effort deserved more than respect. In 1921 (November–December), Davray mentioned the publication of Russia in the Shadows and, much to his regret, he said that he hated the book and could not recommend it to his readers because it was a story (too greatly influenced by ‘Dadaism’) that he could not make head or tail of.45 From January 1922 onwards, the Mercure de France ran Jean Catel’s column ‘Lettres anglo-américaines’ together with Davray’s ‘Lettres anglaises’, suggesting that the editors felt that American literature deserved a column of its own. By this time, Davray was getting older and his articles were not as regular as they had been, yet in 1926 he does mention Wells once or twice. On 7 December 1926 he wrote to Wells about The World of William Clissold: I have read your ‘Clissold’, slowly and ‘thinkingly’, as it must be read. It is a mighty work, a big, ample, prodigious, towering work. I hope it will soon be in French, and translated with all the loving care that it deserves. It must be read easily, fluently, enthusiastically. If I feel up to the task, I propose to write one of my ‘chroniques’ about it and around it; not that I presume to criticise, and be ridiculous, as so many of your English reviewers, but simply as an attempt at some understanding of your proud book.

Although the book was never translated Davray did write his ‘chronique’ about it in August: ‘At sixty, H. G. Wells is more prolific than ever. His books follow

44 45

‘Wells est comme le monde: son évolution est perpétuelle.’ Davray’s comment on RS may seem odd but it merely conveys his utter dislike of the work: he uses ‘Dadaism’ here in a pejorative sense.

44

The Reception of H. G. Wells in Europe

one another, heavier and more plentiful each time. [. . .] Wells’s tone is more and more aggressive each year’ (1926) (189: 725–26).46 Davray thinks that Wells was just as well informed as J. H. Rosny and that he had never stopped learning things, although his tone had become quite pessimistic – ‘Formerly, Mr Wells had more humour’ (189: 727)47 – and this change for the worse was due to the fact that Wells curbed his imagination too much to deal with contemporary problems. He used William Clissold as his alter ego because he would be unable to create a character with whom he could not sympathize, and Davray thought that this was a weakness for a novelist because one should always try to identify with one’s adversary instead. His concluding remark deals with his doubts about the novel’s great length: people would buy it if it were a good book, all the more as they tended to prefer shorter novels (and this one looked like a Victorian three-decker). In December 1926, he reported on Mr Belloc Objects to ‘The Outline of History’ (192: 709), outlining the controversy for his readers. His final comment is that Wells’s pen was just as cutting as a sword because he had had to defend himself. In Vol. 198 (September 1927), Davray merely mentioned Meanwhile (730–33). In October 1928, there was a reference to Mr Blettsworthy on Rampole Island (204: 472–77). Davray asserted that, in the nineteenth century, the only way to deal with social problems was to use didactic novels (Charles Reade, Charles Kingsley, George Eliot, Charles Dickens, etc.), which proved that the only way to handle English people is to appeal to their better feelings. Every novelist wants to communicate a message and the same applies to Wells, even if his novels sometimes seemed contradictory. He stood as one of the greatest contemporary prophets, but he had always kept an eye on the historical past and, in spite of his bitterness, he still believed in the human ability to understand. In this novel, the hero is shipwrecked among a group of ‘Cruel and Savage Cannibals for several years’ and he becomes ‘a Sacred Lunatic’. He escapes from ‘the Horror and Barbarities of Rampole Island in time to fight in the Great War’. This shipwreck echoes Voltaire’s Candide and Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels as it is a biting satire of contemporary Europe. Wells may be a prophet, but he is not a preacher and he remains a wonderful teller of tales in this allegorical satire. In January 1930, Davray alluded to Imperialism and the Open Conspiracy (218: 223–24) in which Wells condemns Lord Melchett and Lord Beaverbrook’s political ideas (they thought that the British Empire was ‘self-sufficient’). This pamphlet is Wells’s reply to those who had criticized his campaign for a world revolution, and he took up Briand’s idea of the ‘United States of Europe’ in order to counterbalance this ‘monopolistic imperialist system’.48

46

47 48

‘A soixante ans, H. G. Wells est plus fécond que jamais. Ses livres se succèdent, plus copieux, plus touffus chaque fois [. . .] sur le ton agressif qu’il adopte depuis quelque temps.’ ‘Jadis, Mr Wells avait plus d’humour.’ Aristide Briand (1862–1932) was one of the founders of the French Socialist Party (together with Jean Jaurès) and was a deputy, a Minister and the ‘Président du Conseil’ (eleven times).

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Geoffrey West’s H. G. Wells: A Sketch for a Portrait is mentioned in March 1931 (226: 719–25); this time, Davray devoted his review to a documented biography that he had really appreciated and he congratulated West on his remarkable achievement. He explained that West had obviously read all Wells’s works and that Wells himself had read the book and corrected a certain number of factual mistakes. The result was quite satisfactory, since the biographer had managed to make a convincing portrait of the author, a man of many parts, by showing that his life had been a perpetual intellectual struggle. Davray recalled the main events that stood out as landmarks in Wells’s life, as well as his formative reading of the Bible, Wood’s Illustrated Natural History, Swift, Sterne, Voltaire, Carlyle, Ruskin, Stevenson, etc. Swift and Sterne ‘mopped up’ his previous influences, and satire won the day. Davray concluded by pointing out that, although this work was the result of a fruitful collaboration, Geoffrey West had managed to remain impartial as shown by his severe remarks on Wells’s production during the war. This was the most original and interesting part of this conscientious work. In April 1931 (227: 468), Davray mentioned Wells’s name as he was writing a review of a book dealing with the importance of translation. Davray’s first comment reads as follows: ‘I am not sure that in his Outline of History Wells tells us the date of the first translation’,49 and he added that it must have coincided with the Tower of Babel, which shows a confusion of sounds, languages and ideas. This comment shows that Davray had read Wells’s works carefully and that he considered him as an authority. In 1931, Davray also published a book with an essay on translating Wells, Pages choisies (Selected passages), including selections from Wells’s work. Davray’s review column seems to disappear after 1939 and Jacques Vallette’s name appears after the Second World War (‘Lettres anglo-saxonnes’), together with Jean Catel’s ‘Lettres anglo-américaines’.50 Later, Vallette’s name disappeared and, in 1963, the review ‘Lettres anglaises’ was signed Georges Le Breton. In December 1964, Le Breton’s name was replaced by a team: Bernard Brugière and Pierre Arnaud (while ‘Lettres américaines’ was now signed Michel Gresset), but in any case the Mercure de France ceased publication in August 1965.

49

50

‘Je n’ai pas souvenir que dans sa prodigieuse Histoire du Monde, H. G. Wells fixe la date où parut la première traduction.’ In 1952, Vallette reports on Antonina Vallentin’s H. G. Wells ou la Conspiration au grand jour (H. G. Wells: Prophet of Our Day) and, in May–Aug. 1958 (333: 706), he writes a few pages about ‘A Literary Friendship: Henry James and H. G. Wells’. In October 1960, he refers to Arnold Bennett and H. G. Wells, and in March 1962, to Bernard Bergonzi’s The Early H. G. Wells, which he summarizes and praises because it lays stress on the early Wells, whose pessimism was due to the fin-de-siècle spirit. Vallette concludes by saying that this important book marks the beginning of a new and ‘fairer’ evaluation of Wells’s early works.

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The Reception of H. G. Wells in Europe

Davray’s influence The Mercure de France was read mostly by educated people and even by some writers, as is evidenced by their correspondence or by their works.51 For instance, in the Mercure de France Léon Bloy says that he has read The Island of Doctor Moreau (Bloy 1905, 50), The First Men in the Moon (Bloy 1905, 77) and When the Sleeper Wakes (Bloy 1909, 296).52 In his correspondence with Jacques Rivière, Alain-Fournier confesses that he has been reading Anticipations (Rivière and Fournier 1926, 100) and The First Men in the Moon (Rivière and Fournier 1926, 165) in English,53 although one wonders how many people in France could read Wells in the original at that time. Some writers did not share Davray’s enthusiasm and thought that the Mercure de France had published too many novels by Wells. In a letter dated July 1899, Valéry wrote to Gide that ‘Davray is flooding France with this stupid Wells’ (Gide and Valéry, 350).54 Altairac rightly states that the craze was mainly for the science fiction and that the interest in Anticipations did not last. The French had been fascinated by the inventiveness of The Time Machine, The Invisible Man, The War of the Worlds, The First Men in the Moon and a few others, but the social novels never became as popular. As far as the sales of books were concerned, Davray informed Wells in July 1900 that, out of 1,690 copies of The Time Machine printed, they had only managed to sell 657 in sixteen months, and that for The War of the Worlds, out of 1633 copies, they had only sold 628 (in three months). In another letter (9 July 1903), Davray mentions once again their sales (from 30 June 1902 to 30 June 1903): The First Men in the Moon, 185; Les Pirates de la mer et autres nouvelles (The sea raiders and other stories), 791; The Time Machine, 214; The Island of Doctor Moreau, 132; A Story of the Days to Come, 14; and The War of the Worlds, 332 copies. When the Mercure de France stopped publishing Wells’s works, other publishers took over slowly. Davray was a first-rate translator and his translations are, on the whole, excellent. The same applies to his work with Kozakiewicz. He translated four novels

51

52

53

54

Wells is mentioned by Louis Aragon in Les Aventures de Télémaque [The Adventures of Telemachus], 1922, 315) and in Notes pour un collectionneur (Notes for a collector); by Jean Giraudoux in Siegfried et le Limousin (My Friend from Limousin) (1922, 15); by Charles Du Bos in his Journal; by Paul Claudel and André Gide in their Correspondance (1899–1926); Paul Morand, Alexis Carel, Alain (pseudonym of the critic Elile-Auguste Chartier), Julien Green, Julien Gracq, Blaise Cendrars, Jean Paulhan and many others. Guillaume Apollinaire mentions him several times in the papers that he published in La Critique littéraire (1903, 1908, 1909, etc.). Léon Bloy (1846–1917) was a novelist and a critic who was mainly known for his savage attacks. Alain-Fournier was the pseudonym of Henri Alain-Fournier (1886–1914) who published Le Grand Meaulnes (The Lost Domain) in 1913. Wells is mentioned in his Correspondance avec Jacques Rivière (Correspondence with Jacques Rivière) (1914) for Sept. 1905; Oct. 1905; Nov. 1905; Sept. 1906; and Sept. 1911 (FOTG is mentioned). ‘Ce Wells stupide dont Davray nous inonde.’

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by himself and ten with Kozakiewicz. He also published three volumes of short stories and tales on his own and three with Kozakiewicz. Finally, he translated The Discovery of the Future by himself while they worked on Anticipations and A Modern Utopia together. Davray’s editing choice is easy to understand: he wanted people to realize that Wells’s production was rich and varied and that his powerful imagination enabled him to be inventive whenever he was writing a book. Davray’s merit is to have understood from the start that Wells was a genius, that he had received from science his mental habits (he keeps mentioning Wells’s intellectual and scientific education), that he was endowed with a revolutionary force and that, unlike Dickens, he did not take for granted the social superiority of the ‘gentleman’. As Wells was writing in the moral chaos of an unsettled age, his courage must have been tremendous and it is clear that, as far as his reception in France was concerned, he was very lucky to have had some of his works translated by a man like Davray, who (in a letter to Mrs Wells dated 21 December 1907) described himself thus: I am proud of what I have done with the master’s work. I am glad and proud that he is read in French and his thought perfectly understood in a text that is a rigorous tracing of his ideas and ideals – and as much as possible of his own words. It may be my lifework to go on translating him – and I shall be satisfied if, in the times to come, I am thought of as the honest and faithful translator of one of the most original and greatest thinkers of the twentieth century.

When Davray died in London on 21 January 1944, many people felt that they had lost an old friend and a lover, critic and a patron of literature, the finest liaison officer between French and English letters imaginable, a man whose work had earned him the rank of Chevalier of the Legion of Honour in France, as well as the CBE from the British government and the Silver Medal of the Royal Society of Arts.

3

Russia Revisited Maria Kozyreva and Vera Shamina

Throughout his life H. G. Wells expressed a deep and steady interest in Russia. He visited the country thrice, described it in both essays and fiction, had many friends there and eventually fell in love with a Russian woman. What did Wells expect and want from Russia; what did Russia expect and want from him? What did he see and whom did he meet travelling around that great country? First of all, what brought Wells to Russia? There could have been several reasons. He always had a sense of Russia’s great historical mission in the twentieth century, long before it was vindicated by the events of the Great War and the October Revolution. He was deeply interested in Russian literature. He liked Turgenev and highly appreciated Leo Tolstoy, with whom he corresponded. In 1906 Tolstoy expressed his wish to read Wells in English and Wells sent him some of his books, including A Modern Utopia, attaching a letter full of respect and adoration. Tolstoy answered with a short message of gratitude (Mendelevich 1960, 37–38). Wells was also fond of Maxim Gorky’s works and was highly impressed by his short stories and plays, especially The Lower Depths. He regarded Gorky as a democrat, reflecting in his books the ideas of the first Russian revolution of 1905. Wells got to know Gorky personally in 1906 in the United States. Wells was travelling there, when Gorky came to New York with his common-law wife Maria Andreeva. The two writers spent the whole night talking, with Andreeva translating for them since she spoke fluent English. A year later, they may have met again in London where Gorky came to take part in the fifth congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party. Wells’s contacts with people in Britain who were also interested in Russia and had visited it already were of course of great importance when he was making a decision to go there. Among them were Charles Wright, Robert Ross, Maurice Baring, Adelaide Tyrkova (Williams) and M. Likiardopulo, his Russian translator. Wells’s first visit, 1914 In the first decade of the twentieth century, Russian readers knew Wells much better than he knew Russia. A collected edition of his works was published in Russian in 1909 with the author’s preface addressed to his Russian readers. It was translated by Kornei Chukovsky, a prominent translator, critic and author

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of books for children who did much to popularize British culture in Russia. The preface gives us an idyllic and beautifully imaginative picture of Russia, formed, as Wells states, by Turgenev’s and Tolstoy’s novels, and Maurice Baring’s stories about his Russian visit (Kovaliov 1968, 419). In 1914, just a few months before the Great War started, Wells decided to go to Russia. The visit was organized by Baring together with Benckendorff, the Russian Ambassador to Great Britain. Why did Wells not announce his visit officially, or make a lecture trip like Marinetti, who came to Russia just two days later? Julius Kagarlitsky suggests that Wells did not want to reveal his open interest in Russia to his compatriots, who considered it to be a barbaric country with an anti-democratic Tsarist regime. But there could have been other motives. Wells, who usually preferred to be at the centre of attention, this time preferred to keep to the sidelines, exploring a new world, revising his earlier opinions and being rather suspicious of this strange country. He arrived in St Petersburg in January 1914, was met by Benckendorff and booked into the Astoria Hotel. The journalists only learnt about his arrival three days later. Rumours led some of them to the house of General Rodzianka, who was entertaining the sportsman and hunter, Wyann. According to the press, Wyann was the author of several books on hunting, at this time.1 The latter eagerly gave an interview and several quite authoritative St Petersburg papers published it, being absolutely sure that the journalist had talked to Wells (Den’ [The Day], 11 January 1914, 5). The next day the mistake came out and the newspapers published a retraction (Den’, 12 January 1914, 6; Rech’ (The Speech), 12 January 1914, 3). Zinaida Vengerova, a well-known critic at the time, wrote an article about Wells’s stay and commented on his work. She stressed that Russian readers liked his science-fiction novels most of all, which she called ‘fairy tales of endless fantasy’2 (Den’, 12 January 1914, 3). V. Nabokov (the father of the writer Vladimir Nabokov), a prominent journalist with strong democratic views, also wrote about Wells’s visit (Rech’, 15 January 1914, 2). The Society of Petersburg Writers made an address to Wells in English which was handed to their guest, and subsequently published in Russian translation by the Rech’ and the Den’. The address was written in a pleasant, respectful manner with charming allusions to the earlier mistake over his identity (Rech’, 18 January 1914, 5; Den’, 12 January 1914, 3). In St Petersburg Wells visited V. Serov’s posthumous exhibition at the Academy of Fine Arts and was greatly impressed by it (Utro Rossii [Russia’s Morning], 21 January 1914, 5). He was seen several times on the Nevski Prospect walking with his friends, and visiting shops and cafés (Uspensky 1968, 449–50). In his notes and interviews he called St Petersburg an interesting, but not a beautiful city (Russkie vedomosti [Russian Gazette], 21 January 1914, 6). This indifference could have been caused by the weather, which was awful at the time – wet snow,

1

2

This information about ‘Wyann’ comes from the contemporary Soviet press – we have been unable to trace his first name or any further details about him. ‘skazki beskonechnoi fantasii’.

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The Reception of H. G. Wells in Europe

wind, flood on the Neva; the sun came out only on the day of his departure for Moscow. On his way there Wells visited the estate of Tyrkov (Adelaide Williams’s brother and a Russian revolutionary democrat who tried to organize his peasants into a kind of socialist community). Wells did not seem to be much impressed by Tyrkov’s activities. The details of this visit were not known until the 1960s, when Julius Kovaliov managed to interview people who were connected with Tyrkov’s family (1968, 423–24). Wells’s stay in Moscow was better planned and more fully reported in the press. The Russkoe slovo (Russian Word) and the Russkie vedomosti followed his visit day by day, giving their readers full information and publishing parts of his interviews. He developed an immediate liking for Moscow, praising its beauty. On the first day he walked around the centre of the city accompanied by some acquaintances, possibly including M. Likiardopulo, and visited the Kremlin and the Church of St Basil. He remembered seeing St Basil’s pictured on a map he had as a boy; at the time he had considered it to be just an artist’s fantasy. He had dinner at Egorov’s restaurant. This fact was later strangely interpreted by Soviet criticism as reflecting his wish to see the ‘lower depths’ described by Gorky. The restaurant was actually situated in Ohotny Riad, a merchants’ district mentioned in Gorky’s works, but was at that time one of the most fashionable restaurants in Moscow, famous for its canaries singing in their cages, its well-trained waiters and excellent food (Russkoe slovo, 21 January 1914, 7). In the evening he visited the Art Theatre and watched Chekhov’s Seagull with Nemirovich-Danchenko, Olga Knipper and Stanislavsky in starring roles. It was a revelation to him. He said that even if he had not known the play he would have understood everything just by watching the wonderful acting (Russkoe slovo, 22 January 1914, 6). After the performance Wells talked to the actors. Later he was taken to a literary cabaret, the ‘Bat’, where the most prominent poets of the time gave performances, though probably he was too tired to enjoy it or, indeed, to understand very much. The next day, guided by a professional archaeologist, he went to TrinitySergius Monastery. He spent a whole day there, charmed not only by the beauty of the place but also by the traditional Russian handicraft, lubki (a kind of primitive coloured picture) and woodcarvings. He took some as souvenirs and they remained in his various houses all his life. He was going to visit the Tretyakov Gallery, but changed his plans. Like his arrival, his departure from Russia had a touch of comedy about it. Wells wanted to take pictures of his friends who came to see him off at the railway station, but a policeman stopped him, saying it was forbidden. When special permission was given by a station official, Wells wanted to take a photo of the strict policeman but the latter refused indignantly. The journalists saw Wells taking a picture of the policeman from inside his carriage (Russkoe slovo, 25 January 1914, 6). What did Wells discuss with his Russian friends and journalists? There is no direct evidence of this. Looking through the newspapers we can guess what people were talking about in those days: the arrests of strikers (in January about 170,000 workers went on strike in St Petersburg); the ‘Jewish problem’; the

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international situation in Europe; Gorky’s return from Capri. By some strange chance Wells and Gorky did not meet on this occasion, though the newspapers were full of addresses welcoming the Russian writer back to the motherland. As V. Nabokov stated, Wells avoided expressing his own opinions about social problems while speaking eagerly about cultural events such as the performance of Macbeth in the Maly Theatre (1914, 2). In spite of his deep interest in Russia, this trip was more like a traditional tourist visit to an exotic, unknown land. During the following six years Wells had numerous contacts with Russian men of letters. In 1916 he met a delegation of Russian writers (K. Chukovsky, V. Nabokov and A. N. Tolstoy), who visited London at the invitation of the British government. During this period he was also in close contact with M. Likiardopulo who informed him about the life and moods of the Russian people during the First World War. In the winter of 1917 Gorky wrote a letter to Wells praising his wartime novel Mr Britling Sees It Through, and this started their long and intensive correspondence (1960, 52). Wells’s second visit, 1920 On 26 September 1920 Wells visited Russia for the second time as a result of an invitation from the Soviet government which was passed to him by L. Krasin, a member of the Russian trade delegation to Britain. Most probably it was on Lenin’s initiative, warmly supported by Gorky. Everything had changed during the previous six years. The Great War had started and ended, two revolutions had taken place in Russia, and the Entente had invaded the new state. Once again, Wells went to encounter something unknown. This visit, however, was properly organized, unlike that of 1914. Nevertheless, Wells’s programme can only be reconstructed by bringing together obscure facts from different sources. This second visit attracted little attention in the mass media. Economic dislocation and the general devastation of the country had brought about other priorities. Some of the facts of this visit – such as the exact date of Wells’s meeting with Lenin – were specified only in the 1950s and still seem questionable. Probably foreseeing that the visit was to be heavily supervised by Soviet officials, Wells preferred to stay not in a hotel, but at Gorky’s residence in Petrograd where he was eagerly accommodated. Wells wanted not only to see Russia in general, but to get deeper into the social, political and economic life of the country. What were the main events of the visit as we can trace them? He came by train with his son, George Philip Wells, who was learning Russian and was to translate during the trip. Crossing the border, they saw ruins and hunger on the one hand and great enthusiasm and creativity, suggesting hope for a better future, on the other. There is some evidence that he had conversations with soldiers and civilians who were to accompany him to his destination. Although he knew something of the hardships in Soviet Russia, it was difficult for Wells to understand, for example, that it was not always easy to find hot water to make his tea (Dangulov 1969, 215–16). There is a

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semi-legendary story that, on the way to Petrograd, he ate some awful porridge and drank samogon3 with Bolshevik soldiers (Kovaliov 1968, 427). Wells and his son were given a room in Gorky’s flat where, at that moment, a lot of people were living permanently and even more came to visit each day. People tried to keep together to survive. There Wells once again met Mariya Zakrevskaya (Moura), whom he had got to know in 1914 when she was married to Ivan Beckendorff, a distant relative of the Russian Ambassador. This time, being free, she became his interpreter (much more helpful than his young son) and soon also his mistress. On 30 September there was a reception given by Petrograd’s men of letters in Wells’s honour. Gorky, Chukovsky and some prominent Russian scientists, Oldenburg among them, made speeches of welcome. In his reply Wells spoke about the aim of his visit and outlined his conception of Russia’s international mission and its historical role. In Petrograd Wells visited Pavlov, the famous physiologist. This visit is described in Russia in the Shadows and also commented upon by Pavlov’s daughter (Ginevsky 1959, 19–20). Wells arrived unexpectedly but was warmly received. The family was almost starving, growing potatoes and onions in their yard to survive. Wells was shocked by the conditions in which the scientists he met in Petrograd lived and worked. In his book he describes the life of the Petrograd House of Science and Gorky’s attempts to help the scientific elite. After returning to Britain Wells immediately started organizing help for them, sending books (the information famine caused by the blockade was as severe as the physical one) and collecting money. Wells was especially helpful and cooperative in promoting the cultural and scholarly links between Russia and the West that Gorky was trying to establish in those turbulent years. Wells attended theatres, listened to Chaliapin and visited his house. The theatrical life of Russia interested him greatly – it was going on in spite of the devastation. Chaliapin told Wells that sometimes he insisted upon payment in food products. When Wells spoke about this with Pavlov, the scientist was rather upset, saying that it was immoral to do so when children were starving (Ginevsky 1959, 20). Being extremely interested in the educational system, Wells paid two visits to schools. The first one was organized by Chukovsky, who took the writer to Tenishev School where the children of Russian intellectuals were studying – a relic of pre-revolutionary times. But Wells was disappointed by this visit because, when asked about English literature in general, the students showed brilliant knowledge of his own works, but did not say a word about Shakespeare or Dickens. Wells decided that it was a put-up job organized by Chukovsky: ‘One name dominated all others. My own’ (1927, 559). Next day the writer was taken to another school where he was charmed by the strong discipline, order and good teaching (as far as he could judge, not understanding a word of Russian), and where nobody had heard of his books. Chukovsky described the visit to Tenishev School differently, saying that the pupils showed a good general knowledge of English literature but spoke about Wells’s novels first of

3

Samogon is a strong Russian spirit, usually made from sugar and wheat.

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all because they were happy to meet their favourite writer. When in 1921 Chukovsky read Russia in the Shadows he wrote an indignant refutation (1921, 15–16). On 7 October, Wells attended a meeting of the Petrograd Soviet. There he made a speech praising the daring thought and the effort of reconstruction in modern Russia. His speech was published in the Petrogradskaya pravda (Petrograd Truth) the next day (8 October 1921, 3). But of course the main event of his second visit to Russia was his meeting with Lenin in Moscow on 6 October. It is strange that for a long time the exact date of the meeting was uncertain and that no notes were taken of what was said. Even the person accompanying Wells, F. Rootstein, spoke about the meeting in general terms and dated it to 1918. The only sources, therefore, are Wells himself and Claire Sheridan, the British sculptor who was working on Lenin’s bust while Wells was in Moscow. When she talked to Lenin about Wells, the Soviet leader said he had read only one of his novels (Kagarlitsky 1970, 244). Soviet criticism tended to suggest that the central point of their talk was the plan for general electrification in Russia. But this plan, which seemed absolutely utopian to Wells, was not the only reason why he called Lenin a dreamer. They discussed several topics. In agreeing to meet Wells and, most probably in organizing the visit, Lenin knew very well what he was doing. Wells’s popularity in the West, especially among intellectuals, his sincere wish to stop the Entente blockade and his desire to see the Bolsheviks represented as human beings rather than monsters, made it possible to use him as a tool to change the negative international attitude to Soviet Russia. Wells liked Lenin, was impressed by him, and at the same time took issue with him on certain questions: I believe that through a vast sustained educational campaign the existing capitalist system can be civilized into a Collectivist world system; Lenin on the other hand tied himself years ago to the Marxist dogmas of the inevitable class war, the downfall of capitalist order as a prelude to a reconstruction, the proletarian dictatorship, and so forth. (1927, 581)

The talk took place and bore fruit. Soviet officials were pleased with the results of Wells’s visit. In spite of its ruined state, Soviet Russia fascinated him, and they managed to use him as their spokesperson. Wells, however, could not get deeply into Russian life. His presence irritated Russians. He was healthy and clean, while they were shabby, unshaven and hungry; and he belonged to the country which ordinary people thought was to blame for their unfortunate existence. At the same time, having been allowed by the Bolshevik government to meet its leader and to speak at the meeting of the Petrograd Soviet, Wells felt his own importance and was proud of it – though in the context of Russian social and political life his importance was much less than he imagined. The intellectuals needed the British writer as a kind of open window to the world, a possible source of information and influence.

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Wells’s third visit On 22 July 1934 Wells visited Russia for the third time. He recalled how Lenin had invited him to come in ten years to see the changes in Soviet Russia. Ivan Maisky, then the Soviet Ambassador in London, said that Wells told him at the beginning of 1934 that he wanted to visit America and Russia, and asked for help with the formalities. Maisky was rather surprised at such a juxtaposition, but Wells explained that Roosevelt’s New Deal was in his opinion a step towards socialism and the planned economy that he was preaching. The ambassador was far from sharing these views and, on Wells’s return from the USA, he tried to explain that Roosevelt was not building socialism but trying to save capitalism by increasing state control of the economy (1963, 244). Wells naturally did not agree and later continued this discussion with Stalin. So Wells went to Russia fourteen years after his previous visit, and the difference was striking indeed. We find very few comments in the mass media on his stay in the Soviet Union, suggesting that against the background of the turbulent political events of the time the English writer’s visit was just a trivial event. Still, bringing together the brief lines in the newspapers and the recollections of the people he met, we can build a fairly comprehensive picture of his itinerary. His first stop after arriving at the airport was at Lenin’s mausoleum, and then he went to see a documentary about Lenin made by Dsiga Vertov. According to Pravda (Truth) Wells stated that it was one of the most powerful and beautiful films he had ever seen, and congratulated Vertov and all who had worked on it (28 July 1934, 6). This is yet another proof of the great interest and respect that the English writer felt for the revolutionary leader, which was several times expressed in his writings. Wells recollected his visit to Lenin’s mausoleum on his return home, in conversation with Maisky: I visited Lenin’s mausoleum in Moscow, – it produced a great impression on me [. . .]. I met once again this wonderful person [. . .]. The expression of his face, the pose, the suit, the decorations – all was filled with simplicity and at the same time with remarkable grandeur [. . .]. When I was looking at him – so quiet and still – an unusual thrill came over me, and I thought: ‘What a pity, he passed away so early!’4 (Maisky 1963, 245)

During this visit, Soviet officials did their best to convince Wells that the ideal society of his dreams was being built in the Soviet Union. Together with the delegation he was part of, Wells was received by Josef Stalin, other high-ranking Communist Party officials and men of letters. Though on arrival Wells answered a reporter’s question about the aim of his visit by saying that he wanted to get acquainted with Soviet literature, his major objective was undoubtedly the meeting with Stalin. Stalin in his turn was also looking for-

4

‘Ya posetil mavzolei Lenina v Moskve, – on proizvel na menia ogromnoe vpechatleniie. [. . .] Ya eshe raz vstretilsya s etim prekrasnym chelovekom. [. . .] Virazhenie ego litsa, poza, kostum, – vse bylo napolneno prostoti i v to zhe vremya udivitel’nym velichiem. [. . .] “Kak zhal’, chto on ushel tak rano!”’

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ward to it, since, on the one hand, Lenin had received the English writer and, on the other, Wells represented progressive public opinion in the West whose help and support was important for the Soviet authorities. The meeting took place on the very next day, 23 July 1934. For some reason the fact of the meeting was merely mentioned in the media (Pravda, 24 July 1934, 2). Stalin managed to charm Wells, who had previously spoken rather unfavourably about him (Kagarlitsky 1989, 333): ‘I confess I approached Stalin with a certain amount of suspicion and prejudice,’ he wrote in his autobiography (1984, II: 800). ‘Stalin was easy-going, friendly, and simple. All lingering anticipations of a dour sinister Highlander vanished at the sight of him’ (1984, II: 803). Describing him Wells uses such terms as ‘shyly’, ‘friendly’, ‘like a schoolboy’ (1984, II: 804; 807), and finally summarizes his impressions in the following words: ‘I have never met a man more candid, fair and honest’ (1984, II: 806). Wells felt quite at ease and even tried to convince Stalin to reject the notion of class struggle as a crucial concept of the working-class movement, an attempt which George Bernard Shaw described in the New Statesman and Nation as being ‘sans tact’ (Stalin and Wells 1934, 21). Though Wells was indeed rather naïve to try to convince the Bolshevik leader that capitalism could be peacefully converted into socialism without insurrection, the ideas he expressed do not sound completely absurd nowadays: I would like to stress the point that if a country as a whole adopts the principle of planned economy, if the Government gradually, step by step, begins consistently to apply this principle, the financial oligarchy will at last be abolished, and socialism, in the Anglo-Saxon meaning of the word, will be brought about. (Stalin and Wells 1934, 5)

And further: If we begin with the State control of the banks and then follow with the control of the heavy industries, of industry in general, of commerce, etc., such an all-embracing control will be equivalent to the State ownership of all branches of national economy. This will be the process of socialisation. Socialism and individualism are not opposites like black and white. There are many intermediate stages between them. There is individualism that borders on brigandage, and there is discipline and organisation that are equivalent of Socialism. The introduction of planned economy depends, to a large degree, upon the organisers of economy, upon the skilled technical intelligentsia who step by step, can be converted to the socialist principles of organisation. (Stalin and Wells 1934, 7)

It was only natural for Stalin to insist on the ‘contrast between classes, between the propertied class, the capitalist class, and the toiling class, the proletarian class’ (Stalin and Wells 1934, 7) since the whole totalitarian regime he and his comrades-in-arms built in Russia was to a great extent based on the idea of the capitalist menace. Wells ventured to object to this ‘simplified classification of mankind into poor and rich’ (Stalin and Wells 1934, 8) and to say that there were plenty of people in the West who, being dissatisfied with capitalism, ‘regard this simple class-war antagonism as nonsense’ (Stalin and Wells 1934, 8). But the English writer’s biggest mistake was that he saw a great similarity

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between Stalin and Roosevelt, as he pointed out at the very beginning of their talk (Stalin and Wells 1934, 4), rather than between Stalin and another political figure who had recently come to power in Germany, Adolf Hitler. Therefore Wells was talking to Stalin in terms of democracy and civil rights. He tried to be as loyal and respectful to the Soviet leader as possible, not even correcting him when he made a crude historical blunder about Chartism.5 Although practically unnoticed in the Soviet Union, the interview was widely commented on and discussed in Great Britain. As already mentioned, Shaw was highly critical of Wells’s behaviour, claiming that the latter ‘trotted into the Kremlin and said, in effect, “Mr Stalin, you are a second-rate person with your second-rate head stuffed with a piece of nonsense called the class War, which my friends in the PEN club would not listen to for a moment”’ (Stalin and Wells 1934, 40). He then accused Wells of being a poor listener. Though paying tribute to Shaw’s sharp wit, we would rather side with John Maynard Keynes, who wrote that Wells produced on him the impression of ‘a man struggling with a gramophone. The reproduction is excellent, the record is word-perfect’ (Stalin and Wells 1934, 32–33). Though it was the shortest of Wells’s three visits to Russia (in 1914, twelve days; in 1920, fifteen days; in 1934, eleven days), it was probably the most intense. On 24 July he was taken around Moscow and shown the plans for its reconstruction. On 25 July he attended a parade of athletes in Red Square, and then had a meeting with the workers of the First Ball-Bearing Plant. On 26 July he discussed school education and cultural development with the People’s Commissar for Enlightenment, A. S. Bubnov, and went to an International Exhibition of Children’s Drawings. On 27 July he had a meeting with the director of the Metrostroi.6 The next day he met Professor Chernishev, the Chief Architect of Moscow. On 1 August, in Koltushi, he had a talk with Academician Pavlov and then went to Petergoff to learn about the work of the Biological Institute of Leningrad University. This was his second meeting with Pavlov. After visiting his laboratory in 1920, Wells had expressed his admiration for the Soviet scientist. In 1927 he published a highly favourable review of Pavlov’s book Conditioned Reflexes in the New York Times magazine (1929, 291–302), using the occasion to attack Shaw’s anti-vivisectionism (Mendelevich 1963, 8). It is remarkable, therefore, that in a sense Wells himself had foreseen a scientist of Pavlov’s type in his The Island of Doctor Moreau. In 1934 Wells visited Pavlov’s new research institute in Koltushi and, according to the literary scholar G. Mendelevich, was greatly impressed by the scale of research carried out under Pavlov’s supervision (1963, 8–9). He also paid tribute to the government which supplied Pavlov’s laboratories with all the necessary equipment and resources. Wells introduced Pavlov to his son, G. P. Wells, who

5

6

In his interview with Wells, Stalin conflates the Chartist movement with the movement for the Great Reform Act of 1832, when in fact Chartism emerged five years after the passing of the act (Stalin and Wells 1934, 17). Metrostroi is the abbreviation for ‘Metropolitan Construction organization’, a Soviet agency.

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was familiar with his work and asked him a lot of questions. The English writer was rather surprised by the sharply critical attitude towards the Soviet reality which Pavlov openly expressed in their talk: ‘He talked indeed as no other man in Russia would be permitted to talk,’ wrote Wells in his autobiography (1984, II: 816). ‘So far, he said, the new regime had produced no results worth considering [. . .]. He seemed to see very little advantage in replacing the worship of the crucified by the worship of the embalmed’ (1984, II: 816). Later that day Wells was received by Leningrad writers, among them the famous Soviet science-fiction writer Alexander Belaev, whose novels he praised highly: ‘They differ favourably from the novels of the Western writers. I am even a little bit envious of their success!’7 he exclaimed (Mishkevich 1968, 440). His hosts presented him with copies of his books translated and published in Russia and informed him that the total sales of his works had surpassed 700,000 copies. ‘This,’ commented Wells gratefully, ‘is much more than in England for the same period of time! It is a very pleasant surprise!’8 (Mishkevich 1968, 440). According to Grigory Mishkevich, the writers were eager to hear Wells’s impressions of the changes he saw in the Soviet Union, but Wells looked tired and was more inclined to discuss the idea of creating a Russian branch of the PEN Club – an idea that he put forward again and again with little success, and even mentioned it in his talk with Stalin: ‘I intend to discuss with such Soviet writers as I can meet the possibility of their affiliating to the PEN Club [. . .]. It insists on this, free expression of opinion – even of opposition opinion.’ Stalin did not sound enthusiastic about this, simply pointing out that ‘Bolsheviks call it self-criticism. It is widely used in the USSR’ (Stalin and Wells 1934, 18). As Shaw ironically commented later, ‘Mr Wells, magnificently overlooking the existence of the League of Nations Committee for Intellectual Co-operation, and all the Internationals, first, second, and third, offers Russia the PEN club as a substitute. The offer has struck Russia speechless’ (Stalin and Wells 1934, 27). In 1934 in Russia Wells also had many informal meetings and talks, among them a visit to Aleksei Tolstoy, who gave a dinner party in his honour. Wells’s friendship with Tolstoy had started in 1916 when the latter visited his house in Essex, and lasted until Tolstoy’s death in 1945. They continued to correspond and exchange books. When Tolstoy died, Wells sent a telegram in which he lamented the loss to world literature (Mendelevich 1963). Probably still more important for Wells was the meeting with his old friend Maxim Gorky, whom he now saw for the last time. This meeting filled Wells with bitterness and sadness, for their political standpoints and opinions had sharply diverged. Kagarlitsky points out that ‘It seemed to Wells that his old friend had lost his former independence, being euphoric about his position as

7

8

‘Oni vygodno otlichaiutsya ot proizvedenii zapadnikh pisatelei. Ya dazhe nemnogo zaviduyu ikh uspekhu!’ ‘Eto, [. . .] gorazdo bol’she chem v Anglii za tot zhe period vremeni! Eto ochen’ priyatnyi surpriz!’

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a living classic’9 (1989, 337). This echoes what Wells himself wrote about the meeting: Something human and distressful in him, which had warmed my sympathies in his fugitive days, has evaporated altogether. He has changed into a class-conscious proletarian Great Man. His prestige within the Soviet boundaries is colossal – and artificial. [. . .] When authorities have difficulty about naming a new aeroplane or a new avenue or a new town or a new organization, they solve the difficulty by calling it Maxim Gorky. He seems quietly aware of the embalming, and the mausoleum and apotheosis awaiting him, when he too will become a sleeping Soviet divinity. (1984, II: 810–11)

Ivan Maisky recollects that Wells found Gorky ‘quite different now, [. . .] sort of calm. [. . .] I remarked with a smile that there was nothing surprising in it. Why shouldn’t Gorky be calm, when he saw his dreams coming true! [. . .] My arguments somewhat softened Wells, but still he could not forgive Gorky his indifference to the idea of creating a Russian branch of the PEN Club.’10 (1973, 50–51). This is confirmed by Wells himself, who commented: ‘To me the most notable thing about this talk was the set idea of everyone that literature should be under political control and restraint, and the extraordinary readiness to suspect a “capitalist” intrigue, to which all their brains including Gorky’s had been trained. I did not like to find Gorky against liberty. It wounded me’ (1984, II: 810). Most probably Gorky’s indifference to the idea of creating the Russian branch of the PEN Club as well as his seeming calmness was a forced, pretended role that he had to play in those years, being practically a hostage to Stalin’s regime and realizing the impossibility of the ‘free expression of opinion’ that Wells hoped for. We find some comments in the memoirs of Lev Nikulin, a Russian writer who witnessed this ‘remarkable meeting’ (1956, 475). He writes that those present at Gorky’s dacha that evening expected Wells to relate his impressions of the changes he found in the USSR since his previous visit ‘but instead for some reason he is inclined to speak about the PEN Club’11 (1956, 474). Gorky inquired if Fascists were members of the club and received an affirmative answer, which he clearly deplored. When they changed the subject and started talking about the reconstruction of Moscow, Wells doubted the practicality of building the underground railway, and suggested that the government should buy a thousand or two buses abroad instead – a comment, which, according to Nikulin, infuriated Gorky: ‘Gorky looks aside crossly, tap-

9

10

11

‘Wellsu kazalos’ chto ego staryi drug utratil svoyu prezhnuyu nezavisimost’, upivayas polozheniem zhivoga klassika.’ ‘sovsem drugim, [. . .] kakim-to uspokoenym. [. . .] Ya zametil s ulybkoi [. . .] chto v etom net nichego udivitel’nogo. Pochemu by Gorkomu ne bit’ uspokoennym, kogda on vidit, kak ego mechti sbivayutsa! [. . .] Moi dovodi neskolko smyagchili Wellsa, no on vse zhe ne mog prostit’ Gorkomu ego ravnodushie po povodu idei sozdaniya rossiiskoga filiala PEN kluba.’ ‘no vmesto etogo po kakoi-to prichine on byl sklonen govorit’ o PEN Klube’.

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ping the table with a matchbox. He could reply with a wrathful and just word, but nothing doing, he has to be hospitable’12 (1956, 475). So the meeting was evidently disappointing for both parties. A year later Gorky asked Nikulin to write a critical survey of Wells’s novels for a magazine, and after reading it he remarked that the main feature of Wells’s works was their pessimism. ‘Why should one search, invent, if all human knowledge is inaccurate, if the very nature of man is vicious!’13 (Nikulin 1956, 476). Still, Wells was extremely upset when he received the news of Gorky’s death two years later. He expressed his deep sorrow in a telegram to the Union of Soviet Writers paying homage to Gorky’s great contribution to world literature and culture. In 1937 Nikulin asked Wells through his secretary to confirm some details of the talk with Gorky. The writer’s answer, in Nikulin’s opinion, sounded like a recognition of the superiority of the ideas that Gorky had lived and worked for: ‘Gorky possessed the makings of a genius, while I – just a well-organized brain’14 (1956, 476). Mariya Zakrevskaya [Moura] Wells and Gorky were also linked by their relationship with a very special woman, Mariya Zakrevskaya, who was for some time Gorky’s secretary and friend and became the last of Wells’s female companions. As already mentioned, in 1920 in Petrograd she helped Wells as an interpreter and it was then that their love affair began. Their next meeting took place in Berlin in 1929. In between, Mariya Zakrevskaya left Russia, got married to one Baron Budberg, met Gorky again, separated from her husband and stayed with Gorky in Sorrento until he decided to return to Russia for good. Being single again, she resumed her relations with the English writer, and, although she refused Wells’s repeated proposals of marriage, they stayed together till the end of his days. According to his friends he used to say: ‘I have a wife but my wife does not want to marry me!’15 (Kagarlitsky 1989, 336). To Wells she remained an enigma which he did not manage to solve, hard as he tried. She had her own life which she was not going to share fully with anyone. For example, Wells wanted her very much to accompany him as an interpreter during his third visit to Moscow but she refused on the grounds that she was persona non grata in the Soviet Union. To his great surprise, however, during his visit to Gorky’s dacha, Wells learnt that Moura had been there just a week before and had visited Gorky three times during the previous year. This may be one more consideration that marred their friendship.

12

13

14

15

‘Gorki serdito smotrit v storonu, postukivaya po stolu korobkom spichek. On mog otvetit’ gnevnim slovom, no dolzhen byt’ gostepriimnim.’ ‘Zachem iskat’, izobretat’, esli vse chelovecheskoe znaniie netochno, a sama priroda cheloveka porochna!’ ‘Gorki byl nastoiashim geniem, v to vremia kak ya – tol’ko khorosho organizovanyi mozg.’ ‘U menya est’ zhena, no ona ne khochet vykhodit’ za menya zamuzh!’

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Conclusion By and large, Soviet officials succeeded in producing a favourable impression on the English writer. Wells was fascinated by the changes that had taken place in Soviet Russia and by the enthusiasm of the Soviet people, being (like many other Western intellectuals) deceived by the outward glamour and unaware of the horrible truth beneath. According to G. Mendelevich, he expressed his feelings in just one phrase: ‘I have already seen the happy faces of healthy people, and I know that something very considerable is being done here. The contrast with 1920 is astounding’16 (1969, 19). This he later repeated to Stalin (Stalin and Wells 1934, 18). The same feelings are reflected in Wells’s vivid description of his first impressions of Moscow: ‘Moscow I found greatly changed – even from the air this was visible; not set and picturesque, a black-and-gold barbaric walled city-camp about a great fortress, as I had seen it first in 1914; not definitely shabby, shattered and apprehensive as it had been in the time of Lenin, but untidy and hopefully renascent. There was new building going on in every direction, workers’ dwellings, big groups of factories and, amidst the woods, new dachas and country clubs’ (1984, II: 799). Ivan Maisky who, as the Russian Ambassador in Britain, knew Wells personally and often met him informally, recollects that Wells was most impressed by two things in Soviet Russia: ‘First it is the evident material progress’, [Wells] speculated. ‘The Five-Year plan has definitely succeeded, and from the socialist viewpoint it has fundamental significance. And the practical success of the Five-Year plan has considerably raised the living standard in Russia [. . .]. Everywhere construction is going on, factories and railroads are working, schools and research institutes are well organized [. . .]. Of course, there are many blunders, mistakes, follies, but all this is the shortcoming of growth. [. . .] But . . .’ – he stopped short as if looking for words. ‘But there is another thing that struck me in Moscow – the change in the people’s spirit as compared to 1920. People seem to have become more down to earth, practical, businesslike; I would say there is something American about them now [. . .]. Then there was bare ground and people were burning on it. Now the ground is built on and the people are working on it, toiling, thinking about the future but not burning’, he continued.17 (1963, 245)

16

17

‘Ya uzhe videl schastlivye litsa zdorovikh lyudei, i ya znayu, chto zdes’ proiskhodit nechto ochen’ znachitelnoe.’ “‘ Pyatiletnii plan opredelenno udalsya i s sotsialnoi tochki zreniya on imeet printsipial’noe znachenie. A prakticheskii uspekh pyatiletnogo plana znachitel’no podnyal uroven zhizni v Rossii [. . .]. Vezde idet stroitel’stvo, rabotayut fabriki, zheleznie dorogi, shkoli i issledovatelskie instituti khorosho organizovannye. [. . .] Konechno, est’ mnogo promakhov, oshibok, glupostei, no vse eto izderzhki rosta. Samoe glavnoe, chto est’ rost, zdorovii rost, kotorii, otkrovenno govorya, kazalsya mne nevozmozhnim v 1920 godu. Takoe vpechatlenie, chto lyudi stali bolee zemnimi, praktichnimi, delovimi. [. . .] Togda byla golaya zemlya i lyudi goreli na nei. Seichas zemlya zastroena i lyudi rabotayut na nei, trudyatsya, dumayut o budushem, no ne goryat,” – prodolzhil on.’

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Who knows, maybe Wells intuitively felt the anxiety and doubts of the people hidden behind the happy faces which he could not properly interpret. However, in his autobiography the writer gives a much more critical account of what he saw in the Soviet Union. He found the planning of Moscow ‘hasty, amateurish and often shockingly incompetent. [. . .] Moscow is growing very rapidly,’ he admits, ‘and the replanning and rebuilding seemed to me poorly conceived’ (1984, II: 817). He points out the shortage of paper ‘to print even the books in greatest demand’ (1984, II: 817), remarks that the street traffic in Moscow is ‘disorganized and dangerous’ (1984, II: 817) and complains that ‘the distribution of goods through a variety of shops with different prices and using different sorts of money is preposterously inconvenient’ (1984, II: 817). He agrees that ‘The outstanding achievement of the new regime [. . .] is the great change in the bearing of the new generation, which has cut off altogether the traditions of serfdom and looks the world bravely in the eye’ (1984, II: 818). But at the same time he sees nothing extraordinary in the ‘liquidation of illiteracy’ which the Bolsheviks were especially proud of: ‘It is really nothing so very miraculous to be almost the last country in Europe to respond to the need for a common citizen who can read’ (1984, II: 818). Wells’s visit to Russia in 1934 cannot be evaluated straightforwardly. On the one hand he was impressed by the achievements of the Soviet economy, he had warm and friendly feelings towards the Russian intelligentsia and great hopes for the country. But on the other, we see that something was disturbing him, something he could not articulate even to himself. Therefore those he met were somewhat disappointed by his lack of enthusiasm. When they asked about his impressions, Wells often repeated himself or gave rather formal, polite answers. Having declared on arrival that he had come to study Soviet literature, he did not express much interest in it (with the exception of a few comments made at the meetings with writers). The two ideas that he came with and held closest to his heart – the establishment of a PEN Club, and the disavowal of class struggle – did not find any response, and even sounded blasphemous in Soviet society. Summarizing his disappointment he wrote: ‘As I thought it over in the homeward aeroplane, I felt that Russia had let me down [. . .]. There has always been a certain imaginative magic for me in Russia, and I lament the drift of this great land towards a new system of falsity as a lover might lament estrangement from his mistress’ (1984, II: 820–21). In return the official Soviet press hardly noticed his visit. Wells was very sorry that certain engagements prevented him from attending the Congress of Soviet Writers, held in August soon after he left Russia. But he did prepare a memorandum to be read to the Congress which he hoped could serve as a basis for a frank discussion of freedom and progress. Copies were entrusted to Maxim Gorky and the organizing secretary of the Congress. However, there is no evidence that this carefully worded message ever reached its intended audience. Neither the London PEN Club nor Wells himself received any sort of response, official or unofficial, and during the Congress his name was hardly mentioned among those Western writers who supported Russia in the struggle against Fascism. The disturbance he must have felt as a result of this visit to the USSR expressed itself in the statement which, according to Ernst Toller, he made at a big meeting on his return to England – he declared that ‘in Soviet

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Russia the intellectual freedom of the writer has been completely suppressed’ and that therefore ‘there is no intellectual life’ (Stalin and Wells 1934, 27). This statement was soon vindicated, for in 1936 the first open trial of ‘counterrevolutionaries’ started in Moscow. Maisky recalls that this and other trials, as well as the information about large-scale repression in the USSR, spoiled their relations with Wells. It was only natural that Maisky at that time could not explain to Wells what was actually going on in Russia (1973, 246). Still, when the Second World War started and especially when the Nazis invaded the USSR their relations were restored. Wells took the situation very much to heart and was appalled by Churchill’s behaviour and the delay in opening the Second Front. He launched a campaign in the press, publishing passionate articles and writing letters to stir the government into action. He was a passionate antiFascist and did all he could to help the Soviet Union in this struggle. During wartime and until his death in 1946 he kept in touch with Soviet intellectuals, as can be seen from his correspondence with A. Fadeev and some other writers. One of his last messages to them was his ‘Declaration of Universal Human Rights’, handed to Maisky in June 1943 where he again expressed his hopes for worldwide revolution. This was their last meeting before the latter left Britain. They lunched together and, as Maisky recalls, Wells was very energetic and optimistic about the future: ‘I am planning to live up to the age of 97,’ he declared. ‘Now I am 77 [. . .]. That means 20 years more. Yes, then I’ll have time to see the World State’18 (1973, 250). Unfortunately the great writer who had predicted so much turned out to be a false prophet in his own case. He died three years later, a month short of his eightieth birthday.

18

‘Ya planiruyu dozhit’ do 97 [. . .] Seichas mne 77 [. . .]. Eto znachit eshe 20 let. Da, togda u menya budet vremya uvidet Vsemirnoe Gosudarstvo.’

4

H. G. Wells in Russian Literary Criticism, 1890s–1940s Adelaida Lyubimova and Boris Proskurnin

H. G. Wells and his novels, especially his science fiction, have been a part of the experience of the Russian reading public since his first works were translated and published in Russia at the end of the 1890s. One may be sure that every Russian reader more or less attracted by science fiction knows Wells’s works. Moreover, The Invisible Man and The Time Machine are included on the reading list of the Russian school literature syllabus. Wells’s early reception Russian literary criticism took notice of H. G. Wells at the very beginning of his career. His name was mentioned in various surveys of contemporary English literature in such literary journals as the Vestnik Evropy (Messenger of Europe) and the Delo (Affairs), both widely read by Russian intellectuals. The early critics were struck by the novelty of Wells’s artistic approaches to depicting the probable future, and by the plausibility of his fantastic inventions. To some extent Vladimir Tan’s introduction to the nine-volume collection of Wells’s prose published in 1909 continues and develops this early criticism. Tan tries to comprehend the new genre brought into literature by the English writer (1909, 2) and interprets it in close connection with some aspects of current social history, especially those linked to scientific and technological progress. Another early contributor to ‘Russian Wellsiana’ who goes far beyond a simple emotional description of his plots and characters is Zinaida Vengerova. Vengerova is eager to investigate the generic structure of Wells’s novels, which were quite new for Russian literature at that time. She and Tan, two of the leading contemporary critics, write about what have since been called his ‘social-fantastic novels’ – The Time Machine, The Island of Doctor Moreau, The War of the Worlds and When the Sleeper Wakes. Vengerova uses the term ‘scientifically realistic modernism’1 to describe the manner in which social criticism is

1

‘nauchno realisticheskii modernism’.

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presented in Wells’s novels. Thus she includes Wells in the tradition of the ‘Condition of England’2 novel (1914, 165–66). It is obvious that the critic uses the word ‘modernism’ here simply to mean something modern and different from realism, whereas in the English tradition what is called Modernist writing is preoccupied with stream-of-consciousness, experimental structures, displaced language and a lack of interest in social problems. Wells after the Bolshevik Revolution After the revolutions of 1917 Wells’s prose was much more frequently published in Russia. Certain works already well known to Russian readers were published in new editions, particularly the science-fiction novels – The Time Machine, The First Men in the Moon, The War of the Worlds and The Island of Doctor Moreau. At the same time, other examples of his fiction were translated – Joan and Peter, Kipps, Mr Britling Sees It Through, The Undying Fire and others. No less than five editions of When the Sleeper Wakes/The Sleeper Awakes were published between 1918 and 1925; the novel seemed very close to the ideas of the epoch, being full of revolutionary Romanticism and idealism. Naturally, Wells’s keen interest in the future was one of the reasons for his popularity in a country which stood on the eve of a radically new stage in its development. The fact that new works were being published while familiar novels were being reappraised led to a variety of reviews and essays on Wells and his works in newspapers and magazines. And Wells, who himself was very much concerned about the current world situation, was interesting, both as a writer and as a thinker, to a society witnessing tremendous changes and great social enthusiasm. At the same time, there is a rather high level of theoretical speculation in Russian works of the 1920s and 1930s on Wells. P. Sakulin, the famous literary critic, stressed in his paper ‘K itogam russkogo literaturovedeniya za 10 let’ (A review of Russian literary science of the decade) as early as 1927 that ‘the whole academic study of literature has come under the badge of theory. Not only have literary methodology and poetics been significantly advanced, but every single piece of research in literary history is written with profound theoretical care’3 (1928, 121). This was a time when brilliant works on the theory of prose fiction had been written by Mikhail Bakhtin and Viktor Shklovsky, and critics approached both Russian and world literature from a new perspective. The unity of literary history and theory is notable in the works of V. Friche, one of the leading specialists in foreign literature at this time. Wells is introduced as a world-renowned writer in Friche’s books Noveishaya evropeiskaya literatura (Contemporary European literature) (1919) and Ocherk razvitiya zapadnoevro-

2 3

‘sotsial’no problemny roman’. ‘vsya nasha nauchnaya rabota protekala i protekaet pod znakom teoretizirovaniya. Ne tol’ko usilenno razrabatyvalas’ metodologiya i poetika, no i kazhdoe istorikoliteraturnoe issledovanie proizvodilos’ s oglyadkoi na teoriyu’.

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peiskoi literatury (Essay on the history of Western European literature) (1922), as well as in his article ‘Zapadnoevropeiskaya literatura XX veka v ee glavneishikh proyavleniyakh’ (On the main trends in Western European literature of the twentieth century) (1926). In his theoretical analysis of some trends of Western literature, Friche uses Wells to illustrate the prominence of scientific and engineering themes in modern fiction. He explores some of the stylistic changes common to those artistic works which bear the stamp of the industrial and technological age, and thus reflect contemporary ways of thinking. Friche cites Aleksei Tolstoy’s Aelita and Engineer Garin’s Hyperboloid, some novels of Alexander Belyaev and Vladimir Nikolsky, and others. As he writes, ‘One of the striking features of man living in an industrial-technological society is his inclination towards scientific, empirical, non-figurative thinking. The social man of this epoch is taught to think precisely, and so far as literary work is concerned, he demands that it should be scientifically plausible’4 (1926, 6–7). However, Friche fails to consider that figurative thinking is not necessarily imprecise, and that writers are not satisfied with so-called conventional scientific truths; this is particularly the case with science-fiction writers such as Wells, whose works are not always scientifically exact (though, of course, these writers use science with great care, since science fiction is not merely a twentiethcentury form of fairy tale). Friche oversimplifies, especially when he speaks about the correspondence between literary style and its historical epoch. He is too constrained by the vulgar sociological approach to literature typical of Soviet literary criticism at the time. In his search for a new term to denote the special quality of twentiethcentury literature, Friche writes that: ‘Naturalistic and impressionistic realism have been replaced [. . .] by a kind of realism which is difficult to name at the moment – it could be labelled rather conventionally “scientific and technical realism”, or “dynamic realism” or, if you like, “Futurist realism”’ 5 (1926, 6). Though not all these terms would survive, the first two seem to cover the new themes, styles and plots characteristic of the early twentieth century. Friche is exact when defining the pulse of current social life and stressing the ‘dynamics of life perception’6 of twentieth-century humanity as one of the underlying reasons for literary changes (1926, 6). Conscious of Wells’s standing as an accurate refractor and ‘seismograph of social vibrations’ – but at the same time suspecting him of being too volatile in his political sympathies and his conceptions of world reconstruction – literary

4

5

6

‘Odnoi iz kharakternykh chert v psikhike cheloveka industrial’no-tekhnicheskogo obshchestva yavlyaetsa ego sklonnost’ k nauchno-tekhnicheskomu, sugubo realisticheskomu, neobraznomu myshleniyu. Obshchestvennyi chelovek etoi epokhi priuchen myslit’ tochno i, poskol’ku rech’ idet o literaturnom proizvedenii, on i ot nego trebuet nauchnoi dostovernosti’.’ ‘Realizm naturalisticheskii i impressionisticheskii smenilis’ v XX veke realizmom, dlya kotorogo trudno podyskat’ sootvetsvyushchee opredelenie – ego mozhno uslovno nazvat’ “nauchno-technicheskim” ili “dinamicheskim” ili, esli ugodno, “futuristicheskim”.’ ‘dinamicheskoe mirooshchushchenie’.

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critics of the 1920s were often unable to judge him as an artist and a thinker. Many thought of Wells only as a synthesizer of other people’s ideas, albeit a talented one. Mikhail Levidov, in his ‘O sovremennoi angliiskoi literature’ (On contemporary English literature), writes that ‘Wells is not a leader, not a thinker, not a creator, perhaps not even an artist’7 (1923, 96). The critics of the ‘Left Front’ (a union of extremist revolutionary artists and writers) did not try to free Wells’s ‘Ship of the Present’8 as they did with Pushkin and Goethe, but they thought of him as ‘a mouthpiece of the petty bourgeoisie and of the intellectuals’9 (Levidov 1923, 96). Many critics of the 1920s valued Wells’s creative work for its closeness to current social life, but in an oversimplified way, refusing to admit that he might have chosen a complex subject based on insoluble conflict and taken from a context not narrowed by the necessities of the moment. A sort of panic fear of Wells’s contradictions can be seen in a review of The Wheels of Chance in 1923 by a certain ‘A’. He does not notice any of Wells’s innovations: ‘The novel’s plot is interesting only as a captivating fantasy, but as a sociological matter it is unconvincing and shallow’10 (1923, 12). Critics wrote a lot about Wells’s bourgeois bias or lack of political commitment, and this led them to accuse him of artistic failure, but little attempt was made to argue this case cogently. In the magazine Sovremnnyi zapad (Contemporary West) in 1922 there was a brief survey of English literature by the British Communist critic Douglas Goldring. Some rather different writers were brought down to the level of mediocrity by him: ‘H. G. Wells, Arnold Bennett, Compton Mackenzie and Hugh Walpole have published new books which do not deserve serious criticism. These writers pursue only easy success’11 (1922, 148). As far as Wells is concerned, Goldring seems to refer to The Secret Places of the Heart, which is concerned with the search for an adult pattern of sexual morality – a theme which clearly failed to correspond with the chief preoccupations of Russia in transition. It is easy to see in retrospect that, on the whole, Wells’s ideas and concepts of social development were treated too simplistically in the Russia of the 1920s. One striking example is L. Rosenthal’s review of Joan and Peter (1926, 224). The very fact that this novel was translated at all is remarkable. It shows that Wells was seen as a famous writer, each of whose novels was worth translating, especially in view of his keen interest in revolutionary Russia and his visits to Moscow and Petrograd in 1920. However, Rosenthal’s analysis is full of prejudice against Wells’s social novels, supposing them a sort of failure in comparison with his sociologically inspired science fiction. The critic stresses the

7 8 9 10

11

‘Uells ne vozhd’, ne myslitel’, ne tvorets, pozhalui, dazhe ne khudozhnik.’ ‘parokhod sovremennosti’. ‘vyrazitel’ idei melkoy burzhuazii i intelligentsii’. ‘soderzhanie romana predstavlyaet interes tol’ko kak uvlekatel’naya fantastika, no kak sotsiologicheskii material ono neubeditel’no i pusto’. ‘Gerbert Uells, Arnol’d Bennet, Kompton Makenzi i Khiu Uolpol vypustili novye knigi, ne vyderzhivaiushchie, odnako, ser’ioznoi kritiki. Eti pisateli gonyatsya tol’ko za vneshnim uspekhom.’

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unoriginality of Wells’s plot and the book’s careless composition, and he criticizes it for being too didactic and opinionated. Wells’s social novels do have some shortcomings, but so does his science fiction. The former much more obviously reveal his moral contradictions, an intellectual muddle which results in certain artistic weaknesses. But this does not mean that his science-fiction works are artistically irreproachable. Here we simply see a sign of the times: Russia was undergoing radical change (for better or worse), and the general demand was for an art of large, optimistic social themes; domesticity was not a priority. As for Rosenthal’s review, it is worth considering his remarks on Wells’s stylistic fallibility; the fact that different kinds of style coexist breaks up the integrity of the novel. Rosenthal writes that ‘in Wells a novelist and a propagandist try to come together, often unsuccessfully’12 (1926, 224). S. Dynamov is one of the most objective critics of Wells in the Russia of the 1920s and later. He was the author of a series of articles on Wells in various journals. What is interesting in Dynamov is that he goes far beyond simple sociological analysis of the novels’ content; he tries to discover Wells’s originality and to explain it. In particular the critic writes that the fantastic constructions in Wells’s science-fictional works are not fully explained. Instead, they are usually subordinate to the logic of actual life and perceived by readers as ‘readymade’, as something perfect, as an ideal construction. The author, Dynamov continues, never forgets to pull down all the scaffolding erected around the creation of ‘Reason’, and to occupy the position of an impartial observer, even though this is only a mask. Dynamov thinks that the combination of apparent objectivity, the concreteness of the fantastic invention and the excitement it causes produce a whimsical interlacing of the real and the fantastic. As he writes, ‘In all his novels we see only one Wells – such a firm Englishman who supports the ingenious network of his science fiction with the solid foundation of his reality. At the same time, it is clear that Wells is an expert in such fantastic plots; his characters are not abstract, they are living persons, who suffer and are happy, they are close to the reader despite the huge gulfs of space and time separating us from them’13 (1924, 9). Dynamov stresses that Wells is not content with a detailed analysis of current social reality; he ‘prefers to project into the future some existing social relations’14 (1924, 16). The critic praises When the Sleeper Wakes as one of the author’s most remarkable works, in which ‘it is not difficult

12

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14

‘belletrist v Uellse stremitsa vossoedinit’sa s publitsistom, no ne vsegda eto emu udaetsya’. ‘Vo vsekh nikh viden lish’ odin Uells – etakii krepkii anglichanin (Englishman), podpirayushchii tonkoe kruzhevo svoei nauchnoi fantazii prochnym fundamentom okruzhayushchei ego deistvitel’nosti. V to zhe vremya yasno prosvechivaet, chto Uells – master syuzheta v oblasti etoi fantazii, ego personazhi ne abstraktsii, a zhivye lyudi, stradayushchie i raduyushchiesya, blizkie chitatelyu, nesmotrya na ogromneishie vremennye i prostranstvennye rasstoyaniya.’ ‘predpochital proetsirovat’ v budushchee sushchestvuyushchie obshchestvennye otnosheniya’.

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to discover the sharp outlines of contemporary class conflicts in Wells’s depiction of the struggle for the future of mankind’15 (1924, 16). It would seem from the majority of the Russian Wellsiana of the 1920s and 1930s that only the ‘early Wells’ was highly regarded; his later works were not central to the interests of the critics or the reading public. However, there is one exception; the critic R. Kulle was equally interested both in the ‘early’ and the ‘mature’ Wells. He writes of Wells as a writer whose ‘extraordinary, inexhaustible fantasy and great artistic mastery is able to rivet his readers’ attention. [. . .] His characters are so well depicted, their psychological motivation is so convincing, that a reader believes utterly in the phantasmagoria of his “social insights” and follows the author in his excursions both into the past and the future’16 (1927, 33). Significantly, Kulle reaches this conclusion when analysing both Wells’s early works, and such novels as Christina Alberta’s Father and The World of William Clissold. In his essay ‘Roman sovremennoi Anglii’ (The contemporary English novel), Kulle compares Wells with G. K. Chesterton, noting that the latter ‘creates brilliant absurdities’; for him ‘it makes no sense to enter the house through the door if it is quicker to do so through the window.’ Wells ‘prefers to use the door in any case’17 (1927, 33). Kulle was the first to speak of the suggestiveness of Wells’s style. In 1929, this idea was developed by A. Starchakov in his introduction to When the Sleeper Wakes. He stresses the ‘magical force’ of Wells’s ideas and his remarkable ability to foretell the future. According to Starchakov, Wells frequently ‘becomes a kind of social prophet, not due to his supernatural capacities but due to his deep and profound understanding of the essence of social processes’18 (in Levidova and Parchevskaya 1966, 31). In the 1920s Russian literary critics began to discuss genre issues, to argue about the specificity of science fiction as a literary art, to develop the theory (mainly on the basis of Wells’s novels) of a socio-analytical element in science fiction and to speculate about the social novel and its structures in comparison with Wells’s science fiction. For instance, S. Bobrov, himself the author of several utopias, contrasts Wells’s novels with those of Arthur Conan Doyle, Paul Leroix and Alexandre Dumas. He thinks that ‘the Wellsian novel has its roots in the social conflicts of the time and that Wells’s fame is based on this fact, rather than

15

16

17

18

‘za bor’boi budushchego chelovechestva netrudno uvidet’ ostrye kontury klassovykh protivorechii nashei sovremennosti’. ‘isklyuchitel’noi neistoshchimosti fantazii, velichaishim masterstvom khudozhnika, umeyushchemu prikovat’ chitatelya k svoei knige. Ego kharakteristiki literaturnykh personazhei tak nasyshcheny, psikhologicheskaya motivirovka tak ubeditel’na, chto pokorennomu chitatelyu legko verit’ v sozdannuyu pisatelem fantasmagoriyu ego “sotsial’nykh prozrenii”, legko idti za nim v proshloe i budushchee’. ‘ “sozdaet velikolepnye neleposti”, rassuzhdaya “zachem khodit’ v dver’, kogda mozhno lazit’ v okno”. Uells predpochitaet khodit’ v dver’, i ego iskusstvo “stanovitsa trepetnoi zhizn’yu’. ‘Uells stanovitsa svoego roda sotsyal’nym prorokom ne v silu sverkh’ ‘estevennykh sposobnostei, no blagodarya glubokomu proniknoveniyu v sut’ ryada vazhneishikh sotsial’nykh yavlenii’.

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on his skill at constructing artful and fantastic plots’19 (1923, 326–27). What is more, ‘everywhere in Wells’s novels, whatever the genre – science fiction or the novel of manners (Love and Mr Lewisham) or the “special commercial novel” (Tono-Bungay) – the tragedy of a contemporary man emerges’20 (1923, 326–27). This was written in 1923 when Bobrov was a member of the Futurist group ‘Centrifuge’ which explains the rather eccentric manner and eccentric title of his essay – ‘Scraps of Victory’. On the whole, the essay attracts us by its liveliness and energy of thought, and by its sincere love of Wells the humanist ‘about whom’, Bobrov writes, ‘the author has been able to read no sensible essay. This is why he craves something to answer this lack, especially since every literate child in this country has already read a lot of Wells’21 (1923, 326–27). Bobrov is far from reproaching Wells with the implausibility of his fantastic ideas: ‘What appeals to you and strikes a chord when you read The War of the Worlds with its Martians? Is it really the exaggerated focus on horrible cannons and spacecraft whose construction Wells passes over? Well, Stevenson or anyone else may have much more inventive contraptions. The scientific basis of the idea of an invisible man is not much more credible than Shakespeare’s ships landing on the shores of Bohemia’22 (1923, 327). The lack of a scientific basis for the technological idea seems to Bobrov to be merely an idiosyncratic characteristic of Wells’s science-fiction novels devoted to social problems. The critic has no consistent concept of the ‘scientific romance’ as a genre; the tone of his essay is very emotional, and it aims to represent Wells’s emotional effects on his readers. Russian Wellsiana in the 1930s The publishing history of Wells’s works in the 1930s shows that he remained of great interest to Soviet readers (or, at least, to publishers and those able to decide what readers should read: the shift towards totalitarianism had already taken place). In 1930 a new collection of his novels and short stories was published. Some of his most popular novels were republished several times, among them

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‘roman Uellsa pustil korni na pochve sotsial’nykh protivorechii, i slavoi svoei Uells obyazan imenno etomu, a ne umeniyu sozdat’ khitroumnye fantasticheskie syuzhetospleteniya’. ‘Vezde i vsyudu u Uellsa pod vidom li fantasticheskogo romana, pod vidom li bytovogo (Love and Mr Lewisham) ili spetsial’no-kommercheskogo (Tono-Bungay) vyrastaet tragediya cheloveka-sovremennika.’ ‘o kotorom avtoru’greshnym delom ne dovelos’ prochest’ [. . .] ni odnoi del’noi stat’i, pochemu on i zhazhdet vospolnit’ etot probel, tem bolee, chto vse gramotnye deti ego chitali’. ‘Chto zovet i prityagivaet vas v “Voyne mirov” s ikh marsianami? Uzheli naiskromneishie fokusy so strashennymi pushkami i apparatami, v kotorykh peredvigayutsya marsiane, ob ustroistve kotorykh k tomu zhe Uells skromno umalchivaet? Da ved’ u lyubogo Stivensona est’ zagoguliny mnogo boleye khitrye [. . .]. Nauchnaya podopleka sushchestvovaniya Nevedimki ne vyshe dostovernosti shekspirovskikh korablei, pristayushchikh k Bogemii.’

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The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds and The First Men in the Moon. Some new works such as The Croquet Player (published in English in 1936 and in Russian in January and February 1937) were translated and published practically simultaneously with the English originals. Many Russian readers were very impressed by this novel because of its anti-Fascist feeling. A similar response had occurred three years before with The Bulpington of Blup – a very popular novel in Russia ever since its publication. Although a crude sociological approach still dominated Russian literary criticism and some essays were full of schematic and simplifying analysis, the 1930s were rather fruitful in terms of the range of Wells’s works covered. He was called by some critics ‘a political philosopher of the English liberal-bourgeois intellectuals’23 and even ‘a direct supporter of Fascism’24 (Miller-Budnitskaya 1932, 95; 97) – these are examples of extreme views based on typical antibourgeois rhetoric – but, at the same time, the approach to Wells worked out in the 1920s was further developed in the 1930s, especially the discussion of the poetics of his fiction. Wells was now frequently considered in terms of generic and comparative studies. Anatoly Lunacharsky’s study of Wells’s works opened some horizons in Russian Wellsiana. In his introduction to a six-volume collection of the writer’s works, Lunacharsky opposes those critics who insist that Wells’s talent has declined. Instead, he writes, ‘Wells is a much more serious writer than one would suppose from his early work. We can see this by comparing his early and recent creative activities’25 (1930, v). Lunacharsky traces the evolution of Wells’s art in the growing psychological complexity of the characters he depicts. And here Lunacharsky contradicts the extreme leftwing literary and art-critical movements of the time – the so-called ‘Left’ and ‘Proletcult’ – which played a dramatic role in Russian culture at this period but neglected the role of psychological analysis in literature and the arts. Lunacharsky was the first to say that Wells was ‘one of the best psychologists in contemporary literature’26 (1930, vi). (We can think of many more subtle psychologists among Wells’s contemporaries, no doubt, but neither Lunacharsky nor the Russian reading public knew about them, since, for instance, D. H. Lawrence and Virginia Woolf could not be published in Russia under the totalitarian regime, while Conrad was merely regarded as a writer of sea stories, his psychological subtlety only being ‘discovered’ later.) It is the remarkable development of Wells’s power of psychological analysis that Lunacharsky notes. He stresses that ‘gradually [Wells] creates some of the best psychological portrayals which make him one of the most talented creators of complex human inner life [. . .] and this picture very often goes

23 24 25

26

‘politicheskim filosofom angliiskoi burzhuazno-liberal’noi intelligentsii’. ‘pryamym storonnikom fashizma’. ‘Uells – pisatel’ gorazdo bolee ser’eznyi, chem mozhno bylo by predpolozhit’ po proizvedeniyam ego pervogo perioda’. ‘odnogo iz talantliveishikh izobrazitelei vnutrennei zhizni slozhnykh chelovecheskikh tipov’.

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far beyond the mere representation of an ordinary mind, becoming an investigation of intricate conflicts of a very sophisticated kind’27 (1930, vi). We may guess that the critic is referring mainly to Mr Blettsworthy on Rampole Island here. There is a second introduction to this collection, written by Kulle; it is a profound academic essay with a serious theoretical approach. One of his main concerns is the originality of Wells’s art, which is based on a mixture of analysis and synthesis. The critic emphasizes that Wells’s social analysis is not a simple accumulation of pedantic details, but is constructed with the broad brushstrokes of a real master. At the same time, Kulle thinks that sometimes this analysis is too impressionistic in manner. Wells ought to rely not on casual and incidental, but on powerful, complex and deep impressions (1930, xiv). Kulle recommends The Dream, with its Freudian influence, as a good example, together with Wells’s excursions into the sphere of the unconscious in Mr Blettsworthy on Rampole Island (1930, xiv). Kulle also distinguishes between two kinds of utopian thought, one based on the idea that ‘fantasy is better than the future’,28 and the other a mode of satire ‘castigat[ing] current life under the pretext of depicting an imaginary country.’29 As Kulle writes, ‘Wells tries to combine both’30 (1930, xiv), though before him they had developed separately in the utopian tradition from Thomas More and Jonathan Swift to William Morris and Samuel Butler. Throughout the 1930s many of Wells’s novels continued to be reprinted. For example, in 1930, besides the fourteen-volume collection, there was a new translation of The Island of Doctor Moreau introduced by Mikhail Zavadovsky, a famous biologist and specialist in mental processes who was enthusiastic about Wells’s portrayal of the human mind and its capacities. He writes that ‘The central idea of this novel is that human will and knowledge will achieve this goal when, with a scalpel in his hand, man will be able to change and reorganize living organisms’31 (1930, 7). This was a great advance on the 1923 edition of Doctor Moreau, where S. Bobrov’s interpretation belittled its social satire. Bobrov erroneously said of Wells’s main theme that ‘Behind the threat of the animals’ revolt Wells advocates the idea of mercy to them’32 (1923, 327). In 1939 the monthly Literatura dlya detei (Children’s Literature) published an article by V. Shklovsky and A. Ivich entitled ‘Wells and Verne’. The comparison

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28 29

30 31

32

‘postepenno [Uells] sdelalsya odnim iz talantliveishikh izobrazitelei vnutrennei zhizni slozhneishikh chelovecheskikh tipov [. . .] podchas daleko vykhodyashchikh za predeli norm sostoyaniy soznaniya i vsyakogo roda zaputannykh kollizii ochen’ izoschrennogo psichologicheskogo poryadka.’ ‘fantastiku luchshego budushchego’. ‘bychevavshuyu tekushchii moment, no s pereneseniem deistviya v nekuyu vymyshlennuyu stranu’. ‘Uells popytalsya dat’ sintez i togo, i drugogo.’ ‘Tsentral’nuyu ideyu zhutkogo romana my vidim v mysli, chto voleyu i znaniem budet dostignut tot etap, kogda s nozhom khirurga v rukakh chelovek sumeet perestroit’ zhivoi organizm.’ ‘Pod vidom ugrozy vosstaniem zhivotnykh Uells prosit milosti zhivotnym.’

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is not favourable to the English writer: the authors argue that he is neither a good artist nor a serious thinker. According to Shklovsky and Ivich, ‘Wells does not trust his time and does not like it because he does not understand it. Through his novels he escapes from reality into the future as easily as moving from one room to another. He relates to the Future with the same wariness that he shows when dealing with contemporary life’33 (1939, 14–15). They add that ‘Wells is a “product” of the exhausted capitalist society which is unable to master its own technology. Technology has outgrown the social capacity of the capitalist world; Wells’s frightening novels are set in the twilight of capitalism’34 (1939, 17). The groundlessness of these insinuations has been proved by time, but it is worth quoting them to understand how controversial the reception of Wells was in the pre-war Soviet Union. When thinking about Wells’s reception in Soviet literary criticism it is impossible to ignore his two visits to the USSR in 1920 and 1934. His experiences during his first visit were discussed in reviews of Russia in the Shadows. But much better and more objective reflections on these two visits were produced by critics in the 1950s, after 1956 and the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union when the cult of Stalin’s personality was denounced and the ‘thaw’ began. One may find some interesting approaches to his visits in the works of V. Zemskov, Yu. Khodaev, I. Maisky, G. Mendelevich, N. Pogodin, P. Sergeev and others. But we are not concerned with them here because they do not address the artistic merits (or shortcomings) of Russia in the Shadows or Wells’s work as a whole. The 1940s and after Summing up the Russian literary-critical judgements on Wells in the 1920s and 1930s, it should be stressed that in these two decades the foundations of Russian Wellsiana were laid, and the questions of the development of Wells’s art, the individuality of his style and narration and the nature of his artistic world were first discussed. At the same time, the sociological approach was dominant, with critics showing more interest in his themes and topics than in the ways they were expressed. In 1946 the first full-length dissertation on Wells was written and publicly defended in Moscow (Eber 1946). In the same year, the first post-war edition of his short stories appeared, with a very good introduction by one of the best post-war Soviet Anglicists, Anna Elistratova. Elistratova describes Wells as a

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‘Uells ne verit svoemu vremeni i ne lyubit ego, potomu chto ne ponimaet. Svoimi romanami on ukhodit ot sovremennosti v budushchee, kak iz odnoi komnaty v druguyu. Po budushchemu on gulyaet s toi zhe ustalost’yu, i rasseyannoi nevnimatel’nost” yu kak i po sovremennosti.’ ‘Uells sozdan ustalym kapitalisticheskim obschestvom, kotoroye ne mozhet osvoit’ svoyu tekhniku. Technika pererosla sotsial’nye vozmozhnosti kapitalisticheskogo mira, i v sumrake kapitalizma sozdany ispugannie romany Uellsa.’

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writer ‘who worries about the fates of Mankind, Culture and Civilization’35 (1946, 107). But here she is mainly concerned with describing Wells’s characteristic themes, and she does not write about his art as profoundly as in her later works of the 1960s. The 1950s and 1960s are the decades when a new period in Wells’s reception began, especially when we remember that the first Russian monograph on Wells was written by the country’s most famous Wellsian specialist, Julius Kagarlitsky, in 1963. The approaches to Wells now differed in many respects from what came earlier. The new approaches are based on analysis of the structures of his novels and, in the 1980s, on a reappraisal of Wells in the context of the literary situation after ‘perestroika’, when the world-famous dystopias of George Orwell and Aldous Huxley were published in the USSR after being ‘forbidden’ for many years. This has substantially changed Russian critics’ perspectives on Wells and his works. H. G. Wells is such a good writer and thinker that it is no wonder that his works have been studied seriously and deeply; and that there have been, and still are, different and sometimes opposite approaches to his creative achievement. This is the fate of every writer who has his or her own place in the history of world literature.

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‘trevogi za sud’by chelovechestva, za sud’by kul’tury i tsivilizatsii’.

5

Future Perfect: H. G. Wells and Bolshevik Russia, 1917–32 Roger Cockrell

The first translations of the works of H. G. Wells appeared in Russia at the very end of the nineteenth century. By the time of the October Revolution of 1917, of all foreign authors he ranked second only to Jules Verne in terms of popularity. Numerous single editions of his works were translated as they came out, and during the years immediately preceding the Revolution a thirteenvolume collection of stories and novels had appeared.1 During the 1920s there was no sign of this popular appeal diminishing, and numerous translations of his works, both old and new, continued to appear. If we take the most eclectic and interesting journal of the decade, Krasnaya nov’ (Red Virgin Soil), its most frequently published foreign authors included writers such as Anatole France and Upton Sinclair, together with ‘friends’ of the Soviet Union such as Romain Rolland and Henri Barbusse. Wells, however, is considered to have stood ‘in a class by himself, as an apostle of the machine age’ (Maguire 1965, 18). Side by side with this general enthusiasm, which demonstrated that the Russian public’s appetite for such stories and novels paralleled that of their Western counterparts, a political viewpoint on Wells emerged, reflecting the desire to interpret him from an ideological perspective. The aim of this chapter is to discuss the reception of Wells in Russia in the light of this dual perspective, and to seek to arrive at an appreciation of Wells’s position vis-à-vis the Bolsheviks. The chapter will include a discussion of Wells’s reception by early Soviet writers, and in particular of his relationship with the author Yevgeny Zamyatin. Throughout, the focus will be on the early years after the October Revolution, concentrating on the period 1917–32, before Soviet attitudes towards writers and Western figures such as Wells were finally to harden under the pressures of Stalinist dogma. A word of caution is necessary from the start. Although it is meaningful in general terms to talk about the ‘Bolsheviks’ as a single entity, in that they all

1

For further details of Wells’s publication history in Russia, see Levidova and Parchevskaya (1966) and Rydel (1978).

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supported Lenin’s seizure of power in 1917 and shared the beliefs and values of Marxist-Leninist ideology, it would be wrong to think of them as one homogeneous group. Writers ranged from the Futurists under Mayakovsky, who wished to create an entirely new form of art appropriate for a new type of society, through the ‘left’ proletarians and the more moderate centrists, to the so-called fellow-travellers on the right who, while maintaining their commitment to the October Revolution, held to the principle of artistic freedom. But, even here, the idea that the Bolsheviks could be conveniently categorized and arranged neatly along a spectrum of varying political views would be misleading: the divisions were not only between, but within individuals. Trotsky, for example, expressed many views in Literatura i revoliutsiya (Literature and Revolution) (1960; first published 1924) which were identical to those of the Futurists, but at the same time he launched a scathing attack on them for their rejection of the past, which he described as ‘a Bohemian nihilism’ (1960, 131). In the late 1920s a twelve-volume Literaturnaya entsiklopediya (Literary encyclopaedia) was published in the Soviet Union. It was a massive undertaking, the first of its kind for the Bolshevik regime, containing informative entries on writers, their works and literary movements, including a threepage entry on Wells. The encyclopaedia’s editor-in-chief was Anatoly Lunacharsky, a prolific writer on literary and cultural matters, and the first Soviet Commissar for Education. Lunacharsky shared the dualism that ran through the early generation of Bolsheviks like a geological fault-line. Viewed from one angle, figures such as Lenin and Trotsky and others appear as sophisticated, highly educated members of the intelligentsia, the inheritors of the traditions of nineteenth-century Russian culture. Viewed from another, these same figures are transformed into impassioned ideologues. Wells himself described many of those he met during his visit to Russia in 1920 as ‘hardminded, doctrinaire and unteachable men, fanatics who believe that the mere destruction of capitalism [. . .] will in itself bring about a sort of bleak millennium’ (1920, 93). But he saw some, including Lunacharsky and Lenin, as possessing ‘more liberal minds, minds which, given an opportunity, will build and probably build well’ (1920, 94). Indeed, in the seemingly endless, often bitter, literary polemics of the 1920s Lunacharsky’s was often a moderating voice, in stark contrast to the vociferous stridency of the militant proletarian groups. He wrote extensively on Wells, both as a person and as a literary critic, frequently adopting a sympathetic approach towards someone with whom he was on friendly terms. While this more positive side is apparent in the encyclopaedia’s entry on Wells, it also takes on a much sharper edge, reflecting the Bolsheviks’ desire to demonstrate the primacy of ideology. After a brief introduction to Wells’s early life the entry turns to an analysis of his works, highlighting their prophetic qualities together with Wells’s concern with social questions. ‘Wells is writing in the age of imperialism, at a time when the social contradictions of capitalism, which is now reaching its highest and final stage, are becoming most acute. The growth of the workers’ movement, the chaos brought about by monopolies and competition, serving only to deepen the antagonism between the classes – everything combines to convince

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Wells of capitalism’s inevitable decay’2 (Lunacharsky 1939, 631). Many of Wells’s early stories, including The Time Machine and The First Men in the Moon, are interpreted in this light. Wells’s humanity and sympathy for the common man, reflected in works such as Tono-Bungay, Kipps and The History of Mr Polly, are also emphasized. But these are insufficient virtues: the article’s author is anxious to remind his readers that Wells’s position, despite his critique of capitalism, is ideologically flawed. Wells, we are told, did not believe in revolution; even in his most far-reaching utopias, he did not transcend the limitations of bourgeois society. Lost in the ‘fog of Fabianism’3 (Lunacharsky 1939, 633), Wells failed to understand the essence of the October Revolution. ‘A Utopian and fantasist, he became a sceptic as soon as he came across, not the laws of capitalism, but the practical workings of a socialist society’4 (Lunacharsky 1939, 633). Although the concluding paragraph acknowledges that Wells had used the full force of his sarcastic invective to ridicule the self-satisfied apathy of bourgeois England, the final judgement is unremittingly negative: ‘Wells has never overcome his bourgeois limitations, never actively fought against the forces of reaction, never acknowledged that a new and happy world can only be created by means of a proletarian revolution. It is this that explains Wells’s uncertainty, his political and creative inconsistencies’5 (Lunacharsky 1939, 634).6 There were many who could hardly be described as red-blooded supporters of the regime but who at least implicitly supported this official line. We shall see later that the writer Yury Olesha, for example, was both fascinated and inspired by Wells. But even Olesha considered it necessary on occasion to subscribe to the orthodox ideological opinion on Wells. In the concluding section of his essay on Wells and the fantastic he repeats the ritualistic formula that Wells was seeking a way out from the confusion of capitalism through the ‘idea of a technocracy’, and that as ‘a bourgeois writer’ his ideas were ‘mistaken’ (1965, 460). Alexander Voronsky, too, the non-doctrinaire editor of Krasnaya nov’, refers scathingly to the narrow individualism which pervades a work such as Joan and Peter and which can lead only to the promotion of harmful, bourgeois and reactionary ideas (1963, 110). And the independently minded poet, Olga

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‘Uells tvorit v epokhu imperializma, v epokhu obostreniya sotsial’nykh protivorechii kapitalizma, dostigshego svoei vysshei i poslednei stadii. Rost rabochego dvizheniya, khaos monopolii i konkurentsii, uglublyayushchiysia antagonizm klassov – vse eto ubezhdaet Uellsa v neizbezhnom vyrozhdenii kapitalizma.’ ‘nakhodyas’ vo mgle fabianstva’. ‘Utopist i fantazer, on stal skeptikom, kak tol’ko stolknulsya ne s zakonami kapitalizma, a s praktikoi sotsialisticheskogo stroitel’stva.’ ‘No Uells ne preodolel svoei burzhuaznoi ogranichennosti, ne vstal na put’ deyatel’noi bor’by s reaktsiei, ne priznal, chto tol’ko proletarskoi revolyutsiei mozhet byt’ sozdan novyi, radostnyi mir. Otsyuda neuverennost’ Uellsa, ego politicheskie i tvorcheskie shataniya.’ In another context Lunacharsky wrote that Wells could be taken as a model for Soviet writers on utopian themes, with the exception, however, that these writers would be proceeding from ‘a standpoint that was not Fabian, but decidedly revolutionary’ (1964, 452–53). See also 1965, 7–11.

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Berggolts, is equally sarcastic about Wells and his trip to Russia in 1920. Although she concedes that ‘the famous visitor’ was ‘by no means the worst’ of the foreigners to visit Russia immediately after the Revolution and that he had ‘a certain sympathy’7 for the Russian people, he saw the country as if through a fog. Whether travelling by train to Petrograd or talking with Lenin in the Kremlin Wells remained, Berggolts considers, out of tune and out of touch with reality, cocooned in his bourgeois prejudices (1960, 28–31). How seriously should we take these accusations? It is true that Wells did not promote the idea of revolution as a means to change, certainly not as Marx and Lenin had conceived it. Furthermore, in Russia in the Shadows he goes out of his way to emphasize his dislike of Marx the person and of Marxism as a political philosophy. Nor does Wells have any illusions concerning the state Russia finds herself in after the Revolution: ‘Our dominant impression of things Russian is an impression of a vast irreparable breakdown [. . .]. Never in all history has there been so great a débâcle before’ (1920, 11). The hyperbole is justified, for he is witness to the total collapse of a social, economic and political system in which the equivalent of the British Parliament (the St Petersburg Soviet) has ‘about as much organisation, structure, and working efficiency as a big bagful of miscellaneous wheels’ (1920, 119–20). Even committed Bolsheviks are, in Wells’s view, beginning to understand that, in capturing Russia, they have got aboard not a functioning ship of state en route to the promised land of Communism, but ‘a derelict’ (1920, 76–77). This, however, is only part of the story. Firstly, the attack on Marxism is qualified by Wells’s own sense of empathy for all those ‘young men of energy and imagination who have found themselves at the outset of life imperfectly educated, ill-equipped, and caught into hopeless wages slavery’. They have been drawn to Communism precisely because they believe it has the power to liberate them from ‘the social injustice, the stupid negligence, and the colossal incivility’ of the Western system (1920, 70–71). Secondly, it soon becomes clear that it is not Wells’s primary objective to attack the Bolsheviks or to hold them responsible for the condition of Russia. On the contrary, he goes out of his way to exonerate them, blaming European imperialism for plunging ‘this huge, creaking, bankrupt empire into six years of exhausting war’. Indeed, although Wells cannot believe in the Bolsheviks’ credo and despises their prophet, Marx, he sees them as the only people capable of preventing Russia’s final collapse into ‘primitivism’ and ‘Asia’;8 for all their self-evident faults the Bolsheviks were ‘the only possible backbone now to a renascent Russia’ (1920, 88). In a letter to Maxim Gorky of December 1920 Wells wrote that he had done all he could ‘to make our people here realize that the Soviet government is a government of human beings and not a peculiar emanation from the Nether World’ (quoted in Mackenzie and Mackenzie 1973, 327). He emerged from his meeting with

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‘a on ved’ byl ne samyi khudshii iz zarubezhnykh lyudei, on v chem-to sochuvstvoval nam’. Trotsky was to characterize the Bolshevik Revolution as the ‘Russian people’s break with Asian attitudes’ (1960, 68).

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Lenin, furthermore, convinced that ‘the dreamer in the Kremlin’ was able to lead Russia away from the abyss, and pleasantly surprised that, through the figure of Lenin, Communism was able ‘in spite of Marx’ to demonstrate its creative potential (Wells 1920, 137).9 Only a few years later Leon Trotsky was to view this meeting through quite different eyes, stating that Wells had totally misunderstood Lenin. Beside the Bolshevik leader, Wells, Trotsky maintains, was ‘the embodiment of those pseudo-educated, narrow-minded bourgeois who look without seeing, who do not want to learn anything because they feel so comfortable behind their barrier of inherited prejudices’ (2000, 76).10 Despite the official attacks on Wells, there were in fact a number of resonant points of contact between Wellsian ideas and official Bolshevik ideology. One of these has already been mentioned: the belief, which threads through so much of his literature, from The Time Machine onwards, that capitalism as a way of ordering affairs was a decaying and fatally flawed system. Wells also, at least in his more optimistic scenarios, maintains that man possesses unlimited potential to seize hold of this decaying system and change it for the better. ‘If the world does not please you, you can change it’ (Wells 1985, 184), says Mr Polly in a sentiment of which Lenin would have approved. Similarly, the Bolsheviks’ belief in the power of technology and the machine, demonstrated particularly in the works of the early ‘proletarian’ writers,11 echoed a powerful and persistent Wellsian theme. The Bolsheviks envisaged that the creation of a radically new society would entail the transformation not simply of people’s minds, but of the natural landscape. Nature was seen as something to be subdued and utilized for the purposes of man. Wells noted such a philosophy in Lenin during his visit to the Kremlin, with his ‘honestly conceived’ but ‘hopelessly impractical’ scheme for the electrification of the entire country. But it was Trotsky who was the most explicit and outspoken promulgator of the new idea. In his Literature and Revolution, Trotsky envisages a world liberated from capitalism and exploitation. Man will be free to transform the world according to his own desires ‘if not in his own image and likeness, then according to his taste [. . .] and there would be no reason to fear that this taste would be bad’. ‘Man,’ Trotsky continues, ‘will change the course of the rivers, reshape and remove mountains, and he will lay down rules for the oceans. Most likely, thickets and forests and grouse and tigers will remain, but only where he commands them to remain’

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11

In his first highly acclaimed picaresque novel, Julio Jurenito (1922), Ilya Ehrenburg is said to have parodied the meeting between Wells and Lenin, as described by Wells; the description in the novel of the American financier, Mr Cool, during his visit to Russia closely resembles Wells’s Mr Vanderlip (in RS ). At the same time, it has been suggested that Erenburg’s main target was Lenin and that his primary intention was to parody the ‘Grand Inquisitor’ section of Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov (Avins 1983, 129). In a letter to the Daily Worker (31 December 1932) Wells disputed Trotsky’s allegation that Lenin had called him ‘a petty bourgeois’ and ‘a philistine’ (Trotsky 2000, 77). See Stites 1989, 172–73.

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(1960, 186; 190).12 A little later Maxim Gorky was to endorse a proposal to destroy the polar ice cap so as to return Siberia and Canada to the ‘heavenly conditions’ of the Miocene era (1997, 350). Lunacharsky himself is said to have proposed ‘lighting a new sun if the current one proves to be insufficient or in general annoying or ugly’ (Livingstone 2001, 133). As with so many other ‘grand ideas’, Wells’s position on this question of ‘reshaping the planet’ was not consistent. We have already noted his scepticism with regard to Lenin’s electrification of Russia project, and at the beginning of A Modern Utopia he specifically rejects William Morris’s concept of the absolute perfectibility of man, recognizing the need to restrict oneself ‘to the limitations of human possibility’. ‘We are to shape our state in a world of uncertain seasons, sudden catastrophes, antagonistic diseases, and inimical beasts and vermin’ (1945, 5–6). Yet at the very heart of works such as Anticipations, A Modern Utopia and Men Like Gods lies the belief in man as a transforming agent and in science as a governing ideal. Indeed, in Men Like Gods and in the later The Shape of Things to Come, Wells’s vision of the future planet Earth is strikingly similar to Trotsky’s. The rational optimism of the Bolsheviks derived more from the mid-nineteenth-century radical Russian critics, Chernyshevsky, Dobrolyubov and Pisarev, than from Marx and Engels. Both groups shared a belief in social progress and the perfectibility of man, together with the conviction that art had a crucial role to play in this formative process. Artists were seen as enlighteners, signposts on the road to the Promised Land. The implicit link with Wells can be seen in the many parallels between Nikolai Chernyshevsky’s Chto delat’? (What Is To Be Done?) (1863), regarded as the bible of utopian socialism, which promoted the cause of rational and enlightened self-interest,13 and Wells’s The Shape of Things to Come. We remember, too, Wells’s seemingly unbounded admiration for the nineteenth-century historian Winwood Reade, whose view of science he quoted with obvious approval. ‘When we have ascertained, by means of science, the methods of Nature’s operation, we shall be able to take her place and to perform them for ourselves. [. . .] Men will master the forces of nature; they will become themselves architects of systems, manufacturers of worlds’ (quoted in Mackenzie and Mackenzie 1973, 55). Both the group of Russian nineteenth-century critics and the Bolsheviks took their argument a stage further by claiming that only a select group of people allegedly possessed the knowledge and necessary qualities to ensure the success of the transformation to the ideal society. The Bolsheviks indeed, far from ushering in the era of the common man, as they claimed, simply perpetuated the divisions between the masses and the elitist minority that had existed in pre-revolutionary Russia. While paying lip-service to democracy, Lenin and his

12

13

Peter Beilharz argues that Trotsky’s utopian ideas are reminiscent of Wells’s utopian science fiction (1993, 33). The novel’s obsessive hero, Rakhmetov, was Lenin’s favourite fictional character. What Is to Be Done? was to receive a savage literary riposte in the form of Dostoevsky’s Zapiski iz podpol’ya (Notes from Underground) (1864).

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Bolshevik colleagues knew that they could achieve and maintain power only through the formation of a tightly knit group of dedicated revolutionaries who were totally unaccountable to the Russian people as a whole. For Wells such ideas would have struck a sympathetic chord. It has been suggested that he modelled his Open Conspiracy in part on Lenin’s idea of a disciplined elite (as well as on the Italian Fascists) (see Parrinder 1995, 111). Wells himself talked of the ‘open conspiracy of intellectuals and wilful people’ as his faith, his ‘King Charles’s head’ (quoted in Mackenzie and Mackenzie 1973, 345). According to Bernard Bergonzi, the combination of individualism and collectivist impulses within him led inevitably to the doctrine of the ‘elite’. This had adopted various guises in Wells’s fiction, from the Artilleryman in The War of the Worlds, through Ostrog, the Samurai and the Open Conspirators, to the Airmen of The Shape of Things to Come. Wells, however, was unwilling to take the one further step that, for the Bolsheviks, was an absolute necessity: the adoption of censorship and the curtailment of free speech. He would no doubt have reacted sceptically to the Bolsheviks’ justification for such restrictions: that they represented temporary measures, the need for which would disappear as the Soviet people freed themselves from capitalist slavery and ‘became accustomed to observing the elemental rules of social intercourse’14 (Lenin 1974, 89). Wells and early Soviet writers Lenin may have believed that the end – the achievement of Communism – justified the means, but for the millions of suffering Russians in the immediate aftermath of the Revolution this was of little significance. During his 1920 visit, Wells was especially struck by the fact that major figures such as Gorky, Pavlov, Chaliapin and Glazunov were ‘living a sort of refugee life amidst the impoverished ruins’ (1920, 44). It was all the more extraordinary, therefore, that they and many others were able to continue with their creative activities in a manner which would have been ‘inconceivable in the rich England and the rich America of to-day’ (1920, 47). In no one was this passionate belief in the value and continuing significance of Russia’s artistic and cultural legacy more evident than in Maxim Gorky. As someone who himself was a major author, the friend of Leo Tolstoy and Chekhov, the witness and survivor of three revolutions, the confidant of Lenin and other leading Bolshevik political figures, Gorky occupied a central position in the artistic and cultural life of the country until his untimely death in 1936. Few people tried harder to reconcile their love for their country’s cultural achievements with their vision of a socially engineered future, but the task of attempting to accommodate both Tolstoy and Stalin within a single viewpoint led inexorably to disaster. Ever since their first meeting in New York in 1906, the relationship between Gorky and Wells had been both fruitful and liberating. In a letter of 1916 Gorky had described Mr Britling Sees It Through as undoubtedly ‘the best, most daring, truthful, and humane

14

‘privyknut k soblyudeniyu elementarnykh [. . .] pravil obshchezhitiya’.

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book written in Europe during the course of this accursed war!’ (1997, 195),15 adding only that he could not agree with the novel’s conclusion, in which Mr Britling, like Levin at the end of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina (1873–77), arrives at the notion of God as the fount of all life and meaning. In the same letter Gorky, recognizing Wells’s unique power as an educator and underlining the bonds between the two men, asks him to write a children’s book about Edison: ‘You will understand how essential it is to have a book which teaches one to love science and work’ (1997, 195). Four years later Gorky showed great interest in Wells’s Outline of History, the first part of which Wells had sent him, offering to oversee the Russian translation of the work (1997, 209). Another major writer to straddle the pre-revolutionary and Soviet periods was Aleksei Tolstoy (1883–1945). Best known for his trilogy Khozhdenie po mukam (The Way Through Hell) (1921–41) and his fictionalized biography of Peter the Great, Tolstoy was also the author of a number of science-fiction tales, including in particular Aelita (originally entitled Zakat na marse [Sunset on Mars]) (1924), and Giperboloid inzhenera Garina (The Death Box) (1925–26). Tolstoy’s indebtedness to Wells in these stories can be seen in his use of scientific data for the purposes of bold conjecture and the combination of everyday reality with the power of the imagination. Such connections are readily apparent, although the comment that ‘[Aelita] owed far less to Communist vision than to the rocketship-to-Mars genre that Jules Verne and H. G. Wells had made so popular in Russia’ (Maguire 1965, 84) is misleading on two counts. Firstly, Aelita, together with the other Tolstoy stories written in this genre, owes a great deal to ‘Communist vision’. The central focus is an affirmation of the new man who has come into being as a result of the October Revolution, of man as ‘the highest form of nature’, able both to conquer and transform it. Secondly, as Patrick Parrinder has pointed out, despite Wells’s reputation as a modern science-fiction writer, ‘he took little or no interest in the fiction of spaceships and stellar travel’ (1995, 35). For this particular aspect of Tolstoy’s stories the more likely source would have been Jules Verne. In his appreciation of Wells, Yury Olesha (1899–1960), the author of Zavist’ (Envy) (1927), one of the most original and idiosyncratic stories to emerge from the decade, contrasts him favourably with Verne.16 Verne, according to Olesha, never allowed the reader of his stories to forget that he was engaged in an artificial enterprise. To open and start reading The War of the Worlds, on the other hand is suddenly to begin to believe that everything that is being described is happening in actual fact (Olesha 1965, 486–87). Olesha makes the same point with regard to The Invisible Man: when he reads it he has the very clear sense that he is reading a historical novel. ‘Everything seems unusual, and yet I know that everything happened in reality. At first our attention is taken up only by the improbability of the situation – an invisible man! But after only a few pages this sense of intrigue begins to merge with a whole host of different 15

16

Wells’s novel had been serialized in the journal Letopis’ (Chronicle) during the second half of 1916. ‘He was always my favourite writer’ (‘On byl vsyu zhizn’ moim lyubimym pisatelem’) (1965, 484).

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feelings that we normally experience when we follow the fate of any human being’17 (1965, 455). The outlandish – the literally alien – becomes the accepted state of affairs, and the fantastic becomes ‘transformed’, in Olesha’s own words, ‘into the epic’. Olesha compares The First Men in the Moon with Dante, likening the Selenites to demons and the crossing of the narrow bridge to one of the infernal torments. He sees Wells as possessing a Dantean power of authenticity – the authenticity of the fantastic (1965, 484). Olesha’s close sense of identification with Wells is further illustrated by his own account of the time when, as a schoolboy, his imagination was fired by the news of Blériot’s flight across the English Channel. When he tried to communicate his sense of excitement to his father, the latter urged him to be an engineer when he grew up. ‘But you’re missing the point’, replied the young Olesha; ‘I’m talking to you about the most magical of engineering feats, and you’re not listening to me’18 (1965, 278). Elsewhere he wrote that, if he could not be an engineer in the strict sense of the term, then he would become an ‘engineer of human material’19 (1965, 245). Wells, as no other writer, is able for Olesha to interweave imagination and dreams, poetry and technology to form a single creative and coherent unity. This ‘chemist’s apprentice’ had become a writer precisely at the moment when the world was on the threshold of a new technology. Whether his subject was summer trips through southern England on a bicycle, or, years ahead of its time, the atomic bomb, his attitude towards the world remained that of a poet, intoxicated by his vision (1965, 458). In his discussion of the link between Olesha’s novel Envy and Wells’s The Invisible Man, D. G. B. Piper plausibly argues that, although the theme of Envy involves a conflict between the old and the new, the novel deals on a more fundamental level with ‘the clash between the artist and society’. In the plight of the Invisible Man Olesha saw ‘an analogy with his own predicament as a writer’ (Piper 1970, 28). Olesha, like Wells, could have become the ‘prophet of a new era’, but he is prevented from doing this by the philistine and utilitarian approach of the new Soviet society. The artist is therefore threatened by a ‘materialist, machine-like culture lacking in dreams and ideals’ (Piper 1970, 40– 41). The Bolsheviks may possibly have been partly inspired at the time of the October Revolution by a visionary belief in man’s potential but, in Olesha’s view, such a belief had rapidly disappeared, to be replaced by cynicism and bureaucratic inertia.20 Among those who shared this attitude was the novelist, short-story writer and playwright Mikhail Bulgakov (1891–1940), whose work also contains Wellsian themes and ideas. When writing Rokovye yaitsa (The Fatal Eggs) (1924),

17

18 19 20

‘Vse kazhetsya neobychnym, odnako ya znayu, chto vse eto bylo [. . .] Sperva nashe vnimanie zanyato tol’ko neveroyatnost’yu samoi situatsii – nevidimyi chelovek! No uzhe cherez neskol’ko stranits eto chuvstvo zaintrigovannosti nachinaet soediniat’sya so mnozhestvom raznoobraznykh chuvstv, kotorye my obychno perezhivaem, kogda sledim za razvitiem chelevecheskoi sud’by.’ ‘Ya govoryu tebe o volshebneishei iz inzhenerii, a ty ne slushaesh’ menya.’ ‘ya mogu byt’ inzhenerom chelovecheskogo materiala’. For further discussion of Olesha and Wells, see Borden 1992, 325–30.

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a satirical story set in a future Soviet Russia concerning a spectacularly failed scientific experiment, Bulgakov unquestionably had Wells in mind – the story indeed includes a direct reference to him – basing the idea and, at least partly, the content on The Food of the Gods. But, as Christine Rydel points out, the differences from Wells are more apparent than the similarities (1978, 293–311). Firstly, the focus of the story is on the contemporary moment – the Soviet Russia of the 1920s – since it is ‘set in the future’ only by three years after its date of publication. Secondly, although the main character, the scientist Persikov, experiments with natural processes in a manner reminiscent of Bensington and Doctor Moreau, Bulgakov’s primary intent is to unmask the shortcomings of Soviet society, in particular its bureaucratic incompetence and philistinism. Bulgakov’s Sobach’e serdtse (The Heart of a Dog), published a year later, almost certainly takes The Island of Doctor Moreau as its starting point. Again, the two stories differ in tone and intention, with the Bulgakov story placed within a ‘localized’ setting, but ideologically they may not be as far apart as has been claimed. Rydel sees the two works as underlined by a basic philosophical difference: ‘Bulgakov reverses Wellsian formulations. Moreau feels that man is the pinnacle of creation [. . .] but Preobrazhensky [the “hero” of the Bulgakov story] decides that man is not God’s most desirable creature’ (1978, 309). Wells’s intention in this story, however, is to demonstrate not that man may be able to reach to the stars, but the level of depravity to which he can sink. His position is succinctly characterized by Norman and Jeanne Mackenzie: ‘Science is only admirable if it is used to master the brute in man: it is diabolical if it becomes the servant of the brute within’ (1973, 126).21 Although it lies strictly beyond the scope of this chapter, Bulgakov’s bestknown novel, Master i Margarita (The Master and Margarita) (1929–40), contains a further link with Wells. In this novel Bulgakov retells the confrontation between Christ and Pilate and the crucifixion story. Interwoven with this strand is the story of the devil, who arrives in 1930s’ Moscow and wreaks havoc among the populace. Bulgakov, however, is concerned to portray the devil not in traditional terms as the embodiment of evil, but as a necessary complement to God and an essential component of a dynamic universe. As in Wells’s The Undying Fire, Bulgakov depicts the devil in terms that transcend the traditional image of Satan as cynical seducer and epitome of evil. When Satan tells God in Wells’s work that without him ‘time and space would freeze into crystalline perfection. [. . .] It is I who trouble the waters. I trouble all things. I am the spirit of life’ (1919, 6–7), his words are echoed in the question posed by Bulgakov’s Woland: ‘What would happen to your good if evil didn’t exist, and how would the earth look if there were no longer any shadows?’22 (1973, 776).

21 22

See Haynes 1980, 27–36, for a discussion of IDM. ‘chto by delalo tvoe dobro, esli by ne sushchestvovalo zla, i kak by vyglyadela zemlya, esli by s nee ischezli teni?’

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Wells and Zamyatin For Yevgeny Zamyatin, an almost exact contemporary of Bulgakov, the position adopted by Satan in The Undying Fire has a particular resonance. Here the debt to Wells is explicitly acknowledged, with the above passage forming part of the conclusion to his essay ‘Paradise’; the significance of this passage for Zamyatin is underlined by the fact that he was to quote it again, in full, in his 1922 essay on Wells. Unlike Bulgakov, however, Zamyatin is concerned not so much with the possible moral consequences of Satan’s position as with its philosophical implications. This is not to claim that he was only interested in ideas in their abstract form; his novel My (We), forerunner of Brave New World and 1984, completed in 1921 but not published in Russia until the late 1980s, posed a direct challenge to a society ostensibly based on ‘scientific’ Marxist-Leninist principles. Irrespective of time and place, however, of overriding importance to Zamyatin is the concept of rebellion, of the existence of heretics, willing and able to ‘trouble the waters’. This state of rebellion, moreover, like Trotsky’s concept of revolution, should be unceasing and permanent. For without the disturbing elements of challenge and heresy society will attain a state of ‘crystalline perfection’, or complete entropy which, in the words of Dostoevsky’s Underground Man before him, represents ‘no longer life, but the beginning of death’23 (Dostoevsky 1973, 118–19). In We, rebellion against this ideal, as expressed in the values of the Single State, is embodied in the group known as the Mephi, from Mephistopheles, ‘the spirit of eternal denial’. For the members of this group, life without change becomes meaningless and unthinkable. In his essay ‘On Literature’,24 Zamyatin writes that ‘if the planet is to be kindled into youth again, it must be set on fire, it must be thrown off the smooth highway of evolution [. . .]. Heretics are the only (bitter) remedy against the entropy of human thought’25 (1988b, 447). Linked with the concept of heresy in We there is another, equally unsettling idea: that man is essentially an irrational being, someone who, at least subconsciously, will remain resistant to decades, even centuries, of programmed persuasion and social engineering. Again, Zamyatin’s most vital source here is Dostoevsky. Furthermore, it is only through the expression of such wilful individuality, Zamyatin argues in We, that true happiness is possible. He is careful here to distinguish between ‘active’ happiness, which can only be attained through individual freedom on the one hand, and the passive contentment and sense of security provided by a paternalistic and benevolent state on the other. For Zamyatin, Wells was a hero precisely because he was an individual possessing the instincts of a rebel and a heretic. His was a kind of logic that was no

23 24

25

‘a ved’ dvazhdy dva chetyre est’ uzhe ne zhizn’, gospoda, a nachalo smerti’. Although Zamyatin’s first essay on Wells appeared in 1920, I will be referring to his longer, more critical piece, published originally in 1922, throughout this chapter. ‘i chtoby snova zazhech’ molodost’yu planetu – nuzhno zazhech’ ee, nuzhno stolknut’ ee s plavnogo shosse evolyutsii [. . .]. Eretiki – edinstvennoe (gor’koe) lekarstvo ot entropii chelovecheskoi mysli’.

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different in principle from the kind of reasoning according to which a scientist can determine the trajectory of a shell fired from a gun; it was simply that, in Wells’s case, such a reasoning process was ‘more daring’, ‘more far-reaching’26 (1988a, 367). But although, in this sense, it would be wrong to describe Wells as a ‘mystic’, Zamyatin emphasizes that he was not an objective scientist, but an artist, who fashions his own creative world and operates according to his own principles. These principles were, it is true, socialist, but Wells remained nonetheless unbounded by the dictates of party policy or ideology. That was why it was difficult to confine him within the ordinary, everyday world. Practically all Wellsian utopias, Zamyatin claims, are dynamic in form and challenging and heretical in content; to use a mathematical analogy, they are represented by a minus sign. Only two – In the Days of the Comet and Men like Gods – can be indicated by a plus sign, possessing, as they do, the ‘sugary pink colours’ of positive utopias (1988a, 389). In his 1922 essay Zamyatin distinguishes between the Wells of the early scientific romances, in which Wells’s imagination soars like an aeroplane into the stratosphere, and his social, ‘everyday’ novels and stories, in which he remains firmly on the ground, in the normal three-dimensional world (1988a, 373). Yet, whatever the focus of Zamyatin’s analysis, the view of Wells as a heretic, for whom all idea of stagnation was intolerable, never really dims. Wells’s dislike of Marx, he claims, derives from his awareness that Marxism as an idea was both stagnant and unproductive. Seemingly without exception, all of Wells’s works are refracted through the prism of Zamyatin’s own ideology. Just as he can view Wells’s depiction of the samurai in A Modern Utopia as acquiring a particularly ‘heretical’ colouring, so a work such as Tono-Bungay is characterized first and foremost by the gleaming ‘blade of irony’27 (1988a, 375) which slashes at the pretentiousness and conservatism of English society. Even God, as portrayed in Joan and Peter, does not conform to the traditional concept of an all-powerful being, in whose hands mankind is simply an obedient tool, but becomes an enabling deity, whose power resides in the active contribution of man to progress and change. Zamyatin emphasizes Wells’s point that, rather than blame God for the ills of the world, it is within man’s power to change his own lot for the better. Wells’s God is, in other words, a Western God and a socialist. Using a characteristic metaphor, Zamyatin considered that Wells had attempted to bring together the incompatible notions of ‘earthbound’ socialism and religion by creating a hyperbola, with ‘one end resting on the earth, on science and positivism, and the other lost in the clouds’28 (1988a, 383). Later, picking up on this notion of man as the transforming agent, Zamyatin quotes approvingly Peter’s remarks to the effect that, unless people live like fanatics, the world, which is already tottering on the edge of collapse, will crumble

26

27 28

‘Zdes’ ne mistika, a logika, no tol’ko logika bolee derzkaya, bolee dal’noboinaya chem obychno.’ ‘lezvie ironii’. ‘odin konets kotoroi upiraetsya v zemlyu, v nauku, v pozitivizm, a drugoi teriaetsya v oblakakh’.

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completely. ‘And then the tribe of Bolshevik peasants will be raising pigs among the ruins’29 (1988a, 385). Zamyatin’s admiration for Wells and his obvious desire to enrol him in the cause of ‘negative entropy’ does not always convince. In both content and style his essay is consistently arresting, but his argument is often more revealing about himself than about his subject. At times indeed he appears to contradict himself. At one point he claims that Wells believes that life and circumstances are to blame for the state the world finds itself in, and that there are no guilty people; it is therefore impossible to hate them. A few lines later, however, he states that Wells hates people precisely for their inability to rise above the crowd and the commonplace. On some points the two writers do not seem to be as closely attuned as Zamyatin claims. In his article on Zamyatin, Alexander Voronsky reacts scathingly to Zamyatin’s approval of Peter’s advocacy of fanaticism. He readily acknowledges that of course Bolsheviks must live like fanatics if anything is to be achieved. But what, then, he continues, are people to make of Zamyatin’s strident support, in We, for the idea of ‘narrow’ individualism rather than promoting the interests of the group? (1963, 110). Here Voronsky is putting his finger on something which was not only of crucial importance for the Bolsheviks and their survival, but which also reveals a significant distinction between Wells and Zamyatin. In A Modern Utopia Wells, it is true, anticipates Zamyatin’s idea that the old Utopias and Nowheres were wrong in planning perfect and static states, ‘before Darwin quickened the thought of the world’ (Wells 1945, 4). He further observes that the modern view of individual freedom has moved away from the classical utopian idea that virtue and happiness are distinct from liberty; people have come to consider, indeed, that liberty represents ‘the very substance of life’ (1945, 22). He then, however, qualifies his argument in terms that could well be used to support the values of Zamyatin’s One State in We, rather than those of the rebels who are seeking to overturn it. Using an identical analogy to Zamyatin’s, he continues: ‘Individual liberty in a community is not, as mathematicians would say, always of the same sign. [. . .] In truth, a general prohibition in a state may increase the sum of liberty, and a general permission may diminish it. [. . .] A socialism or a communism is not necessarily a slavery, and there is no freedom under Anarchy’ (1945, 23). A similarly double-edged approach is apparent in Wells’s attitude towards Ostrog, the Benefactor figure in The Sleeper Awakes. With such reasoning, Wells is in effect taking Dostoevsky one stage further than Zamyatin. The arguments for individual freedom and caprice, that are the hallmarks of Dostoevsky’s Underground Man and that feed into We, are to be superseded by the contention, reflected in Dostoevsky’s novels Besy (The Devils) (1871–72) and The Brothers Karamazov, that freedom is only meaningful if it is bounded by a system of absolute moral values. Although it has been argued, with some justification, that in his creative work Zamyatin looks more to Russia than to the West (Edwards 1982, 52), his essay on Wells leaves us in no doubt concerning the powerful and unique hold that

29

‘I togda rasa bol’shevistskikh muzhikov budet razvodit’ svinei sredi ruin.’

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the Englishman had on his imagination. ‘I know of no writer who is more contemporary, who belongs more to today, than Wells’,30 he declaims at the end of his essay (Zamyatin 1988a, 387). Zamyatin’s special feeling for Wells was underlined by the fact that he translated a number of Wells’s works into Russian for the World Literature Publishing House. These included The Time Machine (1920), The War in the Air (1919) and The Sleeper Awakes (1919). The inscribed copies of the latter two volumes that he sent to Wells in 1920 are now in the Wells Collection at the University of Illinois. He wrote introductions to these volumes, and also to the twelve-volume edition of Wells’s collected works published in 1924–26. Conclusion Zamyatin’s emphasis on a single aspect of Wells’s nature – his rebellious and heretical side – serves to remind us how difficult it can be to arrive at a final judgement concerning his views on many issues of major significance. Nationalist or universalist, fatalist or pragmatist, entropic pessimist or dynamic optimist, bleak determinist or believer in free will, Cassandra or Moses – no single definition can bear prolonged scrutiny without qualification. Ceaselessly engaged in a dialectical process, his mind never became uncoupled from reality. Often, it was not simply a case of deciding between polarities. As we have seen from Russia in the Shadows, for example, he was able to present a sophisticated and coherent argument, which was both pro-Bolshevik and at the same time antiMarxist. The consequence of such honesty was that he was sometimes unable to decide which way to turn, since his mind was always open to the advantages and disadvantages of both sides. This was nowhere more evident than in his attitude towards the totalitarian state. On the one hand, he saw clearly all the evil consequences that flowed from totalitarian power, in particular the erosion of individual liberties; on the other, he always remained sceptical towards the notion that Western-style democracy could provide the blueprint for the future. Michael Foot has written that ‘it should never be forgotten how much Wells himself balanced these conflicts and ambiguities and could offer his own brilliant synthesis’ (1995, 297). This may be true, although not always self-evidently so. What is certain, however, is that he was possessed throughout his life by a passionate desire to peel away the layers of superficial reality to arrive at the truth. J. B. Priestley characterized Wells as one of the age’s ‘liveliest and most honest minds’ (1962, 276). Elsewhere he wrote that ‘of all the English writers I have known, he was the most honest, the frankest, the least afraid of telling the truth’ (1963, 167). A fruitful comparison would be with Leo Tolstoy, whose writings Wells knew well, and with whom he shared not just a passion for the truth, but also an innate iconoclasm and outspokenness. Both men were fearless in challenging established ideas. Tolstoy would have recognized a like-minded

30

‘i ya ne znayu pisatelya bolee segodnyashnego, bolee sovremennogo chem Uells’.

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spirit in Wells’s frequently savage, but always clear-headed, attacks on the British Empire and British institutions. Although Wells did not fully share the Russian writer’s anarchic position, Tolstoy would undoubtedly have endorsed every word of his attack on ‘flags, uniforms, national anthems, patriotism sedulously cultivated in church and school’ and on the ‘brag, blare and bluster of competing sovereignties’ (quoted in Foot 1995, 218). His own scathing views on such institutional emblems and practices had been clear ever since the publication of his Sevastopol Stories in the 1850s. More generally, Isaiah Berlin’s view of Tolstoy as a figure who combines the attributes of a ‘hedgehog’ – someone who relates everything to a ‘single central vision’ – with those of a ‘fox’ – someone who pursues ‘many ends, often unrelated and contradictory’ – can be equally applied to Wells (1953, 1). The Bolsheviks made numerous attempts to recruit Tolstoy to their ideological ranks, amongst the best-known of which was Lenin’s essay, referring to him as ‘the mirror of the Russian revolution’31 (1973, 19–24). Despite this, their attitude towards someone who had propagated antipathetic views on personal, social, philosophical and moral questions remained ambivalent, and was indicative of a wider dilemma. On the one hand, the shadows of the past, including much of Tolstoy’s legacy, had to be confronted and, if possible, eliminated; those who attempted to resist the inexorable forces of history would be crushed. On the other, large numbers of Bolsheviks (including Lenin) were in fact cultural conservatives. By the end of the decade, the voices of the rebellious heretics and visionaries, such as Trotsky and Mayakovsky, had been silenced. Zamyatin himself was unexpectedly permitted to leave the Soviet Union in 1931, thanks to the intercession of Gorky with Stalin on his behalf; he died in France six years later. Had he remained, he would almost certainly have shared the fate of those many other ‘dangerous’ writers and artists who were shot, imprisoned, or died in captivity. The orthodox Bolsheviks found themselves intellectually fatally compromised, able neither to accept and interpret the past in a truly independent way, nor to offer anything of real value or substance for the future. For those who stayed in the Soviet Union, the bright future – the ‘yawning heights of Communism’ – beckoned, but they still had to chart their own way forward across the uncertain terrain of a fallible and contingent present.32 Within a few years after the rise to power of Stalin the ideologues had arrived at a formula for literature and literary criticism that was intended to be liberating, but which proved to be sterile and conformist. The doctrine of socialist realism was officially defined as ‘the truthful description of reality in its revolutionary development’33 (Bol’shaya sovetskaya entsiklopediya, 180). This might seem at first

31

32

33

‘Ego mirovoe znachenie [. . .] otrazhaet [. . .] mirovoe znachenie russkoi revolyutsii.’ As Mikhail Bakhtin has pointed out, a society that sets its sights on the attainment of a future ideal state devalues the present: ‘Eschatology always sees the segment of a future separating the present from the end as lacking value; this separating segment of time loses its significance and interest, it is merely an unnecessary continuation of an indefinitely prolonged present’ (1981, 148). ‘pravdivoe izobrazhenie deistvitel’nosti v ee revolyutsionnom razvitii’.

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glance to be an apposite description of the Wellsian method. In the case of the Bolsheviks, however, it came to epitomize the bleakness and rigidity of a system dominated by ideology, in which everything and everybody had to be refracted through the official prism. In the event neither ‘truthful’ nor ‘revolutionary’, socialist realism became a perfect illustration of the entropic forces in society which Zamyatin had set out to expose in We. The Bolshevik leaders and ideologues may have criticized Wells for worshipping the false god of gradualism and for his failure to follow a truly revolutionary path, but such strictures were misdirected. For one thing, although Wells shared many of the Fabians’ beliefs, he never wholeheartedly subscribed to their cause; his position remained uniquely Wellsian and idiosyncratic (Foot 1995, 64–66). For another, as a writer of ‘symbolic fiction’ and ‘myth-maker’ (Bergonzi 1961, 45), he was able to explore and develop ideas with a sophistication and sense of awareness which, if not actually beyond the comprehension of the Bolshevik leaders, was alien to them. In the final analysis he was inimical to the Bolshevik cause precisely because his ideas and his vision were too radical and revolutionary to be accommodated within their narrow conservatism, rather than insufficiently so. In this fundamental respect, Zamyatin’s view of Wells strikes right to the essence. For all his intimations of support, Wells posed a challenge to the Bolshevik regime precisely because he was an anti-entropic force. The fact that he may often have erred in his ceaseless search for the truth only reinforces the point, since the value of errors, Zamyatin maintains, is that they ‘disturb’; in any event, errors are more valuable than truths, for whereas ‘truths belong to the machine, errors are alive’34 (1988b, 449). Despite Marx’s insistence that the socialist revolution and the collapse of capitalism would entail the end of the dialectical process, the Bolsheviks found themselves after 1917 caught in a web of inconsistencies. They were apparently unable to resolve the conflicts inherent in the divisions between science and ideology, art and propaganda, Modernism and realism, and East and West. Perhaps the greatest irony of all, bearing in mind their allegedly radically new agenda, was their inability to come to terms with the past. However hard they tried to ‘soar into the air’, to set the dials of their time machine to the future and to direct it on to a linear trajectory, the gravitational weight of Russian history threatened to retard, if not completely to subvert, their progress. Lenin himself considered that the only way of extricating Russia from the morass of the past would be through education. Without an educated workforce, moreover, the attainment of Communism would be impossible. Wells, too, attached considerable importance to education, but not just because it was a means to achieve particular social ends; more starkly, he viewed it as the only alternative to catastrophe. Whereas, therefore, hope featured prominently in the thinking of both the Bolsheviks and Wells, in the former it was embedded within a belief in man’s ultimate triumph over adversity, while in the latter it was balanced by the awareness of the possibility of disaster. At the end of We the reader is left unclear concerning the novel’s final

34

‘istina – mashinnoe, oshibka – zhivoe, istina uspokaivaet, oshibka – bespokoit’.

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outcome. Many of the rebels have been captured and executed, but the forces of chaos and irrationality have not yet been finally defeated. The narrator, having undergone the operation to rid him of his ‘absurd’ fantasies, remains convinced, in the last words of the novel, that ‘reason must triumph’. We know where Zamyatin stands here, but how would Wells have reacted? My reading of Wells suggests that the mathematical signs would have been ambivalent and contrary.35 Just before his death Wells insisted that if he had his time over again he would not change a word of what he had written over fifty years of creative endeavour. ‘What have my books been [. . .] but the clearest insistence on the insecurity of progress and the possibility of human degeneration and extinction? I think the odds are against man but it is still worth fighting against them’ (quoted in Mackenzie and Mackenzie 1973, 419–20). The narrator’s comment in the epilogue to The Time Machine regarding the ultimate destruction of civilization, ‘If that is so, it remains for us to live as though it were not so’ (quoted in Mackenzie and Mackenzie 1973, 97), continues therefore to resonate. Perhaps rather than being able to arrive at a synthesis, as Michael Foot claims, Wells was never able to resolve the dualism implicit in this remark. Although of course his position was never defined or determined by others, he remained poised, at it were, ceaselessly striving to reconcile the impulses of a rational optimist such as Lenin with those of a rebellious sceptic such as Zamyatin.

35

See Haynes 1980, 39–66, for an evaluation of Wells’s position as an optimist.

6

White Elephants and Black Machines: H. G. Wells and German Culture, 1920–45 Elmar Schenkel

With the advent of the twenty-first century, the genetic and neurological revolutions, space travel and the internet, one wonders why the author who anticipated and in part promoted these realities seems to be fading into oblivion. H. G. Wells mapped this century as no other writer before or after him and yet he tends to be overlooked. The real problem is that Wells, with all his ideas, fantasies, political concepts and educational impulses, simply grew too big. He was everywhere; it is no coincidence that George Orwell was obliged to point out that because of Wells the physical world itself had undergone a change (1961, 164). Wells, instead of being a cartographer, had not only become the map but the map itself was so large scale that people had begun to confuse it with the world. G. K. Chesterton was one of the first to notice this strange process in its incipient phase when he wrote in 1908: ‘The most interesting thing about Mr H. G. Wells is that he is the only one of his many brilliant contemporaries who has not stopped growing. One can lie awake at night and hear him grow’ (1919, 74). No wonder, then, that his interactions with one of the dominant European cultures were manifold. Wells’s work was such an extensive organism that relationships with Germany and German-language countries could not be avoided. The discussion of Nietzsche was part of this exchange (Bridgwater 1972, 56– 58); so were ideas on time travel and psychoanalysis (Schenkel 2001, 67–68, 192–202). He was especially concerned about Germany during the First World War when he relentlessly criticized Prussian attitudes in politics and individual psychology. But this did not imply a general resentment of the Germans as people, as can be seen from his portraits in the war novel Mr Britling Sees It Through (1916). He liked, but to some extent also pitied the Germans. Or take the fourth dimension, a concept that travelled in a most curious manner between cultures and nations. Concepts of a fourth dimension abounded in the nineteenth century, sparked off as they were by non-Euclidean geometry which was developed by mathematicians such as János Bolyai, G. F. Bernhard Riemann and Nicolai I. Lobachevsky. In 1846, a Leipzig psychologist and philosopher, Gustav Theodor Fechner, speculated in a more or less satirical

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vein on time as the fourth dimension (1875). Wells picked up this concept from the astronomer Simon Newcomb and developed it in The Time Machine (1895). In The Time Machine, Wells also drops a hint that the model of his remarkable vehicle could be found in Tübingen, though this has, alas, not yet been traced. Similarly, another Leipzig professor, August Ferdinand Möbius, discovered in 1827 that rotation through hyperspace may turn an object into its mirror image. Hyperspace was developed as a concept by Claude Bragdon and Charles Hinton (Henderson 1983, 17–41) and made an appearance in fantasies such as E. A. Abbott’s Flatland (‘Square, A.’ 1884), finally resurfacing in Wells’s ‘The Plattner Story’ (1897). The theme also attracted mediums and charlatans. Thus, the American trickster, Henry Slade, fled from England, where his doings had been defended by Arthur Conan Doyle (1926, 298–308), to Leipzig and performed rotations through hyperspace before a number of distinguished academics (Schenkel 1994, 167). These are some of the routes by which ideas and fantasies travelled between Wells and German culture and their stories have been told, at least in part (cf. Schenkel 2001, 192–202). They point to the enormous range of intellectual, spiritual and political issues with which Wells was concerned. The following pages will highlight certain impulses German-language cultures received from Wells and the, at times, astounding ways in which he fertilized the artistic and technological imaginations in the countries concerned. Of particular interest are influences cutting across media and disciplines. Such phenomena might be more revealing as to Wells’s overall impact than a mere study of Wells’s importance for German science fiction.1 The third part of my essay will be devoted to a negative reception that begins with the Nazi takeover in Germany and the burning of books in May 1933. The challenge posed by the Fascist threat to liberal and socialist culture called for new activities and strategies on the part of Wells. Obviously, in this chapter, there is only space enough to discuss certain significant moments of this encounter in the period during and between the two world wars. However, such an exercise is worthwhile as it will throw light not only on Wells and the German cultures, but also on central issues of the twentieth century relating to literature, science and politics. Atlantropa In the spring of 1787, an American revolutionary and future president, Thomas Jefferson, was travelling on a coach through the French Alps attempting to reach

1

An interesting study could be made, for instance, of the fate of the time machine in German language science fiction. It would have to start in 1908 with Carl Grunert’s ‘Das Zeitfahrad’ (The time bicycle) (1908), which was succeeded by Egon Friedell’s Die Rückkehr der Zeitmaschine (The return of the time machine) (1946) and a number of GDR science-fiction writers speculating on Wells’s machine. See, for example, the East German anthology Zeitreisen (Time travels) (Zschokke 1986) and Heinrich’s and Simon’s parody Die ersten Zeitreisen (The first time travels) (1977).

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the Mediterranean. His trip was very difficult and irksome and it occurred to him that the Alps were an unnecessary obstacle. This obstacle, he suggested, ought to be eliminated and thrown into the Mediterranean thus providing new ground for the nations (Voigt 1998, 6). It took some 140 years before a German began to work on this possibility in all seriousness. Herman Sörgel (1885–1952) was an architect who saw himself as a subcreator jostling with continents and oceans, one in a phalanx of inventors of macro-projects, or what have been called ‘White Elephants’ (Laak 1999, 9). His continent-to-be was called ‘Atlantropa’ and was born out of the union of Europe and Africa. Sörgel for decades propagated the idea of building dams at Gibraltar and Gallipoli, thus cutting off an external water supply to the Mediterranean. This would lead, he hoped, to the evaporation of water and the appearance of new soil in the Adriatic and elsewhere. The emerging land masses would then connect Italy and Africa, providing a basis for the new continent. Great African interventions would follow, including dams on the Congo and elsewhere. Africa would thus not only be linked to Europe but would also represent a continuous source of energy and raw materials for European needs. Sörgel was both a racist, who believed in the superiority of the ‘white race’, and a pacifist trying to find a peaceful economic settlement for post-war Europe. He enlisted numerous engineers and propagandists for his project from the 1920s to the 1950s, by which time interest began to fade. His connections extended from the Pan-European movement,2 soil reformers, Oswald Spengler, the Monists, Technocrats and Nazis to Zionists, African leaders and the United Nations. In contrast to the European projects of Richard von CoudenhoveKalergi, Gustav Stresemann or Aristide Briand, this was not a political but a technological project, albeit with political consequences. Like these politicians, Sörgel was a pacifist because he thought that a gigantic project involving millions of people from many nations and spanning decades if not centuries of labour would channel nationalistic and aggressive energies into a great and constructive scheme. This ideal merged with contemporary concepts such as Lebensraum and the concern for new energy sources. Sörgel considered the Mediterranean a highly interesting facilitator for such changes since it presented to him the picture of a very complicated mechanism of water supply and evaporation. Every second, for instance, the Mediterranean receives some 80,000 cubic tons of water from the Atlantic Ocean; that is twelve times the amount of water in Niagara Falls. But what was the actual trigger that made Sörgel turn to this oceanic project? In 1923, the German translation of Wells’s The Outline of History (1920) had appeared as Die Grundlinien der Woltgeschichte and Sörgel read it shortly thereafter. In his book Atlantropa, in which he sketches his project, Sörgel retells Wells’s description of the Mediterranean (1932, 3). The central image inspiring Sörgel is Wells’s description of the geographical shape of parts of the Earth in the days of the Neanderthal man (around 30,000 BC). A section in Chapter 11

2

For a discussion of Wells’s relationship with the Pan-European movement, see the chapter by Partington in the present volume.

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of the Outline of History is entitled ‘The Flooding of the Mediterranean Valley’. Wells maps here the post-glacial world: It is practically certain that at the end of the last Glacial Age the Mediterranean was a couple of land-locked sea basins, not connected – or only connected by a torrential overflow river. [. . .] To this day the Mediterranean is a sea of evaporation. [. . .] There is a constant current of water pouring into the Mediterranean from the Atlantic [. . .] [I]f this reasoning is sound, then where to-day roll the blue waters of the Mediterranean there must once have been great areas of land, and land with a very agreeable climate. (1920, 59–60)

In A Short History of the World (1927a, 60), a map was inserted showing Italy, Sicily and Sardinia as part of a land mass connecting up with Africa. Wells’s vision, enriched by more specialized reading such as Otto Jessen’s geographical study, Die Strasse von Gibraltar (The Strait of Gibraltar) (1927), inspired Sörgel to go ahead with his gigantic project of restoring the year 50,000 BC, as it were. Though ultimately Sörgel was not successful, the impact of his ideas on others and on books and films was tremendous and can even be felt today. Thus John Knittel, a best-selling Swiss author (1901–70), wrote Amadeus (Power for Sale) (1939), a novel about Atlantropa. Indeed, between 1930 and 1956, eight science-fiction novels treated this project (Gall 1998, 153–65). Interestingly, the last novel about the project was Projekt Atlantropa (Atlantropa project) (1956), published by a German author of pulp science fiction, Eberhard Setz (Voigt 1998, 138). Setz’s pen-name, incidentally, was J. E. Wells, possibly in honour of the founding father of science fiction. Thus the circle comes fully round. German writers dealing with Atlantropan dreams emphasized the issue of Lebensraum and celebrated German engineers as the real heroes in the wake of proto-Fascist novels such as Hans Grimm’s Volk ohne Raum (People without space) (1926). It seems, then, that megalomaniacal projects stir similar fantasies in writers as diverse as Wells and the German Atlantropans. For both in Wells, at least in his utopian thought, and in the German geopolitical visionaries we find a comparable, deeply ingrained belief in progress through technology and engineering. No wonder that Wells in some of his works emphasizes the importance of engineers in the future world. They are as it were the midwives of the emerging new world order. In The Shape of Things to Come, Wells outlines a techno-scientific revolution based on the power and intelligence of the ‘technical revolutionary’ (1933a, 269) and links it to the Technocracy movement of the 1930s (1933a, 271), the very movement which also attracted Sörgel and his followers. Another parallel to Wells’s concept of the engineer as a revolutionary force can be found in Ernst Jünger’s vision of Der Arbeiter (The worker) (1932). The future according to Jünger will be shaped by a technological elite that is strictly hierarchical and will establish global structures, which he later was to call Der Weltstaat (The world state) (1960). In spite of these similarities, one should, however, not ignore the enormous differences between Jünger and Wells. Wells was a rationalist, while Jünger wrote in the tradition of German Romanticism and the Spenglerian vision, and nurtured a metaphysics which at times could run close to Fascist ideology. Wells’s Czech friend and admirer, Karel Cˇapek, seems to have commented on Atlantropa as well. In his satirical novel Válka s mloky (The War with the Newts)

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(1936) he describes geopolitical transformations reminding the reader of Sörgel’s ideas. The newt civilization plans ‘to build new coasts and canals, for dams that connect continents’ (quoted in Gall 1998, 165).3 Films and even a symphony have been based on the Atlantropan vision (Voigt 1998, 114). The connection between Sörgel’s engineering dream and Wells’s prehistoric vision is neither coincidental nor spurious. As an historian, Wells liked to shape the past in much the same way as he tried to shape things to come. Only a creator of vast panoramas could inspire another creator of panoramas to go ahead with its realization. The term for large-scale projects that strain the imagination and ultimately miscarry is ‘white elephant’. The metaphor derives from gigantic Third World projects which turned out to be extremely expensive and very often proved to be destructive failures (Laak 1999, 9). Originally, white elephants were wonderful and rare gifts in Siam, but in the long run they became heavy burdens for those who received them because they were so difficult to maintain. The twentieth century is, as Dirk van Laak has shown, full of such wonderful and terrible gifts, such as the creation of a Siberian ocean by Stalin or the British Peanut Plan of 1946 which aimed to transform Tanzania into a peanut country and which ended in financial disaster (Laak 1999, 157). Sörgel’s and Wells’s white elephants, however, belong to a specific branch which is concerned with errors in the geographical make-up of our planet. Wells’s visions match Sörgel’s project when he tries to map the future in such books as The Shape of Things to Come, in which he advises or predicts massive interference in geography and biopolitics. In his vision, at around 2050 the world will be completely overhauled by the New Council: ‘As Aldous Huxley (1894–2004), one of the most brilliant of reactionary writers, foretold of them, they “tidied up” the world’ (1933a, 364). The overhaul takes on a planetary dimension: ‘History becomes a record of increasingly vast engineering undertakings and cultivations, of the pursuit of minerals and of the first deep borings into the planet. [. . .] [T]hey flooded the Sahara and made the North African littoral the loveliest land in the world’ (1933a, 365). Later, Wells muses on what he calls ‘geogonic planning’, or what may be called remodelling the geographical shape of the world (1933a, 400f). Both Wells and Sörgel wanted to engage creatively in politics, geography and biology in order to create a new world order; both visions were born out of the same experience – the Great War. An essential part of this vision was the creation of a world state. Sörgel’s Atlantropa, with its roots in Wellsian thought, testifies to the powers that are loosened when engineer and prophet coalesce. Metropolis Another German event in which Wells was pivotal reveals the extent to which the marriage of technology to eschatology is a characteristic of twentieth-

3

This is my translation; the German version is ‘Es wird Pläne für neue Küsten und Kanäle liefern, für Dämme, die Kontinente verbinden’ [Gall’s emphasis].

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century imagination and politics. In October 1924, a legendary German film director arrived in New York to view the American version of his ‘Siegfried’s Tod’, the first of four parts based on the Nibelungen saga. Because of visa problems, Fritz Lang and his colleague, Erich Pommer, had to spend an extra night on board the SS Deutschland before they were permitted to enter the USA. On that evening, they saw the skyline of Manhattan for the first time. Lang relates how awestruck they were by the enormous scale of illumination: That night as he strolled on deck, Lang ‘saw a street lit as if in full daylight by neon lights and topping them oversized luminous advertisements moving, turning, flashing on and off, spiralling [. . .] something which was completely new and nearly fairytale-like for a European in those days, and this impression gave me the first thought of an idea for a town of the future’. (Ott 1979, 27)

However, for about a year, Lang and his wife, Thea von Harbou, had already been working on a project to follow up on the gigantic Nibelungen film. Von Harbou was a best-selling novelist and a script writer for UFA. In her romances she blended the tradition of German Romanticism and Expressionism with exotic settings, patriotic and scientific agendas and melodramatic plots (Das Indische Grabmal [The Indian tomb], Die Frau im Mond [The woman in the moon], etc.). From August 1926 onwards, her novel Metropolis was serialized in Das Illustrierte Blatt (The illustrated paper); six months, that is, before the film was shown (Elsaesser 2000, 16). Von Harbou was weaned on fantasy and science-fiction books, among them the works of the German author of exotic adventures, Karl May. She became famous for having written the script for the first German space movie, Die Frau im Mond (1929). Her scenario does not invoke Wells’s The First Men in the Moon, however. Rather, it is inspired by the German space pioneers Hermann Oberth and Willy Ley, with whom Lang and von Harbou were friends. Furthermore, we know that from 1924 onwards she was reading or rereading works such as Jules Verne’s Les Cinq Cents Millions de la Bégum (The Begum’s Fortune), Claude Farrère’s Les Condamnés à la mort (Condemned to death), Georg Kaiser’s stage trilogy Koralle (Coral), Gas I and Gas II and Ernst Toller’s play Die Maschinenstürmer (The Machine Wreckers), which dramatizes a failing worker’s rebellion. Other authors who influenced her script were Villiers de l’Isle-Adam, Otto Ludwig, Hugo von Hofmannsthal and C. D. Grabbe. A very important influence, however, was H. G. Wells’s When the Sleeper Wakes (1899), which had appeared in translation as Wenn der Schläfer erwacht in 1906 (cf. Elsaesser 2000, 16). In Metropolis (1926),4 which has a complicated editorial history, a futuristic city is shown which is ruled by a leisure class. Slave workers keep it going in the subterranean world of machines. An oedipal conflict is acted out by the president and his son, there is a romantic love plot and there is a dubious inventor

4

For another reading of Wells’s influence on Lang’s Metropolis, see Vallorani’s chapter in the present volume.

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called Rotwang who constructs an artificial woman mimicking a real woman, Maria. The woman thus appears in a dual form, as a Madonna and as a witch, tempting and inciting the proletarians, whose revolt results in destruction and apocalypse. However, at the end, the two antagonistic sides, workers and rulers, are reconciled. These different components of the film not only remind us of When the Sleeper Wakes (1899), but also of The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896) and the split vertical world of The Time Machine. Metropolis met with mixed critical acclaim, but was certainly not a commercial success even after a second, shorter version was released in 1928. However, it has become a hallmark in film history because of its bold design and Expressionist power. It was a superlative production by any standard and to this day the film is the most expensive German production in history: 620,000 metres of negative film and 1,300,000 metres of positive film were produced, 3,500 pairs of shoes, 75 wigs and 50 cars were used as props, while 36,000 walkons, 1,100 bald heads, 100 Africans, 25 Chinese, 750 children and eight major protagonists were employed. Critics emphasized the dehumanization portrayed, and to some extent celebrated, by the film and reacted against its intellectual emptiness (McGilligan 1997, 129f). A French critic reprimanded Lang for not doing his homework properly. Instead, he asserted, Lang had thrown the dreams of Tolstoy, Villiers de l’Isle-Adam and Wells into one pot, making it look like a salad made by the village idiot (Elsaesser 2000, 20). Spanish film director Luis Buñuel felt deeply divided about it, writing that Metropolis was not one film, but two – one being trivial and sentimental, the other like a wonderful picture book (Elsaesser 2000, 19). One of the most scathing responses came from one of the ‘spiritual godfathers of the film’ (McGilligan 1997, 130), H. G. Wells. This should cause no wonder, however, as it was partly based on one of his books which he never really liked, calling it ‘one of the most ambitious and least satisfactory of my books’ (1924, 398). His review was published in the New York Times on 17 April 1927. It was soon translated and printed by a number of German papers. Most standard works on film history refer to this article by Wells, who reprinted it in The Way the World is Going (1928). He starts with a blunt confession: ‘I have recently seen the silliest film. I do not believe it would be possible to make one sillier. [. . .] It gives in one eddying concentration almost every possible foolishness, cliché, platitude, and muddlement about mechanical progress and progress in general, served up with a sauce of sentimentality that is all its own’ (1928, 179). He then points out his own bias: ‘Possibly I dislike this soupy whirlpool none the less because I find decaying fragments of my own juvenile work of thirty years ago, The Sleeper Awakes,5 floating about in it’ (1928, 179). He cannot make out any originality in the film. Instead he discovers a hotchpotch of Cˇapek’s robots and Shelley’s Frankenstein. The cars are 1926 models or earlier and the aeroplanes show no advance on contemporary designs. But apart from these aspects, there is a more incisive criticism. Wells objects to fantasies that

5

SA is the title of the 1910 revised edition of WSW; by referring to ‘thirty years ago’, however, it is clear that Wells has the original publication in mind.

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may have been possible in the 1890s, spatializing social problems in vertical hierarchies. ‘This vertical social stratification is stale old stuff. So far from being “a hundred years hence”, “Metropolis”, in its forms and shapes, is already, as a possibility, a third of a century out of date’ (1928, 181). It is the older Wells criticizing the younger one, as he does in his autobiography: [T]he future in When the Sleeper Awakes [sic] (1898) was essentially an exaggeration of contemporary tendencies: higher buildings, bigger towns, wickeder capitalists and labour more downtrodden than ever and more desperate. Everything was bigger, quicker and more crowded: there was more and more flying and the wildest financial speculation. It was our contemporary world in a state of highly inflated distension. (1984, II: 645)

In his review of Metropolis, Wells objects to the contradiction between a mechanical civilization and the drudges in the film: ‘The hopeless drudge stage of human labour lies behind us’ (1928, 183). Anachronism is the hallmark of this German vision of the future. There are the catacombs under the city, for instance, which ‘have somehow contrived to get over from Rome, skeletons and all, and burrow under this city of “Metropolis” ’(Wells 1928, 184). People use torches there instead of electric lamps, because ‘torches are Christian [. . .] torches are human. Torches have hearts. But electric hand-lamps are wicked, mechanical, heartless things. The bad, bad inventor uses quite a big one’ (Wells 1928, 184). Critics in general, and Wells in particular, quickly recognized the allusions to the Tower of Babel. Here Wells finds the only original touch of the film: ‘The Tower of Babel was built, it seems, by bald-headed men. [. . .] Why they are bald is inexplicable’ (1928, 185). (Readers of Wells may recall that in the 1890s he wrote a treatise on bald heads as a mysterious turn evolution was taking! [1901, 104–07].) Then there are strains in the film classified as typically German: the smell of Mephistopheles in the inventor and of Walpurgis Night: ‘Perhaps Germans will never get right away from the Brocken’ (Wells 1928, 186). The inventor’s laboratory inside his quaint medieval house is ever so much bigger than the house. The ‘crowning imbecility’ (Wells 1928, 186), however, is the conversion of the Robot into the likeness of Mary. On the whole, Wells is disgusted with the intellectual laziness underlying the film and suggests, ‘Instead of plagiarising from a book thirty years old and resuscitating the banal moralising of the early Victorian period’ (1928, 188), it would have been easier to employ a few bright students, architects and engineers and have them develop the trends of modern inventions. ‘Six million marks! The waste of it!’ (Wells 1928, 189). Two components seem to make up Wells’s criticism of Metropolis: on the one hand, there is a kind of objective criticism directed against internal contradictions and a lack of recognition of realities while, on the other hand, Wells keeps referring back to his own fantasies in When the Sleeper Wakes and can thus turn this review into a form of self-criticism. Of course, this is also a reason why his view of Metropolis is partly obstructed since he ignores the Modernist features of this ‘silly’ production. He is unable to detect a modernity beyond that of aeroplanes, cars and torches; the modernity of design, architecture and dramaturgy. As Patrick McGilligan writes, ‘the influence of Bauhaus teachers Lyonel Fein-

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inger and Oskar Schlemmer, architects Bruno Taut and Hans Poelzig, sculptor Rudolf Belling – whose figurative style fused Cubist and Futurist principles – and even the Swiss free-fantasist Paul Klee – would crop up in Metropolis’ (McGilligan 1997, 112). Wells never let up on Metropolis, McGilligan continues: ‘In a memo he circulated to Alexander Korda and others working on the 1936 British film Things to Come, he wrote, “All the balderdash one finds in such a film as Fritz Lang’s Metropolis about robot workers and ultraskyscrapers, et cetera, et cetera, should be cleared out of your minds before you work on this film. As a general rule you may take it that whatever Lang did in Metropolis is the exact opposite of what we want done here” ’(McGilligan 1997, 130). The present for Wells is not the future as it once was in the past. Lang was especially wounded by this widely publicized rebuke as he had been brought up on Wells’s scientific romances (McGilligan 1997, 131). It must have felt like a rejection by one’s spiritual father. However, had Lang lived on, he would have been comforted by the fact that in 2001 Metropolis was registered by Unesco on its list of artefacts making up the ‘Memory of the World’. The film was one of four German objects selected, the others being Goethe’s posthumous writings, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 and Gutenberg’s printing press (Unesco Report 3, 2001). There may be a more personal reason that forced Wells to distance himself from Lang’s Metropolis. Critics such as Siegfried Kracauer highlighted the fascistic potential in the film: the dependence of the masses on a Führer and the pseudo-reconciliation between the classes at the end. This may well be fundamental to the aesthetics of the film and Lang’s achievement was recognized by Goebbels, who invited Lang to become the head of Germany’s Reichsfilmkammer, the state’s film authority. Lang rejected the offer and emigrated in 1933. Thea von Harbou, however, divorced him, stayed in Germany and joined the Nazi Party (later collaborating with Veit Harlan, the director of the anti-Jewish film Jud Süss (The Jew Süss). Wells was very much aware of the Fascist potential in his early fantasies. In Experiment in Autobiography (1934) he wrote, ‘In those days I had ideas about Aryans extraordinarily like Mr Hitler’s. The more I hear of him the more I am convinced that his mind is almost the twin of my thirteen year old mind in 1879; but heard through a megaphone and – implemented’ (1984, I: 100). As late as 1916, as Wells wrote in commenting on his War and the Future, he was still caught up in those ideas of self-inflation and domination: War and the Future, however, is a very mixed bag. There is a gusto in some of its war descriptions that suggests that that embryo Hitler-Cromwell (aged 13) who won the various Battles of Martin’s Hill, Bromley, was by no means dead in me, even in 1916. (1984, II: 693)

This recognition of a Hitler inside himself propels him to apply his own psyche to a whole people, the Germans: ‘In fact Adolf Hitler is nothing more than one of my thirteen year old reveries come real. A whole generation of Germans has failed to grow up’ (1984, I: 102). For Wells, then, Metropolis is the touchstone of this failed maturation in the German people.

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Nazi Germany, PEN politics and German writers in exile It is one of the many paradoxes in Wells’s career that this erstwhile nascent Hitler was to become important to German writers who resisted Nazism and who eventually had to escape into exile. It began in almost all major cities with the burning of books by mobs of Nazi students on 10 May 1933. Blacklists had been compiled even before the Nazis came to power. By 1934, some forty agencies had listed about 4,100 publications for banning (Hill 2001, 12). These lists basically had an anti-Jewish, anti-liberal and anti-socialist character. They also targeted so-called ‘asphalt’ literature, i.e. realistic novels and stories about life in the cities, works dealing with ‘decadent art’, sex education, historical books allegedly denigrating the German Volk, pacifist and Bolshevist literature, but also popular entertainment and even patriotic kitsch (cf. Bunker 2001). Guidelines were issued instructing librarians on how to handle forbidden literature. One of them was published in 1935 in the library journal Die Bücherei (The library) (‘[Black list/Schwarze Liste]’ 1935, 279). The first of its twelve categories covered the works of ‘traitors’, emigrants and authors from foreign countries ‘who believe they can attack and denigrate the new Germany (H. G. Wells, R. Rolland)’. Other banned writers included Thomas and Heinrich Mann, Franz Kafka, Kurt Tucholsky, Sigmund Freud, Albert Einstein and many of those who had already emigrated or were about to. Blacklisted foreign writers included Voltaire, James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, Upton Sinclair, Jack London, Theodore Dreiser, Henri Barbusse, Mikhail Sholokhov and Maxim Gorky. Since these lists were not unified throughout the country it is difficult to specify which books by Wells were banned. One list referring to Wells has been compiled on the internet by the Dortmund high school, Max-BornRealschule, and includes The Outline of History (‘Schwarze Liste – 10 Mai 1933’). Wells’s works in German-language countries certainly became victims and, along with Wells, his Vienna publisher Paul Zsolnay also suffered since he was seen as a Hungarian Jew supporting pro-Jewish writers (Neue Literatur [New literature] 1933, 422f, quoted in Bunker 2001). In 1927, Zsolnay6 had begun to publish Wells’s collected works while continuing to buy the rights to his work from other publishers such as Grethlein and Bruns. Within two years of Zsolnay owning all of Wells’s translation rights, in 1931, they were virtually useless. After the Nazis came to power, Wells’s fate in Germany was sealed. This applied to Zsolnay’s translations as well as to numerous school editions published by Diesterweg and English-language versions printed by Tauchnitz. The latter, a Leipzig publisher, had some forty-five titles by Wells on its list. Before 1933, Zsolnay had printed 238,000 copies of Wells’s works, 80 per cent of which were sold in Germany. One day after the book-burning, on 11 May 1933, Zsolnay published Wells’s last work in German before the end of the Second World War, Die Geschichte einer Ehe (1933b M). Furthermore, Wells’s translator, Otto Mandl, an Austrian Jew, had to emigrate.

6

The following details about Zsolnay and Wells are to be found in Hall 1994, 260–63. See also the chapter by Nate in the present volume.

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Financial transactions became more and more difficult and, while Zsolnay was trying to transfer the rights to Switzerland, Marjorie Wells, Wells’s daughter-inlaw and secretary, kept writing letters asking for the return of the translation rights and for the fees the publisher owed him. In 1936, three books by Wells were withdrawn from the market by the Leipzig distributor because of the prohibition and Zsolnay wrote to Wells stating that more copies were remitted by the booksellers than were sold. Another blacklist included Wells’s Die Welt des William Clissold (WWC), but also the complete works of the author. Clissold, incidentally, was reviewed favourably in Neue Leipziger Zeitung (New Leipzig Newspaper) (11 March 1928) by Erich Kästner, the author of children’s classics such as Emil und die Detektive (Emil and the Detectives) (1928) and Das fliegende Klassenzimmer (The Flying Classroom) (1933). In his review, Kästner professed his admiration for the English author and praised his concept of a ‘revolution from above’7 (1998, 121–25). In a further article for a design magazine, Gebrauchsgraphik (Graphic Design) (3 March 1930, 52–57), he expanded on the role of advertisement in Wells’s novel and underlined the importance of propaganda as a new world power (1998, 235–37). As the editors of Kästner’s collected writings, Franz Josef Görtz and Hans Sarkowicz, claim, Wells’s book was a ‘key experience’8 for Kästner (quoted in Kästner 1998, 747), who testified to his sympathy with the Fabian Society by entitling one of his novels Fabian (1931). Here we also find several allusions to Wells’s ideas. Kästner was possibly the only author who, on 10 May 1933, witnessed the burning of his own books on Berlin’s Opernplatz. In his description of this nightmarish scene he lists the authors whose books were going up in flames and includes Jack London, Hemingway and Wells (1998, 642). It is no wonder then that Wells became a standard-bearer for the banned writers and their books when he succeeded John Galsworthy as President of the International PEN Club in 1933. When the exiled writer and scholar, Alfred Kantorowicz, went to England in 1934, he consulted with Lady Oxford about a committee to support the organization of a Deutsche Freiheitsbibliothek (German Freedom Library) abroad. Lady Oxford contacted Wells, who immediately agreed to take on the presidency of the committee. The directorate under his leadership included writers such as Heinrich Mann, André Gide, Romain Rolland, Kantorowicz and Lion Feuchtwanger. It was inaugurated on the first anniversary of the book-burning, 10 May 1934, and became engaged in fund-raising activities (Kantorowicz 1983, 282–87). More involvement with German literary politics after the Nazi takeover was imposed on Wells when Heinrich Mann asked him to support Carl von Ossietzky, the journalist and writer who had been imprisoned in a concentration camp and who was later awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Wells, at this point, could not see how to help Ossietzky but suggested that the International PEN Club break ties with the Berlin PEN office at the forthcoming international meeting (1998, III: 504). When Ossietzky’s daughter wrote to him in

7 8

‘Revolution von oben’. ‘Schlüsselerlebnis’.

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December 1936 asking for help, he forwarded her letter to the British Foreign Office suggesting they intervene (1998, IV: 117). The international PEN meeting that took place at Ragusa, Yugoslavia, from 25 to 28 May 1933 became another touchstone for Wells’s attitude towards Fascism in Germany. The German PEN had been taken over by Nazi writers who tried to force Wells not to accept speeches by exiled authors. He first conceded, but then, in a singular coup de théâ tre, Wells suddenly handed the microphone to a prominent exile, Ernst Toller, a long-time enemy of the Fascist movement. Toller gave an inflammatory speech exhorting the freedom of thought. The official German delegation left the auditorium under protest and wrote reports back home emphasizing the outrage of Wells’s coup (Wulf 1989, 84–89).9 Wells’s own speech was commented upon by Bertolt Brecht in his Arbeitsjournal (Workbook): ‘what a mountain of a petty-bourgeois!’10 (1977, 38f) – thus echoing Lenin’s exclamation as reported by Trotsky when Wells saw the Russian leader in 1920 (Mackenzie and Mackenzie 1973, 326).What we can learn from this is that Wells, for one reason or another, was frequently maligned by authors and politicians who harboured left-wing or right-wing totalitarian ambitions or sympathies and hence were suspicious of his anti-ideological attitudes. And justified they were indeed. In September 1939 Wells was to give a speech at the PEN meeting at Stockholm but finally decided not to deliver it because the meeting was evaporating with the outbreak of the war. However, his speech was printed in his collection of political articles, Travels of a Republican Radical in Search of Hot Water. Here we can discover Wells’s scorn of the ideological takeover by Fascism and Communism: In Communist circles you may hear the most terrible balderdash about proletarian chemistry or proletarian mathematics [. . .]. In Germany also it is alleged that some remarkable iniquity attaches to Jewish physics and the relativity of Einstein is denounced and banned. (1939, 128)

Brecht with his Stalinist leanings belonged to those Marxist writers who were always critical of Wells the bourgeois. Another instance was the Marxist philosopher, Ernst Bloch, who first taught in Leipzig after the Second World War but later left the GDR to teach in Tübingen. In his major philosophical work, Das Prinzip Hoffnung (The Principle of Hope) (1939), in which he celebrated utopian socialism, Bloch discussed The Time Machine with some sympathy11 but dismissed Wells’s other utopian writings as liberal and hypocritical. Rather 9

10 11

Ernst Toller, 1893–1939, the Expressionist poet and socialist playwright, received a sentence of five years as a leader in the socialist November Revolution in Munich 1918 and the subsequent Räterepublik. In the 1930s he sympathized with Stalin’s Communism. There is some bitter irony in the fact that in 1935 he attacked Wells’s criticism of the suppression of writers in the Soviet Union, praising the 1934 congress of writers and maintaining that ‘in the USSR, intellectual freedom is growing day by day’ (1935, 3). In 1936, Toller emigrated to the United States, where he committed suicide in 1939. ‘was für ein gebirg von einem spiesser!’ At one point he quotes it as the ‘Time Engine’ (Bloch 1977, 720).

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condescendingly he commented upon Wells as a writer of ‘lemonade-like, liberal fairy-tales about the state’.12 The utopia of freedom is, according to Bloch, nothing but a form of anaesthesia administered by capitalism itself (1977, 682; 714; 720; 510). Wells also contributed to German exile magazines such as La Otra Alemanía (The Other Germany) in Buenos Aires, Deutsche Blätter/Hojas Alemanas (German Pages) in Santiago de Chile, Aufbau/Reconstruction for the GermanJewish Club in New York, and Deutsche Freiheit/La Liberté Allemande (German Freedom) in Paris. Again and again he corresponded or met with exiled writers such as Klaus Mann and his father, Thomas. Wells dined a number of times with Thomas Mann, an example being 8 September 1939 at Saltsjöbaden, Sweden, as Mann noted in his journals (1980, 464). Thomas Mann had read The Time Machine in 1920 and found it ‘attractive’13 (1979, 421). Klaus Mann, the author of Mephisto, was more critical of Wells than his Nobel-Prize winning progenitor. In a 1940 letter to Bruno Frank, he describes Wells as ‘a nasty old creature! [. . .] full of senile malice and charm + shameless aggressiveness’14 (1991a, 433). He visited Wells on 14 October 1940 at the home of a banker, Thomas W. Lamont, to enlist him as a contributor for a magazine, and he makes some juicy comments in his diary. He first of all notes a mutual antipathy and finds Wells’s glance ‘cold and veiled in grey’.15 His vanity appears to him ‘ineffable’.16 Of Stefan Zweig, Wells seems to be condescending: ‘Good old Stefan Zweig’. Mann feels Wells tries to provoke him with his ‘completely measureless hatred of everything German’.17 Apart from his view that Germany will have to be completely disarmed, dismantled and partitioned after the war – a view shared by Mann – he adds that Germany has never achieved anything in cultural terms. All in all, Mann feels reminded of Kipling in 1914 (1991b, 70). This offensive encounter notwithstanding, Klaus Mann read The Invisible Man three years later and praised its popular and fantastic qualities (1991b, 162f). Felix Salten (the author of Bambi), Bruno Frank and Sigmund Freud were other exiles with whom Wells was in touch. But it was particularly with Stefan Zweig that friendly relations developed, malicious overtones aside. With Zweig, whom he visited in Salzburg some time in the 1920s or early 1930s (Zweig 2001, 394), he shared liberalism and a vision of education and democracy. Both had travelled to the Soviet Union in the 1920s and had given reports with some sympathy. During the first years of exile in London, Zweig kept in touch with Wells and, at one point, saw him disputing with Shaw in a ‘chivalrous and brilliant debate’18 (Zweig 2001, 394; 445). 12 13 14

15 16 17 18

‘limonadenhaft-liberale Staatsmärchen’. ‘Anziehend’. ‘a nasty old creature! [. . .] voll greisenhafter Bosheit und charm + scham-loser Aggressivität’ (the English in this quotation is in the original). ‘kalt, grau verhangen’. ‘Unsagbare Eitelkeit’. ‘völlig masslosen Hass auf alles Deutsche’. ‘Immerhin hatte ich einmal den besonderen und wirklich unvergesslichen Genuss, die beiden schärfsten Köpfe, Bernard Shaw und H. G. Wells, in einer unterirdisch geladenen, äusserlich ritterlichen und brillianten Auseinandersetzung zu sehen.’

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These are some highlights within a complex relationship between a writer and a foreign culture. Because this culture was going through a terrible political phase, the dissolution of the Weimar Republic ending in twelve years of Fascism, Wells’s political and intellectual shape is thrown into a particular light. He is now seen defending the freedom of speech and supporting writers in exile, but he is also confronted with his own past, as indicated by his violent rejection of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. His megalomaniacal seeds start to flower in German film and engineering and Wells has to redefine himself as a liberal and nontotalitarian thinker. His political and personal involvements emphasize the fact that his fate was intertwined with the history of his age and that of Germany. The totalitarian nature of Hitler’s Germany as of Stalin’s Soviet Union forced him to revise and reject the totalitarian elements in his own thought. While in the First World War he had worked as a propagandist for Britain, he now abjured the ideological stance: ‘If I lend myself to any propaganda, then by all my standards I shall be damned’ (1939, 144).

7

Ignorance, Opportunism, Propaganda and Dissent: The Reception of H. G. Wells in Nazi Germany Richard Nate

Introduction There is little doubt that German readers of the last three or four decades have known H. G. Wells primarily as a science-fiction writer (Schenkel 2001, 9f). Generations of students have read Wells’s early narratives The Time Machine or The War of the Worlds in their English classes. Others may have heard about The War of the Worlds through Orson Welles’s legendary radio adaptation of 1938, through the 1952 Hollywood movie adaptation or through Jeff Wayne’s musical version of 1978. More recently still, they may have seen Hollywood’s blockbuster The Time Machine (2001). Scholarly articles and monographs have also focused primarily on Wells’s scientific romances. Those who are interested in science fiction regard Wells as one of the founding fathers of this genre and name him alongside Edgar Allan Poe and Jules Verne. Undoubtedly, Wells’s association with science fiction and fantasy literature has made his reputation in Germany more than anything else, and to the majority of German readers his philosophical and utopian writings are virtually unknown. This was not always the case. Although Wells first became known in Germany because of his scientific romances, his non-fictional and utopian works were also translated shortly after they were written. A translation of his Anticipations appeared in 1905, and his semi-fictional A Modern Utopia was available to German readers by 1911. It seems that during the era of the Weimar Republic many German readers had become aware of the fact that Wells was a social and utopian thinker no less than a writer of thrilling narratives. Although his scientific romances continued to enjoy a high degree of popularity and sold well, Wells also gained a reputation for being an incessant advocate of the World State. Accordingly, a number of studies which appeared in the early 1930s show that Wells was seen, first of all, as a philosopher. If scholars mentioned Wells’s scientific romances at all, they tended to dismiss them as the juvenilia of the author’s career. That Wells was regarded

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as a man of letters whose opinions were to be taken seriously is demonstrated by his invitation to the Reichstag in 1929, where he talked about ‘The Common Sense of World Peace’ before an audience of literary people (Foot 1995, 221f). Wells had been invited by Antonina Vallentin, who had translated Wells’s novel Marriage in 1925 and who worked in the office of Foreign Minister and former Chancellor Gustav Stresemann. Increasingly, it was Wells’s public role as social thinker, rather than the quality of his fiction, for which he was either praised, critically discussed or condemned. It is ironic that Wells’s scholarly reputation reached its peak in the years when Germany’s future was doomed by the rise of Fascism. After Hitler’s seizure of power, scholars continued to discuss and evaluate Wells’s ideas for a while, but eventually these debates would cease. Wells’s reputation fell victim to the Gleichschaltung (‘coordination’) that was ruthlessly imposed by the National Socialists. Wells’s German readership before and after 1933 Before 1933, Wells’s books were widely read in Germany and Austria. Most of his scientific romances had been translated shortly after their first publication. The War of the Worlds was translated in 1901, The Time Machine, The Food of the Gods and The Island of Doctor Moreau in 1904. In 1905, The First Men in the Moon became available in a German edition, and in the following year When the Sleeper Wakes was published.1 As in other European countries, the future had become a subject in its own right in German art, literature and film, and in this respect Wells’s works certainly were a major influence. Although there were contemporary writers of science fiction in Germany, such as Kurd Lasswitz, who had published his novel Auf zwei Planeten (The Two Planets) in 1897, Wells’s literary imagination made a significant impact on the so-called Zukunftsroman which flourished in the early twentieth century and was represented by Hans Dominik, Otto Willi Gail, Otfried von Hanstein, and Thea von Harbou.2 Egon Friedell was another writer whose works betray Wells’s influence. Friedell worked as a drama critic and became known to a wider public through his voluminous Kulturgeschichte der Neuzeit (Cultural history of the modern age), published between 1927 and 1931. While there is only a brief reference to Wells in this work, the English author’s impact is more obvious in Friedell’s retelling of The Time Machine, an ironic response to the theme of time travel. An ironic remark on the quality of Wells’s German translations is typical of Friedell’s style. In his introduction he wrote: ‘Mr Wells knows no German. This is probably the

1

2

Apart from German translations, many of Wells’s works were also published in their original English versions by Tauchnitz in Leipzig. Thea von Harbou was also associated with the Expressionist movement in German cinema by writing film scripts for her husband Fritz Lang.

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only characteristic that he shares with his translator’3 (1946, 10). Friedell, however, would never publish his version of The Time Machine. Resident in Vienna during the Anschluss and expecting the worst because of his Jewish descent, he took his own life in 1938.4 Apart from the scientific romances, German readers had also been introduced to Wells’s non-fictional or semi-fictional works quite early on. In 1905, Wells’s translator Felix P. Greve had added a preface to his edition of Anticipations in which he praised Wells for his ability to predict future developments. According to Greve, Wells’s writings were an indication that the future had become a literary and scholarly subject in its own right and could even pave the way for scientifically based politics (1905, x). Greve hoped that the publication of Anticipations would convince a wider public that Wells’s qualities as a writer and futurologist surpassed those of Jules Verne whose narratives the editor dismissed as mere fantasies (1905, xi). In view of the success that Wells’s books had met with in German-speaking countries, it is not surprising that in the late 1920s the plan arose to publish a new edition of his writings. Between 1928 and 1932 the Zsolnay company in Vienna published Wells’s Gesammelte Werke in Einzelausgaben (Collected works in individual volumes), an edition that was clearly modelled on the English Atlantic Edition of 1924–27 (Hall 1994, 255). During these years Wells had a broad readership in Germany and Austria. His scientific romances were popular, and his essays and utopian works were widely read and studied. The author’s success is reflected in the sales figures of his Vienna publisher, whose records show that by 1933 a total sum of 238,000 volumes of Wells’s works had been published (Hall 1994, 261). The year 1933, however, represented a watershed. The fact that Wells’s books ceased to be published during this year5 was not because the author’s collected works had just appeared. Although the Paul Zsolnay company had its headquarters in Vienna, the fate of this publishing house could not be separated from the political developments in Germany. According to the company’s official history, 70 per cent of its readers were German citizens. In Wells’s case it was more like 80 per cent (Hall and Ohrlinger 1999, 51). Because many writers in the Zsolnay catalogue came to be blacklisted by the Reichsschrifttumskammer, the

3

4

5

‘Mr Wells kann [. . .] nicht deutsch: dies dürfte die einzige Eigenschaft sein, die er mit seinem Übersetzer gemeinsam hat.’ In all likelihood Friedell referred to Felix P. Greve who had translated several of Wells’s books for Bruns in Minden, NorthRhine Westphalia. In 1909, Greve moved to Canada where he became a novelist, writing under the pseudonym Frederick Philip Grove. Another translator was Gottlieb A. Crüwell, who had translated WW in 1901. From 1924 onwards, Crüwell was director of the Vienna University Library, and later he worked as an editor for the Zsolnay publishing house (cf. Hall 1994, 251). Friedell’s narrative Die Reise mit der Zeitmaschine (The return of the time machine) was published posthumously in 1946. After 1933 German translations would appear in Zurich, Switzerland, an example being Der heilige Terror (1940, HT). In 1946, a translation of Wells’s last work, Der Geist am Ende seiner Möglichkeiten (MET), also appeared in Zurich.

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company was soon in financial distress. The second edition of Wells’s novel Marriage, which appeared in May 1933, was the last of Wells’s works to be published by Zsolnay. After that Wells increasingly became a problem for the company (Hall 1994, 261). Having referred to ‘catastrophical financial circumstances in Germany’ as early as 24 February, Paul Zsolnay may well have informed Wells about the company’s financial distress when he met the author in Vienna on 17 June 1933. In the following months the situation was aggravated. In a letter from 10 November 1933, Zsolnay regretted that Wells’s The Shape of Things to Come could not be published in Germany due to the political changes that had taken place, and on 13 April 1934 Wells was informed by his publisher that under the circumstances brought about by the ‘great German Revolution’ The Science of Life could not be published as had been previously agreed.6 Given Wells’s political leanings, it comes as no surprise that from the very beginning of the Third Reich he was numbered among those authors whom the Nazis regarded as ‘corrupt’. Although only unofficial blacklists circulated in the months after January 1933, Murray G. Hall assumes that Wells’s writings were banned very early on (1994, 261). As president of the PEN congress at Ragusa in 1933, Wells attracted the attention of German officials because of his criticism of the current political situation in Germany (Hall and Ohrlinger 1999, 56). Having recently succeeded John Galsworthy as PEN president, Wells also refused to yield to Nazi sympathizers who demanded that the exiled author Ernst Toller be prevented from speaking (Schenkel 2001, 274; on the events at Ragusa cf. Wulf 1989, 68ff). Wells reported in his Experiment in Autobiography that the Nazis had burned his books (1934, II: 823), and we may assume, therefore, that his writings were among those which were publicly destroyed at the Aktion wider den deutschen Geist on 10 May 1933. A few days after the event, the Börsenblatt des deutschen Buchhandels (Financial newspaper of the German book trade) listed Wells as one of 131 authors whose works were to be banned from libraries and bookstores.7 Finally, in 1936, the ‘Liste I des schädlichen und unerwünschten Schrifttums’ (List One of harmful and undesirable literature) explicitly prohibited the distribution of Wells’s The World of William Clissold together with ‘all other works by the author’ (Hall 1994, 392). It is not surprising that Wells was also personally affected. In a letter which his secretary (and daughter-in-law), Marjorie Wells, had sent to Paul Zsolnay in February 1936, she complained that Wells had received no royalties from his Austrian publisher since March 1933 (Hall and Ohrlinger 1999, 57). Feeling compelled to answer Mrs Wells’s enquiry in this matter, Zsolnay drafted an initial response in which he remarked: We have not sent you any accounts since March 1933, because we receive more books back from the booksellers than we sell, due to the ban that has been imposed

6

7

Correspondence between Zsolnay and H. G. Wells in the Wells Collection, University of Illinois Library at Urbana-Champaign, USA. Other non-German authors included Jack London, Marcel Proust, Upton Sinclair and Emile Zola.

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on some of H. G. Wells’s books in Germany. [. . .] We honestly regret that political factors prevent us from selling more of H. G. Wells’s books and that we cannot give you any better news at the present time.8 (quoted in Hall 1994, 262)

This letter was never sent, however, and only a few months later, in June 1936, the publisher had to correct his earlier statement. Having received the ‘Liste I’ in the mean time, he now reported to Marjorie Wells that not only several, but all of Wells’s books had been banned in Germany (Hall 1994, 262). It proved to be the end of a business connection that had worked well for a number of years. The legacy of Nazi censorship makes it almost impossible to find evidence as to the actual size of Wells’s readership in the years after 1933. Editions of the once popular author may have survived in many a household, but empirical data are unobtainable. When Das schwarze Korps (The black corps), the official newspaper of the Waffen-SS, published a cartoon showing New York being invaded by Martians on 10 November 1938, it referred not to Wells’s novel of 1898 but to the panic which Orson Welles’s radio adaptation had caused only shortly before. In accordance with the official party propaganda of the time, the cartoonist imputed that New York public life was dominated by Jews. In the cartoon one Martian remarks: ‘You’re wrong, Kastor. We have not discovered America but Palestine’9 (‘Bogner’ 1938). As regards the years after 1939, Wells’s social criticism, together with that of A. J. Cronin, George Orwell and George Bernard Shaw, provided at best a source for the Nazis’ anti-British war propaganda (Strobl 2000, 152ff, 187ff). Wells’s scholarly reception after 1933 Although Wells’s works drew the attention of scholars with different political leanings in the 1930s, these scholars all focused on the author’s social and political thought rather than on his fictional works.10 Otto Barber’s H. G. Wells’s

8

9

10

‘Wir haben Ihnen seit März 1933 keine Abrechnungen mehr geschickt, da wir wegen der Verbote, die gegen einige Bücher von H. G. Wells in Deutschland erfolgt sind, mehr Bücher von den Buchhändlern zurückerhalten, als wir verkaufen. [. . .] Wir bedauern es ausserordentlich, dass politische Gründe uns daran verhindern, mehr von den Werken von H. G. Wells abzusetzen und dass wir Ihnen daher nichts Erfreuliches diesbezüglich mitteilen können.’ ‘Du irrst, Kastor. Wir haben soeben nicht Amerika, sondern Palästina entdeckt!’ In all likelihood the cartoon was stimulated by an allusion to Orson Welles’s radio broadcast that Hitler had included in a speech at the Bürgerbräukeller in Munich on 8 November 1938. Hitler had stated that the German people would not ‘fall into fears of bombs from Mars or the Moon’ (‘Das deutsche Volk wird nicht in Angst, sagen wir, vor Bomben vom Mars oder Mond verfallen’, Hitler 1962, 968). This does not apply, however, to two PhD theses which appeared in Austria in the 1930s: Anna Bindermann’s ‘Die Einschätzung der Frau bei H. G. Wells’ (H. G. Wells’s assessment of women) (1934), and Othmar Hahn’s ‘Südlicher Dialekt in Wells’s Short Stories’ (Southern dialect in Wells’s short stories) (1935). As early as

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Verhältnis zum Darwinismus (H. G. Wells’s relationship to Darwinism) (1934) concentrated on the role of Darwinism in Wells’s work and included lengthy discussions on eugenics which was characteristically being (mis)translated as Rassenhygiene. Because Barber’s thesis was finished no later than 1933 and spoke favourably of Wells’s pacifism, it is difficult to determine the author’s politics. Heinz Mattick’s H. G. Wells als Sozialreformer (H. G. Wells as a social reformer) (1935), however, already revealed the influence of National Socialism, although its few references to contemporary politics seem something of an afterthought. It was Wolfgang Simon’s thesis Die englische Utopie im Lichte der Entwicklungslehre (English utopias in the light of evolutionary theory) (1937) which, for the first time, expressed an uncompromising Nazi viewpoint and derided Wells’s liberal utopianism in order to promote the author’s own Fascist ideology. In contrast to these three works, which reflect a gradual transition from ignorance to opportunism and finally to propaganda, Ulrich Sonnemann’s thesis ‘Der soziale Gedanke im Werk von H. G. Wells’ (Social concepts in the work of H. G. Wells) (1935) was finished during the author’s exile in Switzerland. It will be taken here to represent the voice of dissent found among exiled German intellectuals. Promoting eugenics: Otto Barber Otto Barber’s study was published in 1934, but it was probably finished some time before. Its completion is likely to have coincided with the early months of Hitler’s chancellorship. The Gleichschaltung had impacted upon the German universities from the earliest days of the regime. The purge began in early 1933 with a boycott of racially and politically objectionable professors, organized by the Nazi Student League (Noakes and Pridham 1984, 443). The so-called Gesetz zur Wiederherstellung des Berufsbeamtentums (Law for the restoration of a professional civil service) of 7 April prescribed that non-Aryan, Marxist or otherwise ‘unreliable’ officials were dismissed (Gerstengarbe 1994), and on 1 June, the Hochschulverband, the leading association of German professors, declared its unreserved support for the National Socialist ideology (Heiber 1992, 125). Still, it is difficult to state the degree to which these early measures actually affected the subject matter of academic studies. Certainly, Barber’s thesis cannot be described as outspokenly National Socialist. The author’s rendering of ‘eugenics’ as Rassenhygiene (racial hygiene), for instance, provides no evidence that the author had a Nazi outlook, but reflects Alfred Ploetz’s proposals of 1890 and the official terminology of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Rassenhygiene which had been founded as early as 1905 (Schmuhl 1987, 33ff; Reulecke 1988, 20ff).11

cont. 1924, the Austrian scholar Günther Hoenig had already produced his thesis ‘Die Technik des utopischen Romans bei H. G. Wells’ (H. G. Wells’s technique of the utopian novel). 11 It should be noted, however, that the terms Eugenik and Erbgesundheitslehre (hereditary health theory) were also in use.

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Although proposals for racial hygiene corresponded to the view of the Nazis, who would consider genetics as a branch of Rassenkunde (racial anthropology), they were not necessarily indicative of Nazi policies.12 When Barber defined racial hygiene as a means ‘to improve the biological condition of a race, a people or the whole of mankind’13 (1934, 69f), he distinguished himself from many contemporaries by considering only ‘positive eugenics’ and by side-stepping the issue of superior and inferior races.14 And yet, given Wells’s rejection of racism and his advocacy of a mixture of races,15 the term racial hygiene in this context is misleading. It seems Barber did not regard as important the distinction between eugenic programmes restricted to only one race and those that concerned the whole of mankind. Possibly the author was not aware of the political implications that such a distinction already had in the early 1930s. When Barber defined Wells as both a passionate social Darwinist and a racial hygienist (1934, 4), his use of terms accorded with the Nazis’ blending of eugenics and racism; at the same time, however, his inclusion of ‘the whole of mankind’ into the eugenic programme was clearly at odds with the National Socialist concept of Aryan superiority. Beginning his thesis with a brief outline of the principles of Darwinism, Barber stressed that Darwin’s theories did not serve to stabilize the boundaries between species but questioned their alleged timeless status by assuming the possibility of transitional forms (1934, 14). In Barber’s view it made perfect sense, therefore, that Wells had criticized the views of ‘some anthropologists’ who had argued for distinct boundaries between races (1934, 29). Barber noted that Wells was concerned, first of all, with the implications that the evolutionary paradigm carried for the future development of humankind. In this general context, the question of race did not play any significant role. There is one instance, however, in which Barber did address the question as to whether a tacit racism could be found in Wells. Referring to Anticipations of 1901, he argued that in this book Wells had subscribed to the view that it was the duty of the ‘more efficient’ peoples to conquer the weaker ones.16 To prove his argument, Barber cited the following passage from the book:

12

13

14

15

16

An ‘extermination of unworthy lives’ had been demanded not only by the NSDAP, but also by many right-wing politicians of the Weimar Republic. On 22 March 1933, after the Nazi takeover, a department of Rassenhygiene was established within the Reich Interior Ministry. ‘eine Rasse oder ein Volk oder auch die gesamte Menschheit biologisch zu verbessern’. As Reulecke (1988, 24) points out, positive eugenics had already been superseded by negative eugenics in the 1920s. While the former aimed at an improvement of the biological conditions of humankind, the latter was based on the idea of eliminating ‘inferior lives’. Partington states that Wells was ‘constant throughout his life in his anti-racism, a point often ignored or distorted by his critics’ (2000, 101). Barber stressed the influence of Benjamin Kidd, John B. Crozier and Karl Pearson on Wells in this respect.

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And for the rest – those swarms of black and brown and yellow people who do not come into the new needs of efficiency? Well, the world is a world, not a charitable institution, and I take it they will have to go. The whole tenor and meaning of the world, as I see it, is that they have to go. So far as they fail to develop sane, vigorous, and distinctive personalities for the great world of the future, it is their portion to die out and disappear. (Wells 1926, 274)

Two qualifications seem necessary here (cf. Partington 2000, 100ff). The first regards the fact that Wells referred to an alleged natural process rather than to any practical policy which he hoped to be put into practice. The second is that Wells himself qualified his argument by stating that the fate of the weak was sealed only if they would not be able to compete with the others. Although the paragraph above undoubtedly includes an unfortunate choice of words – something that Wells would deeply regret in his later years – it did not necessarily endorse a racist argument. Despite his critical reading of Anticipations, Barber concluded that Wells could not be dismissed as a ‘brutal racist’. On the contrary, Wells had expressed some views in his writings which had been confirmed by racial anthropologists, namely that mixed races were neither inferior nor superior to other human beings (1934, 60). Barber opposed those hardliners among the eugenists who argued, for instance, that a natural selection through tuberculosis would benefit the human race, and who warned against fighting child mortality because only the weakest members of a society would benefit from such a measure (1934, 61f). While these remarks indicate that Barber’s views were moderate rather than radical, the author did not question the general validity of eugenics. Pointing to the alleged hereditary character of alcoholism, prostitution and crime, Barber regarded the application of eugenic theories as the right means to prevent such ‘diseases’ from being passed on to subsequent generations. When Barber stated that eugenics could even be regarded as a humanitarian endeavour because it paved the way for a healthier and happier human race, he unwillingly anticipated the cynicism with which Nazi propagandists would later promote their own large-scale euthanasia of the disabled, the maladjusted and the mentally disturbed (1934, 68). Even if Barber himself did not suggest the killing of human beings,17 his theoretical framework was qualified to encourage such a policy. As for Wells’s view of politics, Barber observed that in his later writings the author had increasingly taken a pacifist stance. Barber made no secret of the fact that the First World War represented for him a ‘mad self-laceration of humanity’ (1934, 57). That such a view conflicted with the Nazis’ glorification of battle, and with the ‘stab-in-the-back’ myth which they promoted after that war, is obvious. It should not be overlooked, however, that Barber defended Wells’s pacifism, not from a humanist standpoint, but on the grounds of his pragmatically informed eugenics. As regards his philosophical outlook, Barber

17

Referring to Wells’s MU, Barber rejected the killing of criminals and people with hereditary diseases but applauded Wells’s suggestion to kill deformed babies (1934, 70).

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aligned himself with the followers of Nietzsche rather than with the ‘humanitarians’ (1934, 18). Furthermore, the author sided with the ‘more rational’ social Darwinists who had long since pointed to the ‘fatal consequences of war’ (1934, 58). As the author explained, Wells had learned that wars were disastrous to a people because they diminished the number of the ‘brave’, the ‘unselfish’ and those who were ‘ready to sacrifice themselves’, but let cowards go unscathed. Again Barber’s political leanings are difficult to determine. While he agreed with the Fascist ideology in his glorification of the physically strong, his pacifism was at odds with the Nazis’ cult of the fallen hero. How far the author himself was aware of these tensions, however, remains a mystery.18 Although there are passages in Barber’s text which irritate the modern reader, it would be misleading to classify his work as overtly political. In his account of the social aspects of Darwinism, Barber relied on authorities who regarded Rassenhygiene or Eugenik as a legitimate science and an appropriate object of study.19 In the Weimar Republic, positive eugenics had been promoted not only by right-wing politicians but also by Social Democrats such as Julius Tandler who were occupied with developing the concept of the welfare state. That authors who believed in the benefits of eugenics were often uninhibited in their proposals can be proven even by some of Wells’s own writings.20 The history of Nazi Germany, however, demonstrates how perilous such talk of eugenic measures was. Under totalitarian conditions the idea of ‘artificial selection’ could easily be radicalized and carried to extremes. While the Gesetz zur Verhütung erbkranken Nachwuchses (Law for the prevention of hereditarily diseased offspring) of 1933 led to the sterilization of approximately 400,000 allegedly ‘degenerate’ persons, the euthanasia programme of 1939 caused the murder of at least 100,000 patients with mental or hereditary diseases. Furthermore, both measures may be said to have functioned as catalysts for the

18

19

20

Interestingly enough, Barber’s biologically informed pacifism corresponded to some views that Alfred Ploetz, the founder of German eugenics, expressed in the Archiv für Rassen- und Gesellschaftsbiologie (Archives of racial and social biology) as late as 1935 (1935, 363ff). An obituary published in 1940 characterized Ploetz as a man who was a ‘friend of peace, but by no means a pacifist’ (‘ein grosser Friedensfreund, beileibe aber kein Pazifist’) (Rüdin 1940, 4). Barber’s list of references, however, includes Richard W. Darré’ s Neuadel aus Blut und Boden (A new nobility out of blood and soil) from 1930 which propagated the ‘blood-and-soil’ idea. Darré was head of the Rasse- und Siedlungshauptamt der SS (SS race and settlement main office) from 1931 to 1938, and became Minister of Food and Agriculture in 1933. Wells’s attitude towards the concepts of social engineering and eugenics has been a matter of debate for a long time. There have been critical evaluations of Wells’s eugenic ideas particularly in Germany (cf. Schultze 1975, 1984; for the Englishspeaking countries, cf. Coren 1993 and Kemp 1996). It should be noted, however, that Wells repeatedly changed his views on this matter (cf. Partington 2000). As for Wells’s criticism of Francis Galton’s idea of eugenics, Partington concludes: ‘Rather than promote selective breeding, Wells desired the raising of educational and healthcare standards in order to give the children of the poor equal opportunities for success as the children of the better-off’ (2000, 105).

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establishment of large-scale extermination camps after 1941.21 That eugenists contributed to the stock of ideas from which National Socialists created their ‘population policy’ is also testified by the later development of German eugenics. It takes only a brief look at those volumes of Alfred Ploetz’s Archiv für Rassen- und Gesellschaftsbiologie (Archive for Racial and Social Biology), which appeared after 1933, to reveal the close entanglements that existed between the Nazis, the SS and seasoned eugenists.22 From Fabianism to Fascism: Heinz Mattick Like Barber’s dissertation, Heinz Mattick’s thesis H. G. Wells als Sozialreformer was prepared under the auspices of Max Förster at Munich University.23 It was finished in the spring of 1934 and published in 1935. In discussing Wells’s relationship to the Fabian Society, Mattick dealt with a topic which was politically defined. In his preface he reported that he had corresponded with the general secretary of the Fabian Society, F. W. Galton, as well as with H. G. Wells himself. As late as 1935, he thanked Wells for having collaborated with him, thus openly acclaiming an author whose books had already been blacklisted. To the modern reader, Mattick’s thesis appears ambivalent. Although many of Wells’s views were in conflict with Nazi ideology, his text indicates that he tried to make them tally with the outlook of the new leadership. Compared to Barber, Mattick showed an increased sensitivity towards the changed political climate. His awareness that this climate had a negative impact on the reputation of his subject is demonstrated in his preface. Although he avoided being too explicit, he acknowledged that the relationship between literature and the social movements he had investigated had become increasingly important because of recent political developments. Mattick’s account of Wells’s development as a writer remained generally sympathetic. He characterized Wells as a prophet and educator, for instance, who could stand a comparison with the Czech reformer Jan Amos Comenius (1935, 69). Summing up Wells’s pedagogical ideas, Mattick wrote: Repeatedly, and until the present time he has made it clear that all his energies were directed to an organic unification of the human race. This is to him, first of all, a

21

22

23

Cf. on this latter point Schmuhl (1987, 360), who also provides a detailed account of the Nazi euthanasia programme. Many of the articles which appeared in the Archiv für Rassen- und Gesellschaftsbiologie between 1933 and 1944 may be regarded as mere Nazi propaganda. Max Förster had been Professor of English Philology since 1925. After having been forced into retirement in 1934 because his wife was Jewish, he was Visiting Professor at Yale University until 1936. From 1946 to 1948, he taught again at Munich University. On Förster’s life and scholarly career, cf. Huscher (1955) and Willard (1955).

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process of education, the support of which he regards as the most important and eminent task of his literary life.24 (1935, 137)

In his views on eugenics, Mattick claimed, Wells had also revealed a highly progressive outlook. Wells’s plan for the New Republic, which would secure ‘the maximum chance of life and health for everybody born into the world’, met with Mattick’s approval: ‘It is a high and great goal that Wells erects before our eyes, well worth the sweat of noble men’25 (1935, 60). As was the case with Barber, Mattick’s view that the living conditions of the whole human race should be improved was hardly compatible with the Nazis’ concept of Aryan supremacy. On the contrary, it was likely to raise suspicions about the author’s possible sympathy for the international socialist movement. On the other hand, we find indications that Mattick did attempt to adapt his views to the new German ideology. The mental acrobatics which resulted from this undertaking became apparent when he described Wells’s vision of the World State as a unification of mankind on socialist principles and appreciated it as a global Gleichschaltung, and then added in one short sentence that the whole idea was unrealistic because it lacked any consideration of the question of race (1935, 137ff). Adapting the subject matter of his thesis to the Nazi ideology could lead to curious results. In discussing Carlyle’s works as an intellectual source for the Fabians, for instance, Mattick argued that the English author had anticipated the more recent concept of Volksgemeinschaft26 (1935, 14). The fact that Wells had promoted a strong government in A Modern Utopia, which would necessarily reduce the rights of its citizens, led Mattick to assume that Wells’s views were in accordance with the idea of the Führerstaat. Accordingly, Wells’s utopian citizens were interpreted as an early version of the German Volksgenossen27 (1935, 74). Discussing Wells’s proposals for the organization of the Fabian Society, Mattick compared the author’s views to the Nazi cells which had prepared for the recent National Revolution (1935, 110). While such arguments strike the reader as clumsily contrived, there is little doubt as to the motivation behind them. Mattick obviously hoped to present Wells as a forerunner of Nazi ideologists. The lack of coherence in Mattick’s argument is most obvious in his evaluation of Victorian medievalism. Referring to Thomas Carlyle, William Morris and John Ruskin, Mattick first criticized these authors for their nostalgia and concluded that the course of history could not be reversed. A few lines later,

24

25

26 27

‘Zu wiederholten Malen, bis in die jüngste Zeit hinein, bringt er zum Ausdruck, daß sein ganzes Streben nur darauf gerichtet sei, die organische Zusammenfassung der gesamten Menschheit zu erreichen. Das ist für ihn im wesentlichen ein Erziehungsprozess, den zu fördern er als die bedeutendste und wichtigste Aufgabe seines Schriftstellertums ansieht.’ ‘Es ist ein hohes und grosses Ziel, das Wells vor unseren Augen aufrichtet, des Schweisses der Edlen wohl wert.’ ‘National Community’. ‘National Comrades’.

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however, he withdrew from his progressivist outlook by conceding that some of the many ideas of the Victorian medievalists had proved to be prophetic. Mattick conceded, If we examine their arguments and proposals more closely, however, we surprisingly find, that in these days they have had a sudden revival, and even a forceful practical realization and confirmation. We may only point to the relevance of the principle of leadership, the rejection of democracy, the high esteem towards handiwork as opposed to machine work, and the demand for a ‘joy of labour’.28 (1935, 18; emphasis in the original)

Although this statement is somewhat vague, the reversal of Mattick’s initial evaluation of medievalism is evident. Obviously influenced by the events of 1933, the author now concluded that, however reactionary these concepts may have seemed to some, they had actually anticipated later developments. In the light of Mattick’s liberal-socialist subject matter, his few references to the Nazi ideology seem artificial and highly contrived. Although it cannot be proven with certainty, the final version of Mattick’s thesis appears to be the result of political manoeuvring. There is one quotation from Mein Kampf (My struggle), for instance, which mentions Adolf Hitler’s esteem for the spoken as opposed to the written word, but stands strangely aloof from the overall context of the argument and seems to have been inserted for mere opportunist reasons (1935, 126). On the whole, Mattick’s thesis seems to consist of two different historical layers. While his detailed and sympathetic account of the history of the Fabian Society lacks any reference to contemporary politics and seems to represent the earlier stage of the manuscript, his evaluation of Wells’s work includes some isolated references to National Socialism which seem to have been added later. Wells’s proposals for the World State, for instance, are presented in great detail, but then suddenly rejected on account of the fact that the biological differences that existed between races did not play any significant role in them (1935, 139). Although it cannot be concluded with certainty, the heterogeneity of Mattick’s thesis seems to have resulted from varying political influences. Since it was usual that dissertation topics were suggested by supervisors (Giovanopoulos 2002, 219), it may be assumed that Mattick’s thesis was indebted to Max Förster who had already supervised Barber’s thesis. What is more, in having corresponded with the Fabian Society and with Wells, Mattick revealed a commitment that went beyond the usual requirements. However, if

28

‘Wenn wir aber die einzelnen Gedankengänge und Vorschläge genauer prüfen, so stellen wir mir [!] Ueberraschung fest, daß sie in unseren Tagen eine urplötzliche Auferstehung, ja sogar energische praktische Durchführung und somit Bestätigung erfahren haben. Es sei nur an die Bedeutung des Führergedankens, an die Ablehnung der Demokratie, an die Wertschätzung der Handarbeit gegenüber der Maschinenarbeit, an die Forderung der ‘Freude an der Arbeit’ erinnert.’ As is known, the ‘joy of labour’ was an integral part of the Nazi propaganda; it had its cynical counterpart in the slogan Arbeit macht frei which was displayed at the entrances of concentration camps.

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in the beginning Mattick’s loyalty was to his academic teacher, after the Nazis’ takeover it shifted to the new political leadership. It seems fitting in this context that Mattick’s oral examination took place on 28 June 1934, two days before his supervisor Förster handed in his resignation. Mattick’s curriculum vitae of 1935, which is annexed to his thesis, seems to point in the same direction. It shows that the author was widely travelled and that he had studied in Cambridge, London, Paris and Grenoble, but it also shows him to be a member of the Nazi Party, the SA and the Nationalsozialistischer Lehrerbund.29 When eventually, in 1942, Mattick published a second book, he left no doubt that his views were in total agreement with Nazi ideology. Designed as a textbook for the German occupying forces in France, Die treibenden Kräfte in der Geschichte Frankreichs (The driving forces in French history) bristled with racist interpretations of the French mentality and was clearly intended belatedly to justify the German occupation of France (Mattick 1942, 17, 20ff, 39, 53, 76f). Fascist futurology: Wolfgang Simon That Wolfgang Simon’s dissertation of 1937 reflected a Nazi viewpoint comes as no surprise. At the time of its publication, the Gleichschaltung of German universities had been completed. On 1 April 1935, the university hierarchy had been adapted to the Führerprinzip and reorganized according to the Richtlinien zur Vereinigung der Hochschulverwaltung (Guidelines for the unification of university administrations) which had eliminated any form of democratic self-government. New scholars were now required to undergo a process of indoctrination and vetting, which was carried out by the NSHochschullehrerbund (Nazi lecturers’ league) (Noakes and Pridham 1984, 444). Open debates had ceased, and moderate voices were scarcely heard. Although the title Die englische Utopie im Lichte der Entwicklungslehre suggested a broader scope, Simon primarily focused on Wells’s work. In line with his contemporaries he regarded Wells as first and foremost a utopian thinker rather than a writer of fiction: Wells is first of all a utopian thinker; most of his writings by far may be attributed to this field. His utopian writings, not his novels, have made him one of the best-known writers in English literature.30 (1937, 22)

The fact that Simon recognized Wells’s high public profile did not mean, of course, that he appreciated him very much as a writer. On the contrary, Simon concluded that Wells’s popularity in England was due to English decadence rather than to the author’s literary skills. Simon departed from his predecessors by no longer displaying a shred of respect for the subject of his study.

29 30

‘National Socialist Teachers’ League’. ‘Wells ist in erster Linie Utopist; auf diesem Gebiet liegt der weitaus grösste Teil seines Schaffens. Seine utopischen Schriften, nicht seine Romane haben ihn zu einem der bekanntesten Vertreter des englischen Schrifttums gemacht.’

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Simon started from the theoretical assumption that utopias should be interpreted according to historical realities. Consequently he distinguished pessimistic utopias from optimistic ones (1937, 1). Moreover, while some utopians revealed an escapist attitude by relating mere pipe dreams, others were more realistic in extrapolating a utopian state of society based on contemporary observations. If the relationship between reality and the ideal world became too close, however, the utopian quality of the text was jeopardized. Whereas Mattick had attempted, though unsuccessfully, to reconcile Wells’s views with the National Socialist ideology, Simon branded Wells’s works as insincere. According to Simon, Wells’s overt pacifism merely concealed the author’s actual ‘imperialistic plans to conquer the world’, in which Simon recognized a characteristic trait of the ‘English mentality’ (1937, 30). Simon, of course, neglected to mention that Wells had been very critical of British imperialism in A Modern Utopia where the alleged superiority of the British had been cited as an example of a ‘stupid generalisation’ (Wells 1994, 191). Instead, Simon cited Wells’s earlier statements on white supremacy in Anticipations with approval. To him, they proved that Wells’s ‘English blood’ revolted against the author’s own socialist theories (1937, 30). At times, Simon’s own racist framework led him to draw surprising conclusions. Noting Wells’s belief that intelligence would be the single criterion for defining the world citizen of the future, for instance, Simon felt inclined to prove Wells’s own unacknowledged racism by arguing that intelligence, of course, had always been the privilege of the white race. Interestingly enough, Wells’s views on eugenics were harshly criticized by Simon. Francis Galton’s theory was rejected because it had tacitly equated the English with the superior race but had failed to mention the Germans. Wells’s non-racist approach to eugenics was dismissed as entirely unrealistic. Simon argued that Wells refuses to recognize the inhumanity of a selective breeding of human beings which does not pay any attention to a conscious racial hygiene. His idea of a progressive refinement of the whole human race is utterly utopian, as are his views on the world state and on world peace.31 (1937, 41)

In the light of these remarks, it is not surprising that Barber’s dissertation of 1934, which had displayed an understanding of eugenics compatible with that of Wells, was also totally rejected by Simon. Wells himself was accused of subscribing to a liberal outlook against his own better judgement. Posing as a therapist, Simon concluded that the laboured eloquence which Wells displayed in arguing against racial differences could be taken as an indication that his deeper convictions were to the contrary (1937, 49). According to Simon, it was Wells’s English blood which led him to argue

31

‘Wells will nicht die Unmenschlichkeit einer menschlichen Höherzüchtung bei Ausserachtlassung einer bewussten Rassenhygiene einsehen. Sein Ziel einer fortschrittlichen Veredlung der ganzen Menschheit ist tatsächlich eine Utopie, genau wie es der Weltstaat und der Weltfriede sind.’

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for imperialism and white supremacy, while his liberal politics prevented him from fully acknowledging his suppressed inner feelings. Simon’s argument is interesting because of its resemblance to the Nazis’ outlook. It is known, for instance, that as an adolescent Hitler had a deep respect for the British because their empire proved to him the superiority of Western Europeans. Apart from Jews and Africans, the Nazis’ racism was directed, first of all, against East European Slavs who were disparagingly referred to as Untermenschen. With the outbreak of the Second World War, the idea of Anglo-German kinship that had been widely held in the English Studies departments of German universities gave way to an open hostility (Strobl 2000, 95; Bode 2002, 214), but even in 1940 Hitler had not given up his hope of winning England as an ally in his intended conquest of the East.32 Simon’s argument fits well into this scheme. By claiming that Wells’s show of non-racism conflicted with his deeper beliefs, Simon demonstrated that the English author may have succumbed to the influence of false ideologies but was not wholly capable of denying his own racial superiority. Predictably, it was the Jewish race which was Simon’s major concern. Again criticizing the views of his fellow Aryan, Simon argued that Wells’s dreams of a brotherhood of humankind betrayed a ‘naïve ignorance’ which did not recognize the ‘corrupting and parasitic’ actions of the Jews in European history (1937, 51). Simon himself was eager to point to the ‘fundamental and eternal differences’ between the races (1937, 50), concluding that ‘our [i.e. the National Socialists’] concept of race is probably entirely incomprehensible to him [i.e. Wells]’33 (1937, 51). In this one instance Simon was probably right. Since Wells’s ideas concerning utopian leadership seemed to bear affinities with the Führerprinzip, Simon paid close attention to them. Wells’s concrete proposals, however, met with Simon’s disapproval. In Simon’s view, Wells had compromised himself, being unwilling to throw his cosmopolitan leanings overboard (1937, 35). Simon concluded that, if Wells’s views corresponded to any revolutionary movement at all, it was to Communism rather than Fascism. Wells, for instance, was unwilling to acknowledge the principle of work as an end in itself. Simon complained that Wells tended to describe the farmer as an ‘agricultural animal’ rather than as ‘the proud owner of his native soil’34 (1937, 38). There is little doubt that in 1937 Simon believed the future lay with his ideology. It was with satisfaction that he contemplated how deeply disappointing the current state of the world must have seemed to Wells. Triumphantly,

32

33 34

It is likely that this hope extended well into the summer of 1941, when Hitler withdrew from his earlier plans of invading the British Isles in favour of a surprise attack on the Soviet Union. The question as to whether Rudolf Hess was authorized by Hitler when he flew to the British Isles in May 1941 in order to offer peace negotiations remains unanswered. On Hitler’s attitude towards the British, cf. Strobl 2000, 43ff. ‘unser Rassebegriff ist ihm wohl gänzlich unbegreiflich’. ‘der stolze Herr seiner Scholle’.

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Simon noted that in many European states a former internationalist orientation had given way to a new nationalist outlook. He wrote, In the majority of all states politics is becoming decidedly national. Dictatorships like the ones in Italy, Turkey and Spain are striking examples of a general national selfdetermination of peoples that can be observed throughout the world.35 (1937, 59)

The fact that Simon mentioned Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violent struggle for independence in this context may strike the modern reader as odd. If one takes into account, however, that Gandhi at that time represented a serious adversary to the British Empire, his reference was not irrational. To Simon, Gandhi represented yet a further instance of the advancing nationalism (1937, 59). What the Nazis had in mind, however, when they referred to the ‘general national selfdetermination of peoples’, was revealed a few years later when they sought to justify their war of extermination in Eastern Europe by pointing to the German people’s alleged ‘right’ to Lebensraum.36 To the National Socialists, the concept of ‘self-determination’ was not tied to any binding international law, but could only mean that all peoples were uncompromisingly exposed to the principle of the ‘survival of the fittest’. In Simon’s analysis, Wells was a representative of the past, an indication of the decadence and morbidity that Oswald Spengler had described in his influential book Der Untergang des Abendlandes (The Decline of the West) (Simon 1937, 85). In assigning Wells to a bygone period of European intellectual history, Simon endeavoured to ridicule an author who, decades earlier, had declared ‘the discovery of the future’ his personal mission. Simon concluded that Wells had eventually become a stubborn old man who was not willing to admit that his lifework had failed (1937, 66f): H. G. Wells, who once vitally dedicated his restless work and energy to a victory of the new over the old, now himself belongs to a reality which has been overcome. He lacks the vitality which enables man to overcome the false idols of the nineteenth century and to consider new ideals.37 (1937, 68)

In his conclusion ‘Die Uberwindung der Utopie’ (The overcoming of utopia), Simon explained these new ideals. It was the Führerprinzip and the concept of the ‘man of deeds’ which in his view were to replace the pipe dreams of the past (1937, 89).

35

36 37

‘Die Politik wird in der großen Mehrheit der Staaten betont national. Diktaturen wie die in Italien, der Türkei und Spanien sind die auffallendsten Beispiele für eine allgemeine, in der Welt zu beobachtende nationale Selbstbestimmung der Völker.’ ‘living space’. ‘H. G. Wells, der einst mit ungeheurem Vitalismus seine rastlose Arbeit und Energie dem Sieg des Neuen über das Alte widmete, gehört heute selbst einer überwundenen Vergangenheit an, weil ihm die Vitalität mangelt, die die Gegenwart befähigt, die falschen Götzen des 19. Jahrhunderts zu überwinden und sich neuen Idealen zuzuwenden.’

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Exile perspectives: Ulrich Sonnemann Ulrich Sonnemann’s dissertation of 1935 reveals a very different perspective from the ones discussed so far. As can be judged from the curriculum vitae which is annexed to his thesis, the author’s personal life had been severely affected by recent political developments. During the last years of the Weimar Republic, Sonnemann had studied in Berlin, Freiburg and Frankfurt where he attended the courses of several prominent scholars. In his CV, Sonnemann mentioned, among others, Eduard Spranger, the reformist pedagogue, Martin Heidegger, the philosopher, Karl Mannheim, the sociologist, Paul Tillich, the theologian, and Henryk de Man, sociologist and future minister of the Belgian government. Sonnemann remarked that he had barely started work on his dissertation when his supervisors were dismissed from Frankfurt University at the beginning of 1933. He had then moved to Vienna where he enrolled for courses delivered by the psychologists Alfred Adler and Karl Bühler, but soon found his lectures suspended because of riots involving local Nazis. At the beginning of 1934 he moved to Basel in order to finish his dissertation.38 It was as a student at the Institut für Sozialforschung (Institute for social research) at the University of Frankfurt that Sonnemann was inspired to write his thesis on Wells. During the final years of the Weimar Republic, distinguished scholars such as Karl Mannheim, Norbert Elias, Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno were associated with this institute. In early 1933, however, the fate of the so-called Frankfurter Schule (Frankfurt school) was sealed. Among conservatives the humanities departments at Frankfurt University had a notorious reputation for being Jewish and leftist, and within a few weeks of the Nazis’ takeover many lecturers had been expelled. While other universities lost about 15 per cent of their staff in 1933, Frankfurt lost around a third. Karl Mannheim, who had agreed to supervise Sonnemann’s thesis on Wells, was forced into exile and became a lecturer at the London School of Economics. Like the other works discussed here, Sonnemann’s dissertation provides evidence for Wells’s status as a political and social thinker in the first half of the twentieth century. Sonnemann grouped Wells’s works under three headings: (1) imaginative works including scientific romances; (2) realistic novels which displayed a criticism of contemporary society; and (3) prophetic visions. It was the third class which Sonnemann regarded as the most important. Wells’s utopianism had made the author’s international reputation and demonstrated his maturity as a writer (1935, 17f). In Wells’s recent works his biological, historical, political and sociological thought had been integrated into one complete whole (1935, 18). Despite this general appreciation of the author’s work, however, Sonnemann’s attitude to Wells was not uncritical. He detected in Wells’s collectivist ideas similarities with both Marxist and Fascist ideologies (1935, 37). Sonnemann’s discussion of Wells reflected his own intellectual background.

38

What Sonnemann did not mention in his CV was the fact that he had been forced to emigrate from Germany also because of his Jewish descent.

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While his dialectical interpretation of the historical process was probably due to his early fascination for Friedrich Wilhelm Hegel, his scepticism regarding the rational character of humanity corresponded to his interest in the psychoanalytical theories of Alfred Adler.39 The emphasis which Sonnemann put on Wells’s pedagogical ideas shows the impact of his early interest in the theories of Eduard Spranger, a prominent representative of reformed pedagogics. After all, it was Wells’s role as educationalist which Sonnemann appreciated the most. The author stressed the fact that Wells’s educational ideas rested on an internationalist perspective. It was not the nation that would benefit from pedagogical endeavours, but humankind as a whole. Sonnemann’s conclusive statement on Wells’s educational thinking has a nostalgic ring to it and it indicates the author’s despair about the state of the world in the 1930s: There is an American optimism in these remarks [i.e. Wells’s educational ideas in The Open Conspiracy], an imperturbable confidence in human reason and goodness. It has only been a few years since this could be detected in all liberal and progressive editorials, and with this optimism national borders and other restrictions seemed to vanish.40 (1935, 44)

Turning from pedagogical to philosophical matters, Sonnemann detected latemedieval nominalism as a principal source of Wells’s thought. Adopting Max Weber’s well-known phrase, the author explained that nominalism could be regarded as the first ‘disenchantment of the world’41 (1935, 21). Sonnemann ascribed the scepticism that Wells displayed towards any kind of classificatory system to the influence of nominalism no less than to his Darwinist training. It was nominalism which led Wells to regard verbal concepts, such as the ‘British Empire’ or ‘British Society’, not as Platonic ideas, true and everlasting, but as social constructs which were open to change and transformation. Sonnemann himself stressed the fact that nominalism had enabled humanity to reject traditions that by some were still thought to be God-given (1935, 29). The process of Entzauberung, which had also shaped Wells’s way of thinking, was to be regarded as an important European accomplishment and a precondition for humanity’s triumph over ignorance. As for political matters, it is interesting that Sonnemann stressed the similarities which existed between Wells’s thought and contemporary political developments in the United States. The author remarked that of all the recent political movements, it was Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal which bore the closest

39

40

41

Cf. Sonnemann’s critical statement on Wells’s belief in humanity’s rationality: ‘in its historical existence reason is embedded in irrational contexts and is derived from them’ (‘in ihrem geschichtlichen Sein steht Vernunft in irrationalen Zusammenhängen und ist aus ihnen geboren’, 1935, 55). ‘Es liegt ein amerikanischer Optimismus, ein unbeirrbares Vertrauen auf menschliche Vernunft und Güte in diesen Sätzen. Erst wenige Jahre ist es her, daß dieser Ton der Ton aller liberalen und reformistischen Leitartikel der Welt war, vor diesem Hochgefühle die Grenzen der Länder und andere Grenzen zu verblassen schienen.’ ‘Entzauberung der Welt’.

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similarities to Wells’s political and economic programme (1935, 56). That Wells, at least for a time, felt enthusiastic about the New Deal is well documented. Wells had visited the United States in 1934 and had met Roosevelt personally.42 Early on, the New Dealers had demonstrated an open-mindedness towards the idea of social planning, and in his Experiment in Autobiography Wells would pay respect to the President by referring to his ‘astonishing effort so to regulate a loose capitalist system as to thrust it rapidly towards State Socialism’ (1934, II: 744).43 It seems that Roosevelt’s innovative approach to government was of great interest, not only for Wells but also for Sonnemann who, being driven out of Germany, directed his attention towards the Western democracies (1935, 21). On the other hand, Sonnemann’s attitude towards the idea of social engineering was not entirely uncritical. He complained that Wells tended to regard human society as a mere machine that could be improved by a skilful engineer. Sonnemann rejected the analogy between society and the machine and stressed the dialectical character of all social processes. Society could only be influenced from within, not governed from without (1935, 24). It was on the same grounds that Sonnemann also criticized Wells’s view of history. Obviously influenced by Hegel and nineteenth-century German historicism, the author regretted that Wells had not recognized the dialectical nature of historical processes (1935, 26). In viewing the history of mankind as a homogeneous process, Wells betrayed a rather uncritical confidence in the explanatory models of the natural sciences which implied that a scientific observer could remain unaffected by the objects of his investigation. Probably with Hegel’s concept of Geistesgeschichte in mind,44 Sonnemann criticized Wells’s concept of history as reductive: What is peculiar about Wells is the fact his views do not include a perspective from ‘in and among the things’. On the contrary, the myth is kept alive that historical facts can be fully understood from an outsider’s perspective. It is not by accident that the author considers his objects within a scientific framework and deals with them as parts of a ‘theory of life’. No attention is paid to the fact that human history is essentially different from natural history precisely because it is shaped by the human intellect.45 (1935, 33)

42

43

44

45

See Wells’s own account in EA (1934, II: 780ff). As early as 1933 Roosevelt had sent a letter to Wells in which he declared that he had read almost all of Wells’s works ‘with pleasure and profit’ (Hamano 2001, 36). Wells and Roosevelt met again in 1935 and 1937. A year later, Wells critically discussed the achievements and shortcomings of the New Deal in NA, but still had high hopes for the President’s efforts. In an interview of February 1990, Sonnemann acknowledged his early admiration for Hegel which he was to revise later in his life. The interview can be found on the web-page of the Ulrich Sonnemann-Gesellschaft, www.uni-kassel.de. ‘Das Merkwürdige bei Wells ist aber nun, dass von einem [. . .] ‘In den und mit den Dingen sein’ [. . .] keine Rede sein kann, vielmehr die Fiktion des Erkennens geschichtlicher Dinge als eines Erfassens von aussen objizierbarer Zusammenhänge aufrechterhalten bleibt; nicht umsonst ist es dem Autor um eine naturwissenschaftliche Betrachtung der Dinge zu tun, nicht umsonst stellt er sie in den

124

The Reception of H. G. Wells in Europe

Although statements such as this reveal a critical attitude, Sonnemann was sympathetic to Wells. His criticism related to Wells’s view of history and raised questions as to the practicality of his World State programme. Wells’s internationalist orientation and his promotion of a ‘liberal socialism’, however, met with the author’s approval. For Sonnemann they represented valuable alternatives to both capitalist and communist schemes. Of the four scholars discussed here, only Sonnemann seems to have extended his scholarly work beyond the war and it is appropriate, therefore, to take a brief look at his later career. From his exile in Basel, the author moved to Zurich and Brussels, where he became an internee after Hitler’s invasion of Belgium in May 1940. Having stayed in France for several months, he finally managed to move to the United States where he arrived in 1941. Here, he worked as a psychologist for the US army and published his first books. In 1958 he returned to Germany where in 1973 he became Professor of Philosophy at Kassel University. In subsequent decades Sonnemann continued to write and publish, his major work being the Negative Anthropologie (Negative anthropology) of 1969. Sonnemann enjoyed a reputation as a critical observer of post-war German society, and he actively participated in the political and cultural debates of 1968.46 He died in 1993, almost sixty years after the publication of his doctoral thesis.47 Conclusion The four studies discussed above exemplify not only different readings of H. G. Wells, but also the different ways in which German academics reacted to the Nazis’ seizure of power. While Barber’s thesis remained relatively unaffected by current political developments, Mattick’s already bore traces of the ongoing Gleichschaltung. In contrast to the works of these two scholars, Simon’s thesis of 1937 not only conformed to the new politics but consciously espoused Nazi ideology. Writing in exile, only Sonnemann was able to maintain his intellectual independence. Although Simon and Sonnemann differed from each other in almost all other respects, they shared the view that Wells’s optimistic utopianism had lost its political relevance in the 1930s. While Sonnemann regretted this fact, Simon revelled in it. At least for a time Nazi propagandists seemed to succeed in talking their audience into believing that an internationalist perspective was the remnant of a decadent past, while their own nationalism

cont. Rahmen einer ‘Lehre vom Leben’. Dass die Geschichte der Menschheit gerade wegen des in ihr erscheinenden menschlichen Bewusstseins [. . .] etwas von aller Naturgeschichte Wesensverschiedenes ist, bleibt ausser acht.’ 46 Cf. the essays in Sonnemann (1968) as well as his various radio broadcasts listed in Fiebig (1992). 47 In 1996, a scholarly society, the Ulrich Sonnemann-Gesellschaft, was founded in his honour (for further details cf. Schmied-Kowarzik 1992).

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pointed to a glorious future. To the National Socialists, liberals such as Sonnemann represented the value system of a world which they believed to be in retreat. The outcome of the Second World War, however, ensured that Sonnemann’s internationalist perspective would outlive those of his contemporaries. The United Nations, established in 1945, resembled Wells’s democratic world government, even if the looming Cold War would soon reveal its lack of political influence.48 Conceived in terms of Wells’s ‘kinetic utopia’, the UN could be regarded as a ‘hopeful stage, leading to a long ascent of stages’ (Wells 1994, 5). Despite what Wells’s Nazi critic had predicted in 1937, it was not the new nationalism that determined ‘the shape of things to come’ in 1945, but the ‘imperturbable confidence in human reason and goodness’ which Sonnemann had detected in Wells’s writings in 1935.

48

In retrospect, Sonnemann seems to have been right to point to the affinities of Wellsian thought and Rooseveltian politics. There are indications, for instance, that Roosevelt was inspired by Wells’s internationalist schemes when he declared the Four Freedoms in 1941 and thus paved the way for the establishment of the United Nations in 1945 (cf. Dilloway 1983, 5).

8

H. G. Wells’s Polish Reception Andrzej Juszczyk

Despite the somewhat perplexing nature of some of the translations,1 H. G. Wells’s texts have had a well-established place in Polish intellectual life. His influence has been most evident in Polish science fiction, but his tracts, futurological writings and journalism have also been frequently discussed in Polish literary journals. Numerous reviews and discussions of new works by Wells (even of those which had yet to be translated into Polish), as well as aesthetic and ideological disputes, were published in Poland. The reception of Wells in Poland is a rich though temporally limited phenomenon. From the beginning of the twentieth century to the outbreak of the Second World War, the works of Wells were frequently published in Poland and enjoyed a wide readership. After the war Wells was regarded as an important inventor of science fiction whose novels no longer commanded the readership of former times. ˙ uławski, The first Polish writers of science fiction and fantasy, such as Jerzy Z Bruno Winawer and Antoni Słonimski, worked more or less consciously under Wells’s spell. The writer most identified with Wells’s reception in Poland is the country’s most important science-fiction writer, Stanisław Lem. Lem’s novels and tracts, however, reveal little which can be readily traced to the writings of Wells. Rather, in his science-fiction writing Lem often uses plot schemes which have their origins in Wells but which act as a point of departure for the construction of his literary and ideological polemics. H. G. Wells in Polish journalism and literary criticism Polish journalistic and critical statements on Wells and his work can be divided into four general areas, differing chronologically as well as in terms of subject: his reception up to 1945, as represented in a few, largely superficial texts; numerous articles and reviews, dating from the 1940s to the 1970s, discussing Wells as a friend of socialism and of technological progress; anti-Wellsian

1

For a discussion of this aspect of Wells’s reception in Poland, see Palczewski’s chapter in this volume.

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Catholic dissertations of the 1940s; and, between the 1960s and the 1990s, essays treating Wells simply as a writer of obsolete utopias and influential science fiction, and as an uncommon but inspiring historian. Although the first references to Wells appeared in Polish-language journals as early as the nineteenth century (‘Podróz˙ w czasie’ 1899, 352), serious recognition of his work did not begin until the end of the first decade of the twentieth. In various texts of Stanisław Brzozowski, one of the most important Polish essayists and thinkers of the time, there are references which demonstrate his profound knowledge of Wells’s novels and articles. In 1910, in the essay ‘Bergson i Sorel’ (Bergson and Sorel), Brzozowski refers directly to Wells’s social and philosophical ideas, especially to his opinions regarding the influence of the ‘logical misapprehension of Greek metaphysics’2 on European philosophy (1990b, 265). Brzozowski agrees with Wells in general and only objects to superficial details. He treats as naïve Wells’s ‘unmerciful satires on the state of thought and ethics which are also the bases for his philosophical and reformative compositions’3 (1990b, 282). In another essay, entitled ‘Kilka uwag o ogólnym stanie literatury europejskiej i o zadaniach krytyki literackiej’ (Some notes about the general condition of European literature and the role of literary criticism) (1912), Brzozowski treats the name of Wells as a synonym for a ‘world-famous contemporary writer’4 (1990a, 1179) and uses the phrase ‘morlockism’ as a means of describing the possible partition and degeneration of future human generations. However, Brzozowski’s notes in his Pamie˛tniki (Diaries) (1913) show his acutest observations. These thoughts, made shortly before the author’s death, often concentrate on Wells’s novels of manners, such as Kipps or Tono-Bungay. One of the most important features in these novels, according to Brzozowski, is the ‘impersonal forbearance’5 with which Wells demonstrates human weakness (1913, 158). Brzozowski repeats several times that the observation of a ‘little dirt’6 by Wells is simply reality for all people and it should be accepted because ‘life is a process which to a high degree is outside of our personal control’7 (1913, 166). As well as commenting on Wells’s philosophy, Wells is also reflected in Brzozowski’s own writings. The Polish author often uses quotations from Wells’s texts as a starting point for his own reflections. The last note in his Pamie˛tniki, written three weeks before his death, proves the importance of Wells to Brzozowski:

2

3

4 5 6 7

‘nieporozumienie logiczne metafizyków greckich’. All the translations from Polish to English in this chapter are mine. ‘niemiłosierne satyry na ten sam stan umyslłowy i moralny, który jest podstawa˛ jego utworów filozoficznych i reformatorskich’. ‘wybitny pisarz nowoczesny’. ‘bezosobowej wyrozumiałos´ci’. ‘brudnawych’. ‘z˙ycie jest procesem w niesłychanym stopniu przekraczaja˛cym zakres naszej osobistej kontroli.’

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The Reception of H. G. Wells in Europe

‘Mental hinterland’ of H. W. [sic] Wells – don’t forget it, don’t lose sight of it. At least I wasn’t wrong – that’s after all something close to Mark Twain’s ‘it’. Wells gives a rather interesting point of view on politics. Every class has its own way of life and fulfilled or unfulfilled needs results from it.8 (1913, 168 emphasis in the original)

Following this passage, he goes on to write about the instability of social and political systems. These last words, written by one of the most important Polish intellectuals of the time, are significant. It is a pity that Brzozowski could not write essays about Wells as he planned (Nowowiejski 1946, 13), for there can be little doubt that they would have been the most important Polish works on Wells. Brzozowski was among the few Polish critics who gave serious thought to Wells. Kazimierz Nowowiejski (1946, 12–13) notes that, despite the publication of many editions of a few of his novels, Wells in actual fact was virtually unknown in Poland before 1939. This is understandable due to the insufficient knowledge of English and the limited access to new English literature in Poland at that time. Leon Piwin´ski has observed that, before 1921, only ‘four fantasy novels, two novels of manners, one volume of sketches and a few short stories’9 (1921, 106) were translated into Polish. In Poland Wells was acknowledged only as an author of popular literature for teenagers looking for books with an attractive plot. Nowowiejski calls this circumstance paradoxical: this ‘socialist, radical mutineer and world reformer in Poland is known as a noble author for youth’10 (1946, 12). Apart from his early scientific romances, the works that became well known were Experiment in Autobiography (Próba autobiografii) and A Short History of the World (Historia S´wiata), translated into Polish in 1938 and 1924, respectively. But even Wells’s work of history did not arouse enthusiasm amongst the critics; a review from Tygodnik Ilustrowany (Illustrated Weekly) complains that it is merely an acceptable repetition of a school history text and, despite its uncommon beginning, the tract could not be recognized as representing a new historical point of view (‘E. M.’ 1935, 1078). At that time in the Polish press there were many unfortunate though characteristic (mis)interpretations of Wells’s works to be found. For example, a review in Tygodnik Ilustrowany, one of the most influential cultural magazines in Poland between the wars, perceives in The Salvaging of Civilisation ‘an excursion into a future motivated only by artistic need and not by wishes for social or political action’11 (Menkas 1922, 119). Misunderstandings of Wells’s texts result in

8

9 10

11

‘ “Mental hinterland” H. W. [sic] Wellsa nie zapomniec´ i nie stracic´ z oczu. W gruncie rzeczy nie myliłem sie˛ – jest to przeciez˙ cos´ spowinowaconego z owem “it” Marka Twaina. Dos´c´ ciekawy punkt widzenia w polityce przy czytaniu Wellsa. Kaz˙da klasa ma swój sposób na z˙ycie i wynikaja˛ce z niego zaspokojone lub niezaspokojone potrzeby.’ ‘cztery powies´ci fantastyczne, dwie obyczajowe, tom szkiców i kilkanas´cie nowel’. ‘socjalista, radykał, buntownik i reformator s´wiata znany u nas jako cnotliwy autor młodziez˙owy’. ‘wycieczke˛ w przyszłos´c´ podejmowana˛ tylko z motywów artystycznych, nie z che˛ci oddziaływania społecznego czy politycznego’.

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expressions of forbearance and disregard, such as in the review of Bealby (Filozof w opalach) (1931) in which the critic calls the work a ‘pretty little book which fortunately does not address serious problems’12 (Skiwski 1931, 234). Again, a review of the English publication of Men Like Gods13 shows the story as an interesting example of an adventure novel, though suffering the defect of too much dialogue (‘Mieszaniny literackie’ 1923, 99). In a piece about the English edition of The World of William Clissold, Zbigniew Grabowski writes ironically: ‘as usual in a Wellsian text a lack of visions of the future would be impossible’14 (1927, 99). The review of Experiment in Autobiography is another example of forbearance and disrespect. The author, Marian Słabosz, shows Wells as ‘a premature man’15 to whom success came too soon. In his opinion Wells wrote his best-sellers too early and this accounted for his infantilism as represented in his atheism, his scientific mania and his progressivism (1937, 6). An anonymous sketch concerning Wells’s novel, The Shape of Things to Come (1933), can be seen as a most engaging and serious, albeit isolated, utterance. Its author refers to Wells’s opinions about Poland, quoting fragments of text concerning the relationship between Poland and Lithuania, the situation of national minorities in Poland, the question of the Free City of Gdan´sk and the issue of Poland’s access to the sea. The author does not even argue with Wells because ‘his thesis isn’t worthy of attention’16 but he enumerates Wells’s mistakes, especially his exaggeration of the largeness of the towns in German Pomerania. Wells’s unfavourable prognosis for Poland – such as the outbreak of war over Gdan´sk between Germany and Poland in 1940 – is put down to his antipathy towards Poland and the influence of German propaganda. The critic writes that ‘Wells is substantially our enemy and so arguments militating in our favour will hurt his feelings’17 (‘Herbert George Wells – wróg Polski’ 1933, 853). The Wellsian vision of Poland’s future, although it has proved to be rather accurate, was not taken seriously. Only after the war did Polish journalists begin to speak well of Wells’s ‘prophecy’ concerning the conflict over Gdan´sk, and they did not remember his alleged ‘aversion’ towards Poland. Nowowiejski says that among Polish cultural magazines only Wiadomos´ci Literackie (Literary tidings) – and especially its critic, Antoni Słonimski – recognized Wells as a serious writer and thinker (1946, 12–13). Still, although contemporary journalists did not appreciate his work, he was continuously present in the literary consciousness of the epoch. Frequent notes in Polish newspapers about speeches and articles written by Wells seem to confirm this observation. An anonymous journalist for Tygodnik Ilustrowany, describing an article by Wells

12 13 14 15 16 17

‘s´liczna ksia˛z˙eczka, na szcze˛s´cie bez grubszej problematyki’. The story only appeared in Polish, under the title of Ludzie jak bogowie, in 1959. ‘jak to u Wellsa nie mogło zabrakna˛c´ wizji przyszłos´ci’. ‘przedwczes´nie dojrzałego’. ‘nie warto sie˛ nimi przejmowac´’. ‘Wells jest naszym wrogiem zasadniczo i z zamiłowania, wie˛c argumenty, przemawiaja˛ce na nasza˛ korzys´c´ sprawiłyby mu przykros´c´ osobista˛.’

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The Reception of H. G. Wells in Europe

published in the Sunday Express, ‘People die but man never dies’,18 focuses upon the great impression made by the literary dialectic of this text. He admits that Wells displays a commanding skill at popularizing problems that seem completely new for a general audience although they are rather obvious to intellectuals (‘Idee i zdarzenia’ 1930, 1096). A few years later Polish readers were made thoroughly acquainted with the speech delivered by Wells during his seventieth birthday celebration19 (‘Literatura za granica˛’ 1934, 26), but the interest in the English writer’s life should not be treated as a spontaneous act of admiration – Wells was used mainly as an international authority warning against Hitlerism. These few examples cannot change the reality of the lacklustre reception received by Wells’s works in Poland between the wars. The reason for this lack of interest seems mainly to be due to the poor translations of Wells’s books into Polish, though this problem was mentioned in some reviews of his work. For example, Leon Piwin´ski did not conceal his indignation with Barbara Beaupré, the translator of Joan and Peter (Janka i Piotr), who omitted almost half of the novel, giving her own summary of the beginnings and the ends of successive paragraphs instead. Moreover, the translator deliberately skipped many fragments or changed the meaning of others judged by her to be embarrassing – mainly atheistic ones (1921, 108). Thus, the common reception of Wells was restricted to bad translations of popular novels. Nevertheless, some eminent Polish Anglicists such as R. Dyboski or Władysław Tarnawski regarded Wells as a mere scribbler (Nowowiejski 1946, 13). Strictly speaking, besides newspaper criticism, no detailed criticism of his work was taken up. Indeed, the first Polish-language study of Wells, Herbert George Wells o ´swiecie i o Polsce (Herbert George Wells about the world and about Poland) (1943) by Adam Pragier, was published in England during the Second World War. Pragier concentrates mainly on demolishing Wells’s social and political opinions, leaving out all references to Wells as a writer. The author rejects the notion of Wells as a socialist, arguing that he avoids the idea of class struggle or social division in general in his futurological visions (1943, 13–17). The Polish author objected strongly to Wells’s overvaluing of words, such as his illusive belief that to name human faults was to eliminate them (1943, 14). Pragier’s polemic concerns also the idea of the World State and Wells’s rejection of nationalism, his rationalism and his elitism (1943, 21, 25). He laughs at the

18

19

Although the Tygodnik Ilustrowany refers to a Wells Sunday Express article of 1930 entitled ‘People die but man never dies’, I can find no trace of this article in any bibliographical source. It is possible that the journal is, in fact, referring to Wells’s article of 1927 entitled ‘Is a belief in a spirit world growing? Why many sensible men continue to doubt and disregard it. What is immortality?’, which was reprinted in WWG (1929, 315–24), before again being reprinted in the Sunday Express in 1929 under the shortened title, ‘What is Immortality?’. The political significance of this speech is that it referred to freedom of expression and its abuse in contemporary Europe. The birthday dinner was a major event sponsored by the International PEN Club in London. For further details of the speech and the dinner, see Smith 1986, 423.

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writer’s idea of ‘air control’, comparing it to Hitler’s proposal to the League of Nations on 15 March 1936, a proposal for creating a European security system based on an international airforce (1943, 36–37). In the end Pragier imputes to the English writer a naïve, superficial, helpless and biblical20 view of reality (1943, 22–28) and even accuses him of creating his own neo-religion by seeking a symbolic sign for the world revival after the war (1943, 38). He also accuses Wells of anticlericalism and an aversion to Catholics (1943, 81), anti-Polonism (1943, 96) and anti-Semitism (1943, 112).21 After the Second World War in socialist Poland Wells became one of the most respected persons from Western Europe but this does not mean that his books were widely read. In fact he was assumed to be a friend of socialism and a person who anticipated a new European reality. Although in 1945 H. Michalski wrote that Wells is ‘a typical western bourgeois intellectual who cannot understand that capitalism caused the war and who neglects the importance of the proletariat’22 (1945, 1), within a year the perception of Wells had emphatically changed. The first occasion for the myth of Wells as a ‘friend of socialism’ to be propagated came with the death of the writer. In almost every Polish newspaper there were articles and notes about Wells and his work. The majority of pieces presented him as a person extraordinarily close to the young socialist country. A. Grodzicki wrote that Wells was always a socialist and pacifist who dreamed of universal peace and progress (Grodzicki seemed not to remember ‘the bourgeois blindness’) and one whose greatest achievement was the prediction of the military use of nuclear power (1946, 5). J. Kaltenbergh in Trybuna Robotnicza (Labour tribune) – one of the most important Communist newspapers – called Wells a ‘capitalist’ but he immediately added that the author of Men like Gods always showed the defects of the capitalist system and he was ‘a progressive enemy of superstitions’23 (1946, 5). Kaltenbergh recalled Wells’s visit to the Soviet Union in 1934 (but he did not write about his first visit to Communist Russia in 1920) and his conversation with Stalin after which Wells became ‘a true admirer of Stalin’24 (1946, 5). He points to The War of the Worlds as the greatest Wellsian work because in this novel he presents ‘in a symbolic way colonial oppression’25 (1946, 5). In the same journal just two days later, Jan Brzoza rectified Kaltenbergh’s statement saying that Wells ‘was a socialist

20 21

22

23 24 25

‘Biblical’ based on Wells’s use of a heaven/hell opposition in his writings. Pragier’s antipathy towards Wells survived long after the war. In his review of Lovat Dickson’s H. G. Wells: His Turbulent Life and Times (1969), published in Wiadomos´ci (Tidings) (1970), a London-based Polish cultural magazine, Pragier wrote with evident satisfaction that Wells, who a few years before had been famous, was by that time completely forgotten. ‘typowym zachodnim intelektualis´cie, który jako reprezentant burz˙uazji nie mógł zrozumiec´, z˙e to kapitalizm był przyczyna˛ wojny ani docenic´ roli proletariatu’. ‘poste˛powym wrogiem przesa˛dów’. ‘Wells był szczerym wielbicielem Stalina.’ ‘przedstawiony symbolicznie ucisk kolonialny’.

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The Reception of H. G. Wells in Europe

activist’26 and he was one of the first to defend the October Revolution (Brzoza 1946, 7). Perhaps this significant change of terms (from ‘capitalist’ to ‘socialist’) occurred because ‘a capitalist’ could not show such support for revolution or be deemed a friend of Stalin. Similar texts about Wells appeared in Dziennik Polski (Polish daily) (‘Herbert ˙ ycie George Wells’ 1946), Odrodzenie (Regeneration) (Helsztyn´ski 1946), Z ˙ ycie Literackie (Literary life) Warszawy (Warsaw life) (Brodski 1946) and Z (Nowowiejski 1946). From this time, for socialist journalism, Wells became an estimable and safe (because he was dead) authority who could be used for purposes of socialist propaganda. In 1947 M. Borowicz quoted from ’42 to ’44 (this book has never been translated) some critical opinions about Charles de Gaulle to explicate how dangerous for peace the French president was (1947, 4). The comparison between de Gaulle and Hitler made by Wells was very useful for contemporary pro-Soviet Polish politics. In 1951, on Stalin’s birthday, the weekly Przekrój (Profile) published the text of the conversation between Stalin and Wells from 1934; Wells was used as the famous Western writer whose authority could confirm Stalin’s grandness (‘Rozmowa Józefa Stalina z Herbertem Georgem Wellesem’ 1951, 5). At this time journalists were interested only in Wells’s social novels, such as Kipps, Tono-Bungay or The History of Mr Polly, perhaps because his science fiction did not suit the admirers of Stalin (Brodski 1946, 5). In contemporary journalism Wells also functioned as the ‘prophet of the atomic bomb’ (in The World Set Free) on the one hand, and as the patron of the socialist ‘battle for peace’27 on the other (Ostrowski 1951, 5). Erwina GrotenStrzelecka, writing about Tono-Bungay on the occasion of its publication in Polish in 1956, named Wells as an ‘anti-capitalist’ who ‘portrays the waste-land of capitalistic imperial England’,28 criticizes the Western social system and asks questions about the causes of working-class poverty. She recognized that Wells was ahead of his time and it was fifty years before the reality verified his idealistic utopia. But finally she said that his realistic critique of capitalist society was confirmed (1956, 8). The tenth anniversary of Wells’s death was used as an occasion for remembering his ideas. The most common way to commemorate Wells in newspapers and magazines was through the publication of Maxim Gorky’s letter to Wells of 21 February 1923 (1923a, 7; 1923b, 149; 1923c, 8; 1923d, 6; 1923e, 25). One year later, Józef Hen in the essay ‘Prawdziwa twarz H. G. Wellsa’ (True face of H. G. Wells) named Wells a ‘believer in Darwin and Marx’29 and remembered that his great authority as a writer had sometimes been called into question (perhaps here alluding to Catholic anti-Wellsian critiques). In contrast to the prevailing opinion, Hen declared that the most important of Wells’s books were his science fiction and short stories rather than the social novels, and he

26 27 28 29

‘działaczem socjalistycznym’. ‘walki o pokój’. ‘ukazuje jalowa˛ ziemie˛ kapitalistycznej, imperialnej Anglii’. ‘wyznawca Darwina i Marksa’.

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focused upon the meeting between Wells and Lenin (rather than that between Wells and Stalin). Hen’s only objection to Wells concerned his ignorance of Slav and Polish history in The Outline of History (1957, 7). Leszek Elektorowicz remarked that Wells’s socialism was ‘a natural and most consequential – almost biological – principle of humanity’.30 Elektorowicz wrote that although Wells was not a true Marxist he could see the cause of historical change in ‘class struggle’ (1966, 7). If we remember the slashing critique of Wells’s socialism in Pragier’s book, this notation seems a little surprising! New tendencies in the socialist recognition of Wells appeared after the first Polish edition of Russia in the Shadows (Rosja we mgle) (1961) was published. In addition to Wells’s text, this publication contained an introduction by the Russian philologist, G. Krzyz˙anowski, as well as a special supplement containing reproductions of Lenin’s notations made in his English copy of the book (though it must be pointed out that these ‘notations’ are in fact confined simply to underlinings). Reviews of Russia in the Shadows complained that Wells had not trusted Lenin and felt anxious about socialist revolution in his own country (Zielin´ski 1961; ‘L’ 1961). Although reviewers declared that events had proven Wells wrong on the possibilities of the Soviet system (a good example being the Soviet success of sending the first person into space), Wells was recognized as an honest and brave writer who had supported the October Revolution (Kozioł 1965, 44). Apart from this ideological reception, there were also politically neutral interpretations of Wells’s work which showed the historical background to his utopian socialism (as in the case of Z. Jaremko-Pytkowska’s ‘We˛drówka w strone˛ utopii’ [Towards utopia] or Daniel Grinberg’s ‘Socjalistyczny romans wiktorian´skich intelektualistów’ [The socialist romance of Victorian intellectuals]). In 1957 Adam Kaska wrote that Wells’s utopian socialism and his political naïvety – like his trust in Stalin’s conversion – were anachronistic and ridiculous even before the war (1957, 17). After the war, in the Catholic press (Tygodnik Powszechny [Ecumenical weekly], Znak [Sign] and Wie˛z´ [Union]), Wells was shown as a great danger to the Polish religious tradition. The Catholic aversion to him was the reverse of the approbation existing in the socialist press. Wells’s main critic was Józef Marian S´wie˛cicki, a journalist with Tygodnik Powszechny, the most important Catholic weekly in Poland. His main objection was to Wells’s rationalism (which he saw as deeply rooted in the Enlightenment), his optimism (which was devoid of deep reflection), his ‘non-idealistic pacifism’,31 his strong belief in the ending of wars and his critique of Christianity (1945, 2). In his essay ‘O Wellsie jasnowidzu’ (About Wells, the prophet), S´wie˛cicki portrayed Wells as a fanatic of science and a materialist technocrat who was very influential in Western society. In S´wie˛cicki’s vision, Wells becomes the

30 31

‘socjalizm był najwaz˙niejsza˛ i naturalna˛ – wre˛cz biologiczna˛ – zasada˛ ludzkos´ci’. ‘bezideowy pacyfizm’.

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revolutionary successor to Marx as well as an irrational Nietzschean philosopher, and his idea of a World State is compared to a totalitarian slave-state governed by an elite which S´wie˛cicki refers to as a ‘race of lords’.32 In S´wie˛cicki’s opinion Wells appears naïve when he writes that ‘the time of dictators is over’33 while, in truth, he hopes that the world will be ruled by a mysterious dictatorial elite (1947, 418). Although Wells sympathizes with Communism he really hates the proletariat. He loves only the theoretical ‘idea of man’34 but he condemns real people and therefore he should not be called a ‘true humanist’.35 S´wie˛cicki compares Wells’s conceptions of a proper upbringing, his desired regulation of the number of births permitted and his support for ‘sexual anarchy’,36 with Hitlerian Nazism (1947, 421). The source for all these accusations is in S´wie˛cicki’s consideration of Wells’s atheism and in his reading of Wells’s Men Like Gods, in the course of which he claims that the historical source of Wells’s attitude is ‘a deep-laid programme of Anglo-Saxon Freemasonry’37 (1948, 4). For S´wie˛cicki, the members of the elite who are to govern the World State are Freemasons trying to force their rational, liberal and atheistic ideology upon humanity. S´wie˛cicki was convinced that proof of his interpretation was present in Men Like Gods. For a start, the title of the novel sounds for S´wie˛cicki like the Masonic slogan, ‘eritus sicut dii’ and the name of the most important Utopian, Serpentine – ‘who rescued utopia from chaos’38 – should be interpreted as a significant allusion to the serpent in biblical Eden (1948, 4). S´wie˛cicki calls Wells’s utopia a ‘Civitas diabolica’ – the Luciferic antinomy of Saint Augustine’s ‘Civitas Dei’. S´wie˛cicki warned readers against Well’s dangerous ideas such as egoistic liberalism, his warnings regarding a crisis of the family, his anticonception, his regulation of births and his advocacy of ‘moral freedom’.39 Wells’s texts could not be right because he denied the importance of the long Christian tradition (1950, 7). The next S´wie˛cicki piece about Wells, a review of Kipps (translated in 1950), differs from his previous attacks as it simply interprets the novel without personal antipathy (1951, 4). One of the best Polish specialists on English literature, Władysław Tarnawski – also a journalist with Tygodnik Powszechny – complained about Wells’s atheism and pacifism and even said, with irony, that the only outcome of every Wellsian work was a negative attitude towards religion (1946, 6). According to Tarnawski, Wells was a narrow-minded materialist and a fanatical worshipper of intellect who took seriously ‘every pseudo-scientific theory such as Freudianism’40 (1946, 7).

32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40

‘rasa panów’. ‘czas dyktatorów mina˛ł’. ‘idea człowieka’. ‘prawdziwym humanista˛’. ‘seksualna anarchia’. ‘precyzyjnie przemys´lany program anglosaskiej masonerii’. ‘wywiódł Utopie˛ z zame˛tu’, translated by J. S´wie˛cicki. ‘swoboda moralna’. ‘pseudo-naukowe teorie, jak freudyzm’.

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A few years later, the Catholic quarterly Wie˛z´ produced a substantially different image of Wells. Wojciech Wieczorek wrote with reference to Russia in the Shadows that it was ‘one of the most interesting literary documents of its epoch but now – in 1961 – this text gives us neither a new interpretation nor new information’41 (1961, 129). He also remarked that Wells’s inability to understand the processes going on in Russia was affected not only by his classaffiliation but also because of his ‘typical British conviction that his opinions are always correct’.42 A few years later, Zbigniew Pe˛dzin´ski, in another article published in Wie˛z´, completely avoids the ideological question and portrays Wells as a great humanist (1966, 140). The ideological and political dispute over Wells expired in the early 1960s, since when he has been known simply as an author of literary texts, with his science fiction and utopias being the most important part of his work for Polish literary critics. His journalism, essays and even his social novels have subsequently attracted less attention. These texts have been described as ‘rather nice but outdated stories’43 (Drawicz 1957, 13) or ‘mortified and unreadable relicts’44 (Beres´ 1987, 115). Probably only Juliusz Palczewski, the most active Polish expert on Wells, has declared that the social novels remain the most interesting, seeing Tono-Bungay as ‘Wells’s greatest artistic success of all’45 (1976b, 57). However, the most frequent topic in the publications about Wells is his importance in the development of science fiction. Adam Kaska, in a review of The First Men in the Moon, emphasized that the Wellsian dream of landing people on the Moon came true ‘today’46 (in 1959) which proved the correctness of his technological predictions. Witold Chwalewik observed a recurrence in the popularity of Wells in Poland grounded in an appreciation of his scientific prophecies, especially those connected with the exploration of space (1970, 265). According to Chwalewik, Wells’s novels were, on the one hand, devoid of elaboration but, on the other, always demonstrated the extraordinary imagination of their author. These early science-fiction novels, especially The First Men in the Moon, presented numerous fresh and original ideas in perfect literary form and they could be called ‘the true source of science fiction’47 (1970, 271). Andrzej Stoff, on the occasion of the publication of The War of the Worlds (Wojna swiatow) (1974) by a respected, scholarly publishing house, Wydawnictwo Literackie, called Wells ‘the great experimenter who invented and worked out almost every topical possibility in science fiction’.48 However,

41

42 43 44 45 46 47 48

‘Jeden z najciekawszych literackich dokumentów epoki, ale dzis´ – w 1961 – tekst ten nie przynosi nam ani nowych interpretacji ani nowych informacji.’ ‘typowo angielskiego przekonania o słusznos´ci własnych pogla˛dów’. ‘mile ale nieaktualne opowies´ci’. ‘teksty obumarłe i nieczytelne’. ‘najwie˛kszy sukces artystyczny Wellsa w ogóle’. ‘dzis´’. ‘prawdziwe z´ródło science-fiction’. ‘eksperymentatorem, który wynalazł i wykorzystał prawie wszystkie tematyczne moz˙liwos´ci w science fiction’.

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Stoff suggested that a better designation for Wells’s novels would be ‘fantasy’ because science was for Wells only a pretext or symbol (1983, 125–27). Bogdan Maciejewski recognized Wells as a ‘creator of science fiction’49 (1976, 12), while Juliusz Palczewski focused upon the connections between contemporary science fiction and Wells’s work (1987, 64), though he preferred to define these early novels as ‘satirical utopias’50 (1976b, 51) or ‘fairy taleparables’51 (1976b, 192) rather than science-fiction novels. Aniela Kowalska wrote about the influence of Wells’s motifs on the imagination of sciencefiction writers (1987, 38), and Joanna Salamon´czyk pointed out that The Time Machine was the precursor of the fictional motif of time travel and the metaphorical expression of social division (1986, 59). Marek Ruszczyc originally explained The War of the Worlds by interpreting the Martians as ‘a positive symbol of solidarity, co-operation, courage and incredible knowledge’52 (1958, 12). Andrzej Zgorzelski, by contrast, claimed that the fantastic novels of Wells contained an amazingly small number of truly fantastic motifs. They are rather realistic in distinction to modern science fiction. Zgorzelski wrote that ‘The Invisible Man belongs to science-fiction literature in one of the earliest stages of its historical development when an opulence of technological inventions was not necessary’53 (1970, 97). However, Adam Kaska admitted that modern science fiction had begun with Wells and he recognized that Wells’s works today seem completely out of date, it being hard to read them without historical commentary (1957, 17). Similar disavowing opinions are popular in today’s Polish literary criticism. Piotr Kitrasiewicz maintains that Wells functions only as an archaic science-fiction writer (1999, 24) and Jerzy Jedlicki denies Wells even as a precursor of modern science fiction. Jedlicki argues that Wells only used motifs which already existed in literature, like underground towns or the strict functionalism of social groups, but he exceeded other writers in his ‘power of imagination’54 (2000, 12). Jedlicki – like Stoff twenty-five years earlier – says that the traditional designation of Wells as the inventor of science fiction is a mistake because in his novels the scientific knowledge was trivial and the ‘science’ was in name only and rather a conglomeration of popular theories. Jedlicki, as an historian of ideas, points out that Wells’s fantastic novels make less of an impression today than The Discovery of the Future with its predictions of women’s emancipation or technological progress in communications (2000, 14). In the history of Polish literature, Wells appears occasionally as a useful point of reference for describing the first Polish fantastic writers. Stefania Skwarczyn´ska (1964, 123) and Antoni Smuszkiewicz (1982, 45) wrote about Adam

49 50 51 52 53

54

‘twórca science-fiction’. ‘satyryczne utopie’. ‘bas´niami – przypowies´ciami’. ‘symbolem solidarnos´ci, jednos´ci działania, odwagi i ogromnej wiedzy’. ‘Niewidzialny Człowiek nalez˙y do literatury fantastycznej na samym pocza˛tku jej historycznego rozwoju, gdy róz˙norodnos´c´ technologicznych pomysłów nie była konieczna.’ ‘siła wyobraz´ni’.

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Mickiewicz’s Historia przyszłos´ci (The history of the future) (1829)55 as the precursor to Wells’s utopias. On the other hand, Georges Sigal remarked that sixteen years before The Invisible Man, the Polish writer Sygurd Wis´niewski had written ‘Niewidzialny’ (1881) (The invisible) grounded on the same idea. Wis´niewski’s text shows the life of a young scientist who discovers a substance that makes him invisible. Sigal underlined that, despite similar starting points, both texts differ in their points of view: the Polish novel seems only a trivial critique of society but Wells’s text is a serious social satire. Sigal saw the source for the similarity in these novels as being the epoch of the cult of science during which both were written (1976, 49–61). In general, Wells is held in respect by Polish literary criticism as the precursor of early and modern science fiction (Smuszkiewicz 1982, 9). At the same time his social utopias are considered old-fashioned scribbles. Monika SenkowskaGluck presented the opinion that The Discovery of the Future and A Modern Utopia are brilliant examples of Wells’s literary work. They are strictly engaged in the process of social improvement but on the other hand they are not artistic literature. Senkowska-Gluck recognized Wells’s ideas – especially the elimination of unproductive old people, tough social controls and universal misinformation – as dangerous. She noticed also that Juliusz Palczewski, in his only Polish monograph about Wells, Utopista bez złudzen´ (The utopist without delusions) (1976b), ‘passed over this important question in silence like every other Polish critic after the war’56 (1980, 242). Similar opinions were expressed as early as 1946 by Władysław Tarnawski (1946, 6) and, later, by Jan Lorek (1959, 7), Leszek Elektorowicz (1959, 8), Adam Pragier (1966, 5; 1970, 5) and Piotr Kitrasiewicz (1999, 24). Z. Jaremko-Pytkowska perceived in Wells’s utopias the predominance of didactic and ideological elements over fictional form (1959), while Witold Chwalewik identified two different Wellses – the utopian ideologue forgotten by modern literature, and the great artist who was regaining his authority (1970, 265–68). Witold Ostrowski, in his essay ‘Imaginary History’ (published in English), used the work of Wells to describe a rare literary genre – imaginary history. He argues that Wells ultimately produced fully recognizable imaginary history in such works as Anticipations, A Modern Utopia, The World Set Free and The Shape of Things to Come. Ostrowski claimed that ‘imaginary history is a kind of fiction whose form and method of presentation belong to historiography but the contents of which are a figment of the imagination’ (1960, 27). In Ostrowski’s opinion, ‘imaginary history’ must be essentially prosaic and scientific in style. Typical attributes of this genre are the avoidance of dialogue and indirect or direct commentary on history in general as well as an interest in the process of history rather than in fictional incidents. Before Wells this type of prose was

55

56

This work was never published and is only known about through biographical studies of Mickiewicz. ‘dyskretnie przemilczał te˛ kwestie˛, podobnie jak zreszta˛ cała powojenna krytyka Wellsa’.

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seen in the work of James Harrington and Louis-Sébastien Mercier, and, following Wells, only in Olaf Stapledon’s Last and First Men and Anatole France’s L’Ile des pingouins (Penguin Island). According to Ostrowski, despite its originality this typical Wellsian genre contains a ‘realistic vision of the future which gives the impression of a disappointing naïvety’ (1960, 38). Tadeusz Nyczek was even more radical in his critique. In a review of the new edition of Men Like Gods (2002) he wrote: Today the scientific absurdity which was used by Wells as the grounds of his utopia seems like the moonshine of a madman who was so embittered against mankind that he had to imagine a planet whose citizens are incredibly more perfect than the inhabitants of Greek Olympus.57 (2003, 16)

Wells, as the author of The Outline of History, was characterized in a similar sense. In 1946, for instance, Władysław Tarnawski complained about Wells’s habit of arbitrarily deciding the weight of some historical facts over others in The Outline of History and he called the book ‘trivial and reckless’58 (1946, 7). Zbigniew Pe˛dzin´ski tried to explain the great popularity of A Short History of the World, which had been published in Poland in 1924, by the typical Polish predilection for authors who clarify complicated events in simple terms (1966, 139). M. Senkowska-Gluck wrote that Wells, in The Outline of History, was trying to create the new intellectual base for humanity. That activity was a reaction to the shock of the First World War. Wells’s global and constructive perception of the historical process, and his belief in the future integration of the world, was more like a dream than a realistic vision. Senkowska-Gluck also criticized Juliusz Palczewski, stating that, in his essay on The Outline of History, he had passed over in silence its archaism (1980, 242). Janusz Stolarczyk considered The Outline of History an interesting document concerning the development of human consciousness in the twentieth century (1980, 178). The great admirer of Wells’s visions of the past and the future is Juliusz Palczewski. He emphasizes the anti-orthodox approach to facts in both of Wells’s history texts. Wells successfully explains the greatest processes in history and in consequence he resigns from enumerating particular events. His history could be called sophisticated generalization (1966a, 112). Even Wells’s hurry seems to be a positive attribute for Palczewski who interprets it as a sign of vital power because ‘Wells always had to be in front of historical events even at the cost of a lack of precision and consistency in his own narration’59 (1966a, 113). Although Wells’s books were not often read in Poland, he was a fairly wellknown writer and his popularity could be considered, perhaps, as an interesting

57

58 59

‘Naukowe absurdy, na których [Wells] zbudował swa˛ utopie˛ [. . .] dzis´ przypominaja˛ rojenia wariata, który z głe˛bi znacza˛cego rozgoryczenia rodzajem ludzkim wymys´lił sobie planete˛, przy której mieszkan´cach mityczny grecki Olimp to nieboska banda dzikusów.’ ‘płytka i lekkomys´lna’. ‘musiał byc´ na przedzie wydarzen´ historycznych, nawet kosztem s´cisłos´ci i spójnos´ci własnych wywodów’.

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social fact (Pe˛dzin´ski 1966, 138). Despite the ideologically socialist slant of his books he was a respectable author of a number of famous novels. In Polish literary criticism he was recognized as the father of science fiction but the other aspects of his work are forgotten. From time to time, essays about Wells are published in Polish, though usually focusing on specific facets of his life, such as articles describing his sex life (Słojewski 1973, 5–6) or essays concerned with film adaptations of his novels (Toeplitz 1960; Woroszylski 1966). The beginning of the twentieth century seemed promising for the Polish reception of Wells, with the substantial reactions of Stanisław Brzozowski, one of the most important Polish intellectuals of the time. Unfortunately, despite numerous texts about Wells and his work which were then published in Poland, the number of important articles is rather small. Only two books about Wells have been written in Polish, only one of which, Juliusz Palczewski’s Utopista bez złudzen´ (1976b), can be taken seriously. The other, Adam Pragier’s Wells o s´wiecie i o Polsce (1943), is merely a curiosity. In addition to Palczewski, only Witold Ostrowski, Witold Chwalewik and Andrzej Zgorzelski have treated Wells as a subject of their academic research. The great majority of texts about him can be considered as incidental journalism. Juliusz Palczewski has been the most vocal critic in demanding a more serious treatment of Wells. As early as 1966 he asserted that Wells ‘cannot be reduced to the antediluvian status wanted by some critics a quarter century ago’ (1966b, 138). He also noticed that ‘in the 1960s more and more works and critiques began to appear which were rediscovering Wells as the father of the modern “negative” or “black utopia” ’ (1979a, 59). Besides Palczewski, Zdzisław Umin´ski also recognized a growth in interest in Wells grounded on a common fascination with cosmic phenomena (1980, 16). Stanisław Helsztyn´ski observed that, before the Second World War, Wells ‘had the reputation of one of the biggest [writers]’60 before his dethronement by T. S. Eliot, James Joyce and Ezra Pound, but in 1977 readers were giving him his due (1977, 46). These rare statements seem to be only the wishful thinking of Wells enthusiasts. In 2000, however, there appeared a text which could be treated as representative of a new attitude towards Wells. Jerzy Jedlicki, in his essay ‘Nowy wspaniały wiek’ (Brave new century), denies the worth of Wells as a writer but considers him one of the most considerable visionaries of ideas in contemporary world politics. According to Jedlicki, Wells was the first intellectual who thought globally (2000, 13). He points out that the accuracy of Wells’s predictions in The Discovery of the Future (such as the progress of transport and its influence on the development of towns, or the importance of domestic appliances in contributing towards women’s emancipation) makes a deeper impression today than The Time Machine or The War of the Worlds. Jedlicki confirms that many of Wells’s ideas were regrettable (such as his eugenics, advocating the extermination of unproductive people) but that they were often couched in accurate social criticism. Wells’s inconsistency should be comprehended in the light of the

60

‘uchodził za jednego z najwie˛kszych’.

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twentieth century’s cultural contradictions which suggested a belief in progress whilst showing signs of decadence, which warned against catastrophe whilst seemingly desiring just that and which was fascinated with technology whilst yearning for nature. To Jedlicki the coexistence of optimism and pessimism in Wells’s work becomes a brilliant mirror for all contemporary anxieties which still remain unsolved (2000, 12–14). Wells’s influence on Polish literature As has been demonstrated, before the Second World War Wells was known in Poland mainly as the author of a few popular science-fiction novels for young readers. Therefore his works were often issued by publishers interested in easy profits (thus, between the world wars The Invisible Man went through nine editions, The Time Machine five and Men Like Gods three). Despite his popularity as a science-fiction writer, the influence of Wells’s work on Polish literature was rather small. This was largely because science fiction was a marginal subgenre of Polish literature. Kazimierz Nowowiejski remarked that Wells only influenced Antoni Słonimski and Bruno Winawer (1946, 13). Antoni Słonimski, a poet and the greatest Polish admirer of Wells (Palczewski 1979b, lxvii), wrote only one science-fiction novel, Torpeda czasu (Time Torpedo) (1967) in 1924. It is based on the motif of time travel as suggested by Wells’s The Time Machine though used in a slightly different way. In this novel the destination of the chronic expedition is not the future but the past. Four Americans from the twenty-second century, led by Professor Pankton, decide to go back in time to bring peace to the Earth by changing the past. Pankton, his daughter Haydnèe, Toln, an historian, and George Hersey, a reporter, hope that it will be enough to destroy all types of firearms in order to eliminate war. They choose the France of 1795, just before one of Napoleon’s greatest victories, as the best moment for their mission. There can be observed some similarities in the points of departure between Time Torpedo, The Island of Doctor Moreau and The First Men in the Moon. In both of Wells’s novels one of the main characters meets the genial scientist by accident: Bedford unexpectedly gets acquainted with Cavor in his own garden, and Edward Prendick lands on Dr Moreau’s island in similarly uncanny circumstances. A comparable plot-beginning appears in Słonimski’s novel. The journalist, George Hersey, falls into Pankton’s property after an aeroplane crash. Pankton, like Moreau, tries to hide his research from the unwanted visitor but ultimately the curious intruder becomes a participant in the experiment. As a consequence of his participation in the scientist’s research, Hersey, like Prendick, risks death, though his adventure ends happily. Another Wellsian motif in Time Torpedo is Hersey’s need to spread his knowledge concerning the amazing events. Hersey, like Bedford, is a journalist, but in contrast to The First Men in the Moon, The Island of Doctor Moreau and The War of the Worlds, he recognizes that his efforts are futile because no serious journal would publish his article. It has to be said that Hersey is a stranger not only in the past (like every participant of the expedition) but his ignorance of science also makes him a stranger in Pankton’s laboratory. Hersey resembles Mr

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Barnstaple in Men Like Gods who is not able to find a place for himself in his own world or in utopia. Pankton and his companions on the one hand look like Barnstaple, Burleigh and Urthred transferred to utopia but on the other they could be interpreted as Utopians who discover the secret of time travel. Similar to The Time Machine or The First Men in the Moon, Słonimski’s novel, with its attractive plot, surprising events and numerous wonderful inventions, is also a vehicle for the author to express his social beliefs. In Time Torpedo we can find a discursive explication of historical and social theories, such as in the scene when Pankton, in the presence of Carnot, some French revolutionaries and some English lords, delivers a speech against war: War is the disgrace of humanity. I say it to you, democrat Carnot! I say it to you, Mr President! I say it to you, Lords of England and to the members of parliaments throughout the world. In whose name dare you order people to kill each other?61 (Słonimski 1967, 69–70)

Słonimski’s ideas seem to be inspired by Wells’s pacifism and his belief in science and technology. Słonimski makes Pankton the president of the French Republic in order to give a practical demonstration of government by a scientific elite. The great scientific and technological progress achieved by Pankton does not make people happier and does not even influence their way of life. Pankton, like a true Wellsian, believes in the power of education: he funds schools and academies, teaches mathematics and physics, cares about citizens’ hygiene and health and propagates socialist ideas of the commonness of public property. However, the only effect of this activity is to provoke civil war amongst the discontented masses. Despite his admiration for Wells, Słonimski denies the utopian idea that people can be happy as a result of scientific advance alone. The final effect of Pankton’s expedition is significant: Hersey (as the only one who comes back from time travelling) recognizes that in the future world nothing has changed, although Pankton has had enormous influence on the events of European history. The only change which Hersey notices is the absence of Pankton, whose disappearance was effected by himself (Pankton caused Napoleon’s resignation from a military career but he forgot that his parents had met during an exhibition of relics from the Napoleonic epoch). It can be said that the bitter end of the novel testifies to Słonimski’s pessimism. He expresses a belief in the natural evolution of humanity devoid of the external interventions of half-men, half-gods. As in The First Men in the Moon or The Invisible Man, all the troubles of Pankton’s expedition are caused by a ‘human element’ which was not given rational consideration by the genial scientist. In Time Torpedo an impatient Pankton makes little ‘human’ mistakes in programming the time machine but

61

‘Wojna jest han´ba˛ ludzkos´ci. Mówie˛ to do ciebie, demokrato Carnot. Mówie˛ to do ciebie, panie prezydencie kraju! Mówie˛ to do was, lordowie Anglii i do was, członkowie parlamentów s´wiata! W imie˛ jakich to korzys´ci os´mielacie sie˛ rozkazywac´ ludziom, aby sobie odbierali z˙ycie?’

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the consequences are tragic for him: although the machine works perfectly, travellers arrive into the wrong time. Also, the theoretically correct notion of human happiness cannot be realized because Pankton ignores another ‘human element’ – psychology. As in Wells’s novels, all humanity’s misfortunes are caused by an excessive belief in theorists and scientists with non-human wisdom. Similarities between a number of Wells’s works and Słonimski’s novel also appear in terms of style (for example, Pankton’s speeches resemble rhetorical fragments of Men Like Gods) or in the presented world and its composition. Antoni Smuszkiewicz has suggested that this dependence is simply instrumental (1982, 159); however it seems that the ideological convergence between Wells and Słonimski (such as their strong pacifism and their belief in evolution) is subtle but weighty. Another of Słonimski’s texts which demands consideration in the light of Wells’s work is a collection of sketches entitled Moja podróz˙ do Rosji (My journey to Russia) (1932). These essays were written by Słonimski during his travels to Moscow and Leningrad in 1932. It is hard to prove that Russia in the Shadows was the inspiration for Słonimski but it seems likely that Moja podróz˙ do Rosji becomes an indirect polemic with the famous Wells book. Wells’s name never appears in Moja podróz˙ do Rosji but his visit to Soviet Russia appears to be allusively mentioned in a chapter entitled ‘Cudzoziemcy w Moskwie’ (Strangers in Moscow): Strangers, especially Anglo-Saxons, treat Russia as an exotic country. They cannot understand many things. They think that the Russians whom they are talking with are the same Western people as themselves. [. . .] Anglo-Saxons are trustful. Englishmen and Americans believe in what Communists say about social progress, about feeding children, about statistics. They write it all down in their notebooks saying trustfully ‘well’. [. . .] People usually want to see what they need to see [. . .]. If they only wanted to they would see something less suitable but their main problem is the language which sounds so difficult for Europeans. Therefore a writer who sympathizes with Communism leaves Russia with the strong feeling of true affirmation.62 (1997, 27)

Ironic allusions to Anglo-Saxon writers may have been pointed at George Bernard Shaw and Wells. It is significant that Słonimski – like Wells – writes about the same two cities (Leningrad and Moscow), describes the unusual look of Soviet shops and pays great attention to the extraordinary phenomenon of

62

‘Cudzoziemcy, a zwłaszcza Anglosasi, traktuja˛ cze˛sto Rosje jak kraj egzotyczny. Wielu rzeczy nie rozumieja˛. Wydaje im sie˛, z˙e Rosjanin, z którym rozmawiaja˛, [. . .] jest zupełnie takim samym jak oni człowiekiem Zachodu [. . .]. Cecha˛ Anglosasów [. . .] jest ufnos´c´. Anglik czy Amerykanin wierzy. Czy mówia˛ mu o zdobyczach społecznych, czy o odz˙ywianiu dzieci, czy wreszcie podaja˛ cyfry. Anglosas wyjmuje notatnik, powiada ‘Well’ i zapisuje, co mu podyktowano. [. . .] Ludzie widza˛ lepiej to, co chca˛ zobaczyc´. [. . .] Zwłaszcza, jes´li to niewygodne wymaga pewnego trudu, jes´li trzeba znac´ przy tym je˛zyk dla Europejczyków dos´c´ trudny [. . .] Totez˙ pisarz komunizuja˛cy wyjez˙dz˙a zwykle z Rosji ze szczerym uczuciem afirmacji.’

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Russian theatre. Nevertheless Słonimski tries to be a more precise and acute observer than Wells. He wants to empathize with Russians on the one hand and to stay objective on the other. Contrary to Wells he does not integrate his observations into one consistent picture. The fact that Słonimski sent Wells the French translation of Moja podróz˙ do Rosji (Misère et grandeur de la Russie Rouge, translated by Maria Rakowska) could be interpreted as inviting discussion though there is no further evidence for this hypothesis. Only in ‘Alfabet wspomnien´’ (Alphabet of memories) does Słonimski write about his conversation with Wells in 1946 in London but from it we do not learn if Wells commented upon Słonimski’s book on Russia (1973, 7). Another writer whose work demands comparison with Wells’s is Jerzy ˙ uławski. The subject of his fantastic trilogy – the journey of the first men to Z ˙ uławski had been the Moon – resembles the famous Wells novel. But even if Z inspired by Wells he could not use The First Men in The Moon. He wrote Na Srebrnym Globie (On the silver globe) in 1901 at the time when The First Men in The Moon was being published in Britain.63 The motif of travelling to the Moon appeared in literature long before Wells (even in the Polish legend about the wizard, Jan Twardowski64). In Na Srebrnym Globie there is a note about a spaceship used by the first astronauts: ‘this fantastic idea of Jules Verne’s came to life a ˙ uławski 1987a, 15). hundred years after his death’65 (Z However, Juliusz Palczewski sees the possibility of Wellsian influence on ˙ uławski’s work. Palczewski sees the dwarfing of subsequent generations of Z lunar people as a resemblance to the undersized Eloi in The Time Machine, and recognizes the origins of lunar religion in the cult of the first arrivals from the Earth as bearing similarities to the Beast Folk’s religion in The Island of Doctor Moreau. Palczewski suggests that the relationship between Jan Korecki (the main ˙ uławski’s trilogy) and a prophetess Ada was character in the first volume of Z inspired by the relationship between the Time Traveller and Weena in The Time ˙ uławski’s idea of the Machine (1979b, lxvii). It is worth noting in addition that Z Moon with an atmosphere on its dark side has its origin not in science fiction (Wellsian or otherwise) but in the scientific conception of the German astronomer, Peter Hansen, as published in Tables de la Lune (Tables of the Moon) (1857) (Smuszkiewicz 1982, 114). ˙ uławski presents three different visions of social organization: In his trilogy Z

63

64

65

In Poland a short version of this novel was translated and published in 1905 under the title Pierwsi ludzie na ksie˛z˙ycu: powies´c´ dla młodziez˙y, which translates as ‘The first men in the moon: a novel for youth’. Master Jan Twardowski is the Polish version of the old European legend about ‘the man in the Moon’ – he was a famous wizard who sold his soul to the devil. Twardowski was taken by the devil from the Earth into sky but he was rescued from damnation because his dress caught on the sharp end of the Moon. The best-known literary version of this story is Adam Mickiewicz’s 1822 ballad ‘Pani Twardowska’ (Mrs Twardowska) (1949). ‘Fantastyczny pomysł Juliusza Vernego miał byc´ nareszcie urzeczywistnionym – w sto kilkanas´cie lat po jego s´mierci.’

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a primitive religious state established by people born on the Moon (1987a), a decadent and degenerate community of ‘shernies’ (1987b) and the futuristic United States of Europe, set in the twenty-seventh century (1987c). It is significant that in these three novels the inventions typical for science fiction are rare. ˙ uławski provides At the end of the third episode, Stara Ziemia (The old Earth), Z a symbol of his antipathy towards technology: the Council of the United States of Europe decides to liquidate all scientific institutions because ‘everything is invented’66 (1987c, 262). Such mistrust in science is characteristic of Polish modernism. According to the Modernist position, technological development brings simple people happiness but it involves resignation from spiritual life and deeper consciousness. This pessimistic vision of a future community resembles the state of the Eloi in The Time Machine. ˙ uławski’s lunar trilDespite some connections between Wells’s novels and Z ogy, the Polish writer creates his own anthropological fantasia in a strongly pessimistic style which is typical of only the last few of Wells’s texts. Stanisław Lem in Fantastyka i futurologia (Fantasy and futurology) compares the artistic worth of Na Srebrnym Globie and Wells’s science fiction and he declares that ˙ uławski could have been just as famous as Wells if his trilogy had been transZ lated into Western languages (1970, 375). ˙ uławski caused a rise The success of the novels written by Wells, Verne and Z in the popularity of science fiction during the 1920s and 1930s. Wells inspired contemporary writers who tried to combine fantastic, sensational and scientific motifs (Smuszkiewicz 1982, 176). The majority of these authors wrote popular novelists for the general reader and today we could say that only Bruno Winawer is worthy of critical interest. Winawer was both a physicist and the author of science-fictional social satires. Obvious evidence of Wells’s inspiration can be found in his novel Doktor Przybram (Doctor Przybram) (1961), first published in 1924. This text introduces a genial inventor of ‘solid light’ who, on the one hand, makes a flashy career and, on the other, lets a special company decide about his own life. The contradiction between the intelligent Dr Przybram and the clever businessmen appears similar to the situation in The First Men in the Moon where the naïve and idealistic Cavor works together with the pragmatic and greedy Bedford. However, the idea of a wonderful invention which could revolutionize the world could be compared with Wells’s inventions like cavorite, the time machine or invisibility-inducing drugs. After the Second World War Wells was considered a political authority rather than an influential source of inspiration for science-fiction writers. Although the majority of such writers repeat Wells’s ideas (like contact with aliens, deadly invasion, wonderful inventions and time travel), they use a rather closer sciencefictional tradition. Andrzej Zgorzelski remarks that the popular literary conventions in Polish literature in the 1960s were ‘imported’ from Anglo-Saxon post-Wellsian science fiction where Wells had been influential twenty years earlier (1980, 172). Joanna Salamon´czyk noticed that Wells should be interpreted as both the

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‘wynaleziono juz˙ wszystko’.

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precursor of all science-fiction literature and the ‘father (or rather grandfather) of Polish sociological and political fiction’67 especially as represented by Janusz Andrzej Zajdel (1986, 59). However, while Zajdel’s pessimistic political and sociological fantasies, such as Paradyzja (Paradissia), Cylinder van Troffa (Van Troff’s cylinder) and Limes inferior (Lower limit), are influenced by the antitotalitarian tradition represented by Aldous Huxley, George Orwell and Yevgeny Zamyatin, Wells was the precursor of this kind of dystopia. Allusions to Wells appear sometimes in Polish contemporary literature. For example in Rajmund Hanke’s Wielkie dni łotrów (The great days for thieves) we can find the old Wellsian motif of alien invasion of the Earth. In contrast to The War of the Worlds, the invaders come from Jupiter and are cruelly murdered by the humans who resemble bloodthirsty Martians (Smuszkiewicz 1982, 335). A short story by Sławomir Kryska entitled ‘Cia˛g dalszy opowiadania Herberta Georga Wellsa pt. “Królestwo mrówek” ’ (Continuation of H. G. Wells’s story ‘The Empire of the Ants’) (1973) is another illustration of a play on the Wellsian tradition. This text shows the situation after an invasion of ants. The story begins with the quotation of the last sentences of ‘The Empire of the Ants’. The narrator of this story lives in a small human village hidden from ants. All his knowledge about the external world comes from a discovered note. The narrator tries to understand what it means while he is recovering after breaking his leg. He wonders whether, a few years before, people had ruled the world and he tries to imagine how men could destroy the ants. He recognizes that only a natural process of evolution can change the situation and that people have to wait patiently for another period of domination. From Wells to Lem If there is clear evidence of Wells’s influence on the writers mentioned above, it is my opinion that Wells had the greatest influence on our great contemporary science-fiction writer, Stanisław Lem. The importance of Wells’s work on Lem is twofold: firstly, there is a strong sense of Wells’s leading role in the history of science fiction as demonstrated by Lem’s theoretical and critical research and, secondly, there are subtle but clear similarities between some of Lem’s novels and stories and some of Wells’s work. Lem’s typical antipathy for contemporary science fiction was first expressed in his collected essays of 1962, entitled Wejs´cie na orbite˛ (The entrance on the orbit). In his essay, ‘Science Fiction’, Lem remarks that at the beginning of the history of science fiction (Lem calls it the ‘prehistory’) there were only two genres and two creators: Poe as the inventor of irrational fantasy and Wells as a representative of ‘rational’ science fiction. Lem gives little account of modern science-fiction novels, reducing them to attractive versions of banal detective and adventure stories. Lem tries to find in contemporary literature the vision of aliens comparable to those in Wells’s The War of the Worlds and he ultimately

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‘ojcem (lub dziadkiem) polskiej socjologicznej fantastyki’.

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The Reception of H. G. Wells in Europe

decides that only three novels are of interest: The Puppet Master by Robert A. Heinlein, Humanoids by Jack Williamson and especially Olaf Stapledon’s Last and First Men. Only the third book reveals the creative ‘sociological imagination’ of the author because Stapledon describes the whole history of humanity. In this novel, which is far more than just a science-fiction story, Lem finds sublime artistic and sociological aims similar to those that can be found in Wells’s The Outline of History. Lem explains the appearance of Wells’s spirit in Stapledon’s novel by the fact that both authors were English. Lem admits that American science fiction is very popular and attractive but he appreciates only serious literature which tries to say something important about contemporary society (1962). In Lem’s opinion Wells is the greatest science-fiction writer in literary history. Wells was the first author who described both time travel through the use of a technological device, and an alien invasion of Earth. In time these serious and dramatic motifs were replaced by their banal versions. The evolution of Wells’s motifs, according to Lem, ended with the grotesque. In an afterword to The War of the Worlds, Lem names this novel ‘the most brilliant work of H. G. Wells’68 (1974, 193). He underlines that The War of the Worlds, by transcending its science-fictional model, belongs to the treasures of world literature. There have been thousands of authors trying to use successfully the theme invented by Wells but no one has succeeded like Wells himself. According to Lem, the magnitude of Wells’s achievement rests neither on the relationship between his imagination and the actual condition of science, nor on his artistic ability. The splendour of The War of the Worlds is the result of a precise ‘sociological imagination’69 helping Wells to create a forcible and true vision of total genocide. Lem remarks that Wells did not only show the reaction of a community being attacked by an enemy but he also demonstrated the ‘individual and collective reactions of citizens in a completely destroyed civilization’70 (1974, 195a). Lem recognized the reason for the success of this novel as lying in its similarity to the European experience of real war. A great and bitter impression is made through the portrayal of humanity as a lower race being annihilated by non-human and strictly functional invaders from Mars. Lem says that the most weird attribute of the Martians is the unusual contrast between their physiological clumsiness and the agility of their huge machines. For Lem, Wells’s work presents a kind of universal science theory which will in the future be confirmed by facts (1974, 198). Despite Wells’s attention to detail in the novel, Lem regrets that the Martians are ‘reduced only to their aggressive functionalism’71 (1974, 199–200). In Lem’s opinion they look like machines with enormous brains, lacking in culture, feelings or beliefs. Lem assumes that Wells used the Martians as an allegorical

68 69 70 71

‘najs´wietniejsze dzieło H. G. Wellsa’. ‘socjologiczna wyobraz´nia’. ‘indywidualnych i zbiorowych reakcji wewna˛trz kultury zdruzgotanej’. ‘zredukował ich do agresywnego [. . .] funkcjonalizmu’.

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tool in his ‘horrible literary experiment’72 with which he wanted to awaken people to the negligence of human achievements in the history of the Earth and the Cosmos (1974, 200). The vampire-like condition of the Martians in Wells’s novel is criticized by Lem because, in his opinion, it is unbelievable that organisms evolved on one planet can live on organisms from a completely different planet. Bloodthirsty Martians seem only to be a trick to shock the readers. Lem writes: If I had written The War of the Worlds I would order Martians to examine people [. . .]. I would not introduce the motif of ‘consumption’ and resign from the conquest of the Earth by aliens. Martians would neither destroy civilization nor treat people like food. They would have a mysterious plan completely unintelligible for humanity.73 (1974, 202)

Despite these objections, Lem admits that The War of the Worlds and The Time Machine are the most important of Wells’s novels and the greatest achievements of science fiction, with every attempt at replicating them resulting in caricature. Unfortunately, according to Lem, Wells’s next books were too ambitious and he did not write real novels again (1974, 206). In Fantastyka i futurologia (Fantasy and futurology), a study of the theory of science fiction, Lem repeats his earlier opinion that the first science-fiction authors, especially Wells, were not treated any worse by contemporary critics than ‘normal writers’. The author of The Time Machine could correspond with any contemporary English writer but, by 1970, such a situation was impossible. Lem says that in his time no critic took science-fiction authors seriously. For example Stapledon, whose novels Odd John and First and Last Men improve upon Wells’s novels through their ‘impetus of vision and ideological weight’74 (1970, 35), was not noticed by historians of contemporary British literature. Literary criticism could accept the earlier generation of novels written by Wells but repudiated those that continued the Wellsian tradition. Lem appreciates Wells’s inventions, such as the time machine, cavorite, biotechnological surgery, lasers or the chemical substance making people invisible, but for him Wells’s greatest science-fiction achievement rested in the description of global catastrophe in The War of the Worlds. This achievement seems to Lem completely unique because Wells transforms this literary catastrophe into contemporary myth with crucial meaning to the whole of the text. Wells is also the ‘father of convention of verity in science-fiction literature’75 (1970, 345)

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‘straszliwego eksperymentu’. ‘Gdybym to ja napisał Wojne˛ s´wiatów kazałbym Marsjanom badac´ ludzi, [. . .] nie wprowadziłbym motywu “konsumpcyjnego” a nadto, co waz˙niejsze, nie uczyniłbym celem najez´dz´ców podboju ludzkos´ci. [. . .] Nie przys´wiecałby tedy Marsjanom plan zgruchotania cywilizacji w celu zniewolenia Ziemian ani obrócenia ich w “rezerwuar z˙ywnos´ci”, lecz jakis´ cel inny, ustawiony w odmiennym do ludzkiego porza˛dku działan´.’ ‘rozmachem wizji i ideowa˛ głe˛bia˛’. ‘ojcem werystycznej konwencji w science-fiction’.

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because even his most fantastic inventions or discoveries are shown in their social context, as when, in The First Men of the Moon, Cavor works on his cavorite alone because in the real world scientists would not treat him seriously. Lem’s first novel, Człowiek z Marsa (The Men from Mars) (1946), presents the history of a mysterious bloodthirsty machine from Mars which arrives on Earth. The scientists who represent humanity try to make contact with the thinking machine by using the theoretical language of geometry. These attempts turn out to be completely fruitless so the dangerous ‘man from Mars’ must be destroyed. This novel continues Wells’s science-fiction motifs but also expresses the pessimistic Lem’s conviction about the nonsense of interplanetary communication (Jarze˛bski 2003, 216). Nonetheless, The Men from Mars seems to be an early proclamation of Lem’s ideas about aliens as explicated in his afterword to The War of the Worlds (1974). A good example of a Wellsian ‘future history’ is Lem’s novel Obłok Magellana (Magellan’s Cloud) (1955). According to Andrzej Stoff this novel could be interpreted as a version of Wells’s novel, Men Like Gods (1983, 38). In Lem’s book the narrator is one of the astronauts who travel in the year 3133 to the end of the galaxy. The travellers from the spaceship ‘Gea’ are members of a perfect future community that looks similar to Wells’s Utopia. The nameless narrator writes down his memories as a way of trying to remember and understand his own past and the history of humankind. He is amazed by the information he receives from the historian Ter Harr and he compares the historical events and processes to his own knowledge of the world. The huge temporal and customary distance between the narrator’s world and his historical knowledge appears similar to Mr Barnstaple’s situation in utopia. From the narrator’s perspective, the organization of the future society cannot be better and progress has reached its end (in contrast to Mr Barnstaple’s experience, where he returns to his own time and the process is just beginning). The composition of Lem’s novel, with the plot devoid of dynamism and interrupted by numerous discursive parts concerned with social problems, is another association with Men Like Gods. But in Wells’s novel, the narration becomes a little more dynamic because the visitors from England are unpredictable to the citizens of utopia. In Lem’s novel the people of the future are so perfect and unable to deviate that the narration must be enlivened by external cosmic motivations. There are more significant but obscure coincidences between some of Wells’s novels and Lem’s Eden, which appeared in 1959. The point of departure in the plot gives the impression of intertextual play with The War of the Worlds. At the beginning of the story a spaceship carrying five people lands on the planet Eden. The shape of the ship resembles the machine used by Wells’s invaders from Mars: a huge metal cylinder set deeply in the ground. The members of the ship’s company in Eden have problems leaving their machine just like Wells’s Martians. Also, the first episode of Eden is analogous to the beginning of The War of The Worlds, though Lem presents the situation from the invaders’ perspective. The next episode reveals more coincidences. The way Eden’s inhabitants look is similar to Wells’s Martians. They all have amorphous and ungainly bodies with big heads and multi-jointed arms (or tentacles), and they cannot

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move easily. Therefore they have to use special kinds of ‘vehicles’ which are initially interpreted by the astronauts as parts of their bodies. The same situation appears in The War of The Worlds when people who have never seen the invaders before think that the three-legged machines are part of the Martians’ bodies. Besides these similarities, the technology of both vehicles is based on the same idea: firstly the Edenians, like the Martians, do not ride or fly but walk using machines; and secondly, in both novels the aliens travel completely hidden in the tops of their vehicles. The main difference between the machines is the material which they are made of: Wells uses metal for the Martians’ tripods while Lem describes a kind of ‘fleshy’ vehicle. A final Wellsian reflection can be found in the mysterious Edenian ‘factory’, discovered during the human’s expedition. This giant building with its ceaseless work bears a similarity to a lunar factory in The First Men in the Moon. The astronauts – just like Cavor and Bedford – cannot comprehend the sense of its production: For more than an hour they wandered through the pulsing forest of this unusual factory, until the area around them became more open. [. . .] The network of tubes parted, and they found themselves near the mouth of the enormous helical funnel. Boughs from above descended to it, flapping like whips, each ending in a nodule, and from the nodules came a sudden hail of somersaulting objects, black and shiny, that dropped into the funnel in a place the men could not see, since it was twenty feet above their heads. The dark-gray wall of the funnel now began to expand: something was pushing it from within. They stepped back instinctively, so ominous was the appearance of the swelling bubble. Then, without a sound, it burst, and a stream of black things poured from the opening at the top. At the same moment, lower down, a trough with outward-turned edges emerged from a wide well, and the objects dropped into it with a drumming sound.76 (Lem 1996a, 40–41)

This description of ‘the unusual factory’ resembles the picture of mysterious apparatus in the huge hall of the underground factory observed by Cavor and Bedford in the Moon. These examples demonstrate the presence of numerous

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‘Z góra˛ godzine˛ kra˛z˙yli w drgaja˛cym lesie niezwykłej fabryki, az˙ zrobiło sie˛ wokół nich przestronniej. [. . .] róz˙nokierunkowe kolumny rozsta˛piły sie˛ i stane˛li przed wylotem ogromnej, kopulasto spie˛trzonej s´limacznicy. Z wysokos´ci schodziły ku niej trzepocza˛ce w powietrzu jak bicze, wygie˛te esowato konary, kon´cza˛ce sie˛ w powietrzu te˛pymi, zaokra˛glonymi zgrubieniami, z których leciał ge˛sty grad gwałtownie koziołkuja˛cych przedmiotów, czarnych, jakby pokrytych ls´nia˛cym lakierem, i wpadał w gła˛b s´limacznicy, w miejsce którego nie widzieli, bo znajdowało sie˛ kilka metrów ponad ich głowami. ‘Naraz soczewkowato wypukła, bura s´ciana s´limacznicy na wprost nich rozde˛ła sie˛, cos´ zatargało nia˛ od s´rodka, puchła – mimo woli odsta˛pili w tył, tak groz´nie wygla˛dał rozdymaja˛cy sie˛, brudnoszary pe˛cherz – naraz pe˛kł bezgłos´nie i z okra˛głego otworu bluzna˛ł strumien´ czarnych ciał. W tym samym momencie poniz˙ej wychyne˛ła z szerokiej studni niecka o wywinie˛tych brzegach i przedmioty, be˛bnia˛c, jakby waliły w gruba˛ gumowa˛ poduche˛, wpadały do niej’ (Lem 1959, 42–43).

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allusions to Wells’s work in Eden. In my opinion Lem’s vision of contact with another civilization was a kind of allusive polemic with Wells and his ideas in The War of the Worlds. This thesis is supported by Lem’s own admission of Wells’s influence in his ‘Afterword’ to the 1959 Polish version of The War of the Worlds (1974, 202). An ironic variation on the theme of alien invasion can be seen in Lem’s short story ‘Inwazja z Aldebarana’ (The invasion from Aldebaran). The story tells of an unsuccessful expedition by two inhabitants of the Aldebaran galaxy. The strangers whom the travellers encounter are a parody of the Martians in The War of the Worlds in terms of their appearance: they have big heads, which form the main part of their bodies, and many thin, long tentacles. However, compared with the travellers they look very small (1996b, 153). The narrator presents events as heroic achievements because he represents the invaders’ point of view. He speaks emphatically about the incredible technology of the strangers. Despite their courage and technical possibilities, the Aldebaranians lose the battle. The most dangerous weapon against them is a drunk farmer who unconsciously destroys sophisticated apparatus and kills the ‘brave’ invaders. In the short story ‘Inwazja’ (‘Invasion’) (1959), mysterious glass objects from space fall to Earth, just like at the beginning of The War of the Worlds. The big glass ‘pears’77 stick in the ground in the same fashion as Wells’s cylinder from Mars and a crowd of curious people gather round them. After vain attempts by scientists to make contact with the inhabitants of the pears, soldiers try to destroy them, though again, like The War of the Worlds, without effect. The ‘invasion’ differs from Wells’s catastrophic vision, however, in that the pears are not dangerous and their inexplicable appearance brings people ‘only’ to reflect upon themselves. However, the great importance of scientists in the spiritual change of humanity which can be observed at the end of the story seems another borrowing from Wells’s writings. In the novel Powrót z gwiazd (The Return from the Stars) (1961) the traditional utopian motif of comparing two different worlds is used. Similar to Men Like Gods or The Time Machine, this novel tells about the appearance of representatives of today’s reality in a distant future. It confronts the behaviour and the state of consciousness of the main character, Bregg, with the opinions and manners of a future society. The vision of the future world appears very Wellsian: the world is safe and friendly, without wars, aggression or brutality; wild and dangerous animals are eliminated as in Men Like Gods. The progress of civilization is strictly connected to the development of science. People live in maximum prosperity and comfort (like ‘gods’) though they need not ‘pay’ as there is no capitalist economy. They live in sexual liberty and their sole objective is to stay young-looking forever (again, as in Men Like Gods). Bregg, observing this world with curiosity, resembles both Mr Barnstaple and the Time Traveller. His character is used by Lem to underline the differences between the contemporary world and a possible future.

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‘grusza’ (Lem 1996b, 75).

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In another of Lem’s novels, Wizja lokalna (Inspection of the Scene of Action) (1982), we can find further allusions to Wells’s work. The main character, Ion Tichy, arrives on a planet Encja to research the aboriginal inhabitants and their two original societies which demand ethnological comparison (as often occurs in Wells’s works). Moreover the inhabitants of Encja appear similar to the Selenites from The First Men in the Moon. However in contrast to Wells, Lem portrays a sarcastic and sad vision of the possibilities of society’s development. In the short story, ‘Szczur w labiryncie’ (‘The mouse in the laboratory’), two people find themselves inside an alien spaceship which looks similar to the interior of the Moon in Wells’s The First Men in the Moon.78 The connections with Wells’s books appear often in Lem’s texts but they are not always obvious. Lem takes some motifs from famous Wells novels and exploits them in his own way. We can sometimes find in his texts simple analogies to a great predecessor, such as The First Men in the Moon’s motif of light-streams in the dark interior of the strange world which is repeated in ‘Szczur w labiryncie’. Sometimes Lem inverts the traditional Wellsian motif, as in Eden, where the invaders’ version of The War of the Worlds becomes ‘corrected’ by Wells’s follower. From time to time Lem refers to Wells’s works through ideas: for example when he polemically takes up the matter of contact between different civilizations (‘Szczur w labiryncie’) or picks up Wells’s certainty that future happiness depends on undisturbed technological progress (Magellan’s Cloud). But Wells is not the only inspiration for Lem; according to Jerzy Jarze˛bski, intertextual games are Lem’s universal method (2003, 104). In his theoretical utterances he always stresses the undeniable importance of Wells’s position as the writer who inspired many science-fiction authors. However, he never admitted Wells’s influence on himself.

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A direct allusion is made in this short story to Wells’s The War of the Worlds: one of the characters, Robert, states, ‘Some people think that contact with another world will bring only benefits; other people think that it will be a “war of the worlds”. What side are you on?’ (‘Jedni uwaz˙aja˛, z˙e taki kontakt z innym s´wiatem przyniósłby nam dobrodziejstwa, a inni – z˙e byłby to pocza˛tek “wojny s´wiatów”. Po której stronie ty sie˛ opowiadasz?’ [1996b, 9]). This use of ‘war of the worlds’ is not only an intertextual allusion but also provides the opportunity for the presentation of Lem’s opinion on the question of human contact with other civilizations.

9

On Translations of H. G. Wells’s Works into Polish Juliusz K. Palczewski

The earliest translations of Wells’s science fiction were undertaken in Poland almost contemporarily, towards the end of the nineteenth century, in the period known as the fin de siècle, its reactions against positivism variously designated as neo-Romanticism, Modernism, aestheticism or symbolism. The Polish variety was contemporarily named ‘Young Poland’ by Artur Górski, a member ˙ ycie (Life), and was popularized of the editorial staff of the Cracow periodical Z by Wilhelm Feldmann, chief editor of the popular review Krytyka (Critic) and an eminent critic and historian of the ‘Young Poland’ movement. The period was influenced, if not dominated, by the philosophy or rather the imagination, of the Polish-born German thinker, Friedrich Nietzsche, with his neo-Romantic aestheticism, his cult of art and his transvaluation of all values. The Polish aesthetes revelled indeed in their cult of pure poetry, art for art’s sake, post-Romantic panpoeticism which regarded art as the nucleus and source out of which all life has emerged, and the artist as a priestly sage revealing to the crowds the only truth about spirit in all its manifestations. This fanatical cult of art came to be imprinted on the works of such representative ‘Young Poland’ writers as Stanisław Przybyszewski, Stanisław Wyspian´ski, Kazimierz Tetmajer, Jan Kasprowicz and others, in poetry and prose – opaque and obscure in content, exaggeratedly affected, florid and mannered in form. Their style lacks moderation and is characterized by anxiety, restlessness, even fitfulness, and bespattered with complaints, laments and moans, ‘loud groans of the world’ (Kasprowicz 1948, 233). One often encounters decorative pomp, bombastic rant, exaltation and false pathos, accompanied by verbal flourishes and quirks. It was in this aesthetic mood that the translations of Wells’s scientific romances were undertaken. The translation of The Time Machine was done by Feliks Wermin´ski in 1899 under the title Podróz˙ w czasie (Journey in time) (though the title was later changed to Wehikuł czasu [The time vehicle] [1925]) in his characteristically swollen, inflated and turgid style. The translation is quite obviously inept and archaic, abounding in deficiencies and mistakes, clumsy and awkward throughout. Surprisingly, this undeniably seminal work has never been retranslated since (except for some minor corrections and modifications by myself) although it has had many reprints. Indeed, in 1985, as it was regarded as a work

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extrapolating the fundamentally negative characteristics of the capitalist system into the remotest future, it was recommended as a set book in secondary schools and was reprinted by three leading publishers in a total run of 480,000 copies. Two more reprints by two other publishing houses followed in 1996 and in 2002 with 5,000 copies of the book issued each time. The Island of Doctor Moreau (Wyspa doktora Moreau) has had two translations. The earlier, quite appropriately signed by the translator’s mere initials, ‘J. K.’ (1929a), appeared in 1929. Archaic despite the date, it suffered from omissions of whole paragraphs, ineptitudes in translation and words and phrases not infrequently placed in inverted commas, indicating a lack of linguistic resourcefulness and skill. The second translation, by Ewa Krasin´ska, was published in 1988 – modern, complete, correct, but not stylistically or artistically distinctive. The translation of The Invisible Man (Niewidzialny człowiek) by Eugenia ˙ mijewska was near-contemporary, appearing as it did in 1901. It has had many Z reprints, each time with minor corrections added, but even so it remains perhaps the poorest translation of a Wells work on record. Distinctly archaic, it is full of translational ineptitudes of all sorts, and involuntarily abounds in humorous effects. For instance, the sentence ‘Mrs Hall lit the fire and left him there while she went to prepare him a meal with her own hands’ (1955, 18) in translation sounds as if ‘she were going with her own hands’1 (1901, 5); ‘As soon as the bacon was well under way’ (1955, 18) reads that the bacon had begun to snort2 (1901, 6); and ‘Millie, her lymphatic aid, had been brisked up a bit by a few deftly chosen expressions of contempt’ (1955, 18) reads as though she were ‘warmed up’3 (1976, 5–6) towards effort. Characteristically, no book by Wells was translated as promptly as The War of the Worlds (Wojna s´wiatów). It appeared in 1899 and was done by Maria Wentzl (1899a). The translation is again inadequate, archaic, sometimes verging on incomprehensibility – as is unfortunately the case with the famous scene on Horsell Common prior to the opening of the Martian cylinder where Wellsian suggestiveness and plasticity disappear almost completely. The word ‘Martians’ is mistranslated as ‘Marsitians’. What deserves some attention is the short preface preceding the novel which I shall quote in full (my translation): The author, whose work is here offered in translation, is a highly regarded American [sic] writer whose two novels translated into Polish and serially published in Słowo [Word] and Kurier Codzienny [Daily courier] are already known to our public.4 H. G. Wells has chosen the fantastic novel as an illustration of certain philosophical, social or economic theses, and these tales of his are awakening at present great interest in the American and English reading public owing to the richness of the writer’s imagination as well as to the satirical substratum of his work.

1 2 3 4

‘odchodza˛c dla przygotowania wieczerzy własnemi pulchnemi re˛koma’. ‘Skoro tylko słonina zacze˛ła parskac´’. ‘zagrzana do pos´piechu paru dosadnymi zache˛tami’. Evidently, a reference to TM and IDM.

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An English critic has compared this kind of Wellsian satire to Swiftian humour. The remark is indeed perceptive since irony is as carefully concealed in his novels as in those of the author of Gulliver.5 (Wentzl 1899, 7)

The preface itself can be regarded as fairly perceptive if one considers both the time of its appearance and the remoteness and exoticism of Wells the writer in late nineteenth-century Eastern Europe. A second translation of The War of the Worlds, by Henryk Józefowicz (1958b), appeared in 1958 and was reissued with corrections in 1974. The text, in light of the deficiencies in Wentzl’s translation, had to be corrected; the later version, however, in bulk lacks the truly idiomatic feel of the language into which it has been translated. When the Sleeper Wakes was translated in 1902 anonymously, in Kraków, as an offprint from Ilustracya Polska (Polish Illustrated). Wells’s much less inspiring science-fiction novel, The Food of the Gods, did appear in Juliusz W. Garztecki’s translation in 1994 (Pokarm bogów). The rendering lacks flow – the distinctive mark of really good translation – and is halting and wanting in naturalness, fluency and smoothness; there is too much literalness and asperity in it throughout. The First Men in the Moon (Pierwsi ludzie na ksie˛z˙ycu) has been translated three times. The first translation, by M. Strebejko, appeared in 1905; the second, by Stanisław Mazanowski, in 1921; and the third, by Witold Chwalewik (1959a), in 1959. Analysing the translations of Wells’s science-fiction novels, it is important to consider the main characteristic of the genre, i.e. its stylistic tropes. Sciencefiction stories are basically set in a fantastic framework, though they may be rooted in reality. They stretch the imagination, hence there is the presence of many metaphorical and idiomatic expressions which, however realistic the setting, are difficult to translate. There are single-word or extended metaphors, the latter being sentences, verbal arrangements, allegories or complete imaginative texts. The extended metaphor can be about anything and thus we are often faced with the questions of whether to opt for sense or image in our translations. This means that there are cases in which we find ourselves deciding between giving a literal translation of a source text or our own interpretation of it.

5

‘Autor, którego dzieło podajemy tutaj w przekładzie, jest głos´nym bardzo pisarzem amerykan´skim, a znanym publicznos´ci naszej z dwóch tłomaczonych juz˙ na je˛zyk polski utworów w Słowie i Kuryerze Codziennym. H. G. Wells wybrał forme˛ powies´ci fantastycznej, jako ilustracye˛ do pewnych tez filozoficznych, społecznych i ekonomicznych, a te opowiadania jego budza˛ obecnie niezmierny interes w czytaja˛cej publicznos´ci amerykan´skiej i angielskiej, dzie˛ki bogactwu fantazyi pisarza i satyrycznemu podkładowi, jaki utworom swym nadaje. Jeden z krytyków angielskich porównywa rodzaj satyry Wellsa do humoru Swifta. Uwaga to istotnie trafna; ironia bowiem ukryta bywa w powies´ciach jego równie starannie jak i u autora Przygód Gullivera’.

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A common verb appearing in metaphorical and idiomatic expressions is ‘catch’. At the very beginning of The Time Machine there is the sentence: and the soft radiance of the incandescent lights in the lilies of silver caught the bubbles that flashed and passed in our glasses. (Wells 1958a, 7)

Feliks Wermin´ski, the translator of the book, has transferred its meaning into Polish by paraphrase. Paraphrase is the most common way of translating metaphors and idioms when a match cannot be found in the target language or when it seems inappropriate to use the match in the translated text because of stylistic differences in the source and target languages. Translating it into Polish literally, on the other hand, would be clumsy and absurd. Thus, the translator has created one meaning out of the several lexical items: and the mild light of the silver lamps in the shape of lilies was reflected in the pearls of the bubbly liquid.6 (1985, 3)

In Wermin´ski’s version, however, the word ‘bubble’ has not mirrored its dictionary meaning, but is translated as ‘perełki’, which seems to demonstrate that the translator failed to provide the appropriate Polish counterparts like ‘ba˛belki’ or ‘kropelki’, and rather characteristically wanted to enrich and heighten the tone of literary description. In the sentence, ‘I caught Filby’s eye over the shoulder of the Medical Man’ (Wells 1958a, 15), Wermin´ski has understood and translated the verb ‘caught’ in a very narrow and literal sense: ‘Over the doctor’s arm I caught Filby’s regard’7 (1985, 14), and has not translated it appropriately as ‘Filby noticed me’ or ‘I attracted Filby’s attention’. Ewa Krasin´ska, translator of The Island of Doctor Moreau (1988), on the other hand, has paraphrased (by reduction) the Polish meaning of ‘his eye caught’ into simply ‘saw’: His roving eye caught the position of my arm, and he smiled askew. (Wells 1977, 87) He smiled under his nose, seeing that I kept my hand in the pocket.8 (1988, 94)

In another instance she has given it the meaning ‘notice’: At the same time my eye caught my hand. (Wells 1977, 12) When he said that I saw my own hand.9 (1988, 11)

6

7 8 9

‘a łagodne s´wiatło srebrnych lamp w kształcie lilii odbijało sie˛ w perełkach napoju musuja˛cego’. ‘Poprzez ramie˛ lekarza pochwyciłem spojrzenie Filbiego’. ‘Us´miechna˛ł sie˛ pod nosem, widza˛c, iz˙ trzymałem re˛ke˛ w kieszeni’. ‘Gdy to mówił, postrzegłem własna˛ re˛ke˛’.

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Wells also uses the verb ‘catch’ in an idiomatic expression in The First Men in the Moon: ‘That caught one’s thoughts sharply’ ([n. d.], 75). The verb ‘catch’ refers, this time, to ‘thought’, which Chwalewik translated as follows: ‘Their sight strongly stimulated my thoughts’10 (1959a, 68). Here the translator has used an idiom of similar form but of dissimilar meaning; he translates the verb ‘catch’ as if he meant ‘stimulate’ or ‘rouse’ in English. And, in the first sentence of Chapter 10 of The First Men in the Moon Chwalewik translated ‘catch’ as Wermin´ski did in the sentence ‘caught the bubbles’, mentioned above. For the meaning of ‘catch’ is similar to that of ‘be reflected’: His face caught something of my dismay. (Wells [n.d.], 92) Something of my alarm was reflected on his face.11 (1959a, 82)

Here, however, the complement ‘my dismay’ takes the place of the subject, and the verb ‘odbic´ sie˛;’ corresponds to it. The verbs ‘grasp’, ‘grip’, ‘seize’ and ‘arrest’ are synonyms of ‘catch’ and they also appear in idiomatic or metaphorical expressions. For instance, ‘but presently a fair-haired little creature seemed to grasp my intention and repeated a name’ (Wells 1958a, 34). The translator did not change the form of the idiom, but paraphrased the meaning of ‘grasp’ into ‘guess’: ‘Always however some small person with fair hair guessed my intention after a while and mentioned the name’12 (1985, 33). Wermin´ski deals with the notion in a different, more literal manner, when he translates the metaphor referring to the Time Traveller’s feeling resulting from the situation he finds himself in, as he says about his being left helpless in that strange new world: ‘The bare thought of it was an actual physical sensation. I could feel it grip me at the throat and stop my breathing’ (Wells 1958a, 34). The translation runs: ‘The very thought of it caused real pain. I felt it caught me by the throat and strangled me’13 (1985, 41). The translator follows the writer and leaves the metaphor both in its form and sense, and presents the reader with a vivid picture illustrating the feeling. Worth noting here is the appearance of the metaphorical epithet accompanying ‘thought’ – ‘bare’ – which Wermin´ski paraphrases as ‘very’ (‘sama’), treating it as a kind of emphasis which draws the reader’s attention to ‘thought’ as a negative stimulus for the Time Traveller’s feeling. Returning to the verb ‘grasp’ used metaphorically or idiomatically, it will be interesting to compare two sentences, translated, respectively, by Ewa Krasin´ska and Witold Chwalewik:

10 11 12

13

‘Widok ich pobudził silnie moje mys´li’. ‘Odbiło sie˛ i na jego twarzy cos´ z mojego popłochu’. ‘Zawsze jednak mała jakas´ osóbka o jasnych włosach po chwili odgadywała mój zamiar i wymieniała zadana˛ nazwe˛’. ‘Sama mys´l o tym sprawiała mi najprawdziwszy fizyczny ból. Czułem, z˙e chwyta mnie za gardło i dusi’.

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I did not grasp his meaning then. (Wells 1977, 60) I did not really grasp its import until presently the darkness came. (Wells [n. d.], 133)

These sentences are very much alike as they indicate the failure to understand the essence of something (‘meaning’, ‘import’). Krasin´ska simply translates, ‘I didn’t understand what he meant’14 (1988, 63). She finds the Polish equivalent of ‘I did not understand his meaning’/‘I did not see what he meant.’ Chwalewik, on the other hand, translates the verb ‘grasp’ as ‘realize’: ‘I didn’t sufficiently realize the thing until darkness embraced us’15 (1959a, 115–16). There are numerous descriptions of nature in Wells’s science-fiction novels, of the sun and of the moon, in The Time Machine of the sunset especially, thus figuratively rendering the general setting and atmosphere of the decaying, disintegrating social fabric of the year 802,701. Here is a characteristic instance of Wellsian poetic prose to this effect: The sun had already gone below the horizon and the west was flaming gold, touched with some horizontal bars of purple and crimson. (Wells 1958a, 30–31)

Unfortunately, Feliks Wermin´ski’s translation shows an evident lack of competence, of selective instinct or of flair: The sun had hidden under the horizon and the sun became covered with shining gold which was cut by some even going belts of red and purple.16 (1985, 36)

First, he translates ‘had gone’ employing the past perfect, wholly out of use in present-day Polish. ‘The west’, ‘flaming gold’, as well as ‘horizontal bars’, have been translated literally. The impression of unity is thus unsettled and upset. Finally, ‘purple and crimson’ are translated as ‘purple and red’. This is inconsistent and illogical since ‘red’ is the general term and ‘purple’ is one of its specific varieties. My own proposed version would therefore be, ‘The sun had hidden below the horizon. The western half of the sky was lit up with a golden flame cut here and there with stripes of purple and scarlet’17 (Palczewski 2000, 126). An instance of the nominal metaphor as an implicit comparison is the following example in The Island of Doctor Moreau, which is a kind of litany pronounced by the Sayer of the Law:

14 15

16

17

‘Nie rozumiem o co mu chodzi’. ‘nie zdawałem sobie dostatecznie sprawy póki rychło znów nie ogarne˛ły nas ciemnos´ci’. ‘Słon´ce schowało sie˛ juz˙ było pod widnokra˛g, a zachód oblał sie˛ s´wieca˛cym złotem, które przecinało kilka poziomo ida˛cych pasów czerwieni i purpury’. ‘Słon´ce skryło sie˛ za widnokre˛giem. Zachodnia półkula nieba jas´niała złocistym płomieniem, przecie˛tym tu i ówdzie pasmami purpury i szkarłatu’.

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His is the House of Pain. His is the Hand that makes. His is the Hand that wounds. His is the Hand that heals. His is the lightning-flash. [. . .] His is the deep salt sea. [. . .] His are the stars in the sky. (Wells 1977, 65–66 emphasis in the original)

What is worth noting here is the way in which Ewa Krasin´ska has rendered the metaphors: she has not translated them literally, and her translation reflects the phenomenon of intertextuality, or textual interdependence. Intertextuality in the translation of this excerpt is associated with the litany of the Bible, especially the Book of Psalms: He is the Master of the House of Suffering. He is the One who creates. He is the One who inflicts wounds. He is the Master of lightning. He is the Master of the deep salty ocean. He is the Master of the stars in the sky.18 (1988, 68–69)

Another example of intertextuality in translation can be seen in the following fragment: Not to go on all-Fours; that is the Law. Are we not Men? Not to suck up Drink; that is the Law. Are we not Men? Not to eat Flesh nor Fish; that is the Law. Are we not Men? Not to claw Bark of Trees; that is the Law. Are we not Men? Not to chase other Men; that is the Law. Are we not Men? (Wells 1977, 65)

The intertextuality reflects the Decalogue with its characteristic wording: – – – – –

18

19

You won’t go on all-Fours – the Law tells. Aren’t we men? You won’t lap up water – the Law tells. Aren’t we men? You won’t devour Beasts or Fish – the Law tells. Aren’t we men? You won’t tear off Bark from Trees – the Law tells. Aren’t we men? You won’t hunt other Men – the Law tells. Aren’t we men?19 (1988, 68)

On jest Panem Domu Cierpienia. On jest Tym, który stwarza. On jest Tym, który zadaje rany. On jest Panem błyskawic. On jest Panem głe˛bokiego słonego oceanu. On jest Panem gwiazd na niebie. – Nie be˛dziesz chodzic´ na Czworakach – tak kaz˙e Prawo. Czyz˙ nie jestes´my ludz´mi? – Nie be˛dziesz chłeptac´ wody – tak kaz˙e Prawo. Czyz˙ nie jestes´my ludz´mi? – Nie be˛dziesz poz˙erał Zwierza ani Ryby – tak kaz˙e Prawo. Czyz˙ nie jestes´my ludz´mi?

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Generally speaking, Feliks Wermin´ski, translator of The Time Machine, understands and transposes the English metaphors into Polish in a very literal way. In some cases he seems either not to find a proper, stylistically correct Polish equivalent or he misunderstands a metaphorical word or phrase. Witold Chwalewik, translator of The First Men in the Moon, also tends to render metaphors literally, as if forgetting that this kind of stylistic trope has a figurative meaning. And even if he can perceive the figurative sense of a metaphor, he renders it in highly informal language which, for readers who prefer standard Polish, may sound discordant and clumsy. Ewa Krasin´ska, translator of The Island of Doctor Moreau, appears to be more successful in this regard. She renders metaphors in a stylistically correct Polish and maintains appropriate balance between the literal and the figurative. Sometimes translators leave their traces in the translations through exaggerated interference in the original text. This can result in either strengthening or weakening the original meaning, thus excessively colouring or emotionalizing it. For example: I’m nearly worked out, but I shan’t sleep till I’ve told this thing over to you. (Wells 1958a, 19) I am devilishly tired, but I surely shan’t sleep until I have told you everything.20 (1985, 21)

The translator renders the adverb ‘nearly’ with a stronger tinge of expressiveness, as ‘confoundedly’, ‘damnably’ (‘diabelnie’ in Polish), although it simply means ‘almost’. The Polish adverb ‘diabelnie’, according to D. Ludwiczak’s Słownik wyrazów bliskoznacznych (Dictionary of synonyms) (1998) belongs to an informal, common register; it is low-class and vulgar sounding. The translator also introduces an additional emphatic factor, ‘na pewno’ (‘certainly’, ‘surely’), evidently to stress the Time Traveller’s extraordinary impressions of his journey and his urgent need to tell others about his fantastic adventure. The translator of The First Men in the Moon also tends to colour his style with a tinge of vulgarity which may sound offensive despite the fact that the translator’s aim was to reflect the hero’s negative attitude and feeling. Vulgarism should be carefully measured so as not to make one’s translation sound low and aesthetically slipshod. Thus, ‘ “O Lord!” I cried; “I wish you’d stop that buzzing!” ’ (Wells [n. d.], 115) translates as: ‘That you should damn well stop humming under your nose!’21 (1959a, 101).

cont. – Nie be˛dziesz obdzierał Kory z Drzew – tak kaz˙e Prawo. Czyz˙ nie jestes´my ludz´mi? – Nie be˛dziesz polował na innych Ludzi – tak kaz˙e Prawo. Czyz˙ nie jestes´my ludz´mi? 20 ‘Jestem diabelnie znuz˙ony, lecz na pewno nie zasne˛, dopóki nie opowiem wam wszystkiego’. 21 ˙ ebys´ raz, do jasnej cholery, przestał brze˛czec´ pod nosem!’ – the expletive ‘do ‘Z jasnej cholery’ is undeniably coarse.

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There are also instances of weakening the original meaning – that is of translating a word or phrase in a manner that will dampen its effect in comparison with the source text: Now, from the work-shed to the patent office is clearly only one step. (Wells [n.d.], 14) I thought it might not be far from the lab to the patent office.22 (1959a, 15)

‘Clearly only one step’ has been translated as ‘may not be far’, although there is an equivalent Polish idiom to the one used in the original.23 I remembered how he detested any fuss about himself. (Wells 1958a, 17) I recalled how he didn’t like to be concerned with himself.24 (1985, 18)

The verb ‘detest’ has been reduced here to ‘didn’t like’. Krasin´ska also occasionally displays a tendency to weaken the original meaning. For instance, she has translated ‘For a time I hurried on hopelessly perplexed’ (Wells 1977, 49) as ‘I went on helpless and confused’25 (1988, 52). The translation of this sentence raises a number of issues. First, the verb ‘hurry’ has been semantically diminished to simply ‘go’. Second, since Polish unlike English does not favour appositions of adverb and adjective, the translator renders the apposition ‘hopelessly perplexed’ with two adjectives, ‘helpless’ and ‘confused’, and, while remaining faithful to Polish stylistics, this undeniably weakens the overall effect. Moreover, she drops the adverbial phrase ‘for a time’, which may not necessarily be important here, but nevertheless demonstrates how translators can handle their material with a degree of nonchalance. At the time that Wells’s science fiction was first being translated into Polish, knowledge of English was rather limited in Poland and, compared with French or German, it was much less used and taught. Translators therefore plainly misunderstood the original on many occasions. To quote some examples, ‘Our consciousness moves intermittently’ (Wells 1958a, 8) was translated as ‘our consciousness runs without break’26 (TM 1985, 4); ‘They say life is a dream, a precious poor dream at times’ (Wells 1958a, 81) was translated as ‘They say life is a dream, a precious dream sometimes’27 (IM 1976, 224), implying that life is a precious dream, the very opposite of what the author meant. The translator clearly misunderstood and was baffled by the apparently paradoxical collocation of two opposite adjectives, and of the two chose the wrong one,

22

23 24 25 26 27

‘Przyszło mi na mys´l, z˙e od laboratorium do urze˛du patentowego moz˙e byc´ niedaleko’ ‘Tylko jeden krok’; this translates as ‘Only one step’. ‘Przypomniałem sobie, jak nie lubie˛, z˙eby sie˛ nim zajmowac´’. ‘Szedłem dalej bezradny i zakłopotany’. ‘Nasza s´wiadomos´c´ biegnie bez przerwy’. ‘Mówia˛, z˙e z˙ycie jest snem, cennym snem niekiedy’.

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‘precious’, which in the present case is merely a modifier, adding emphasis to ‘poor’. There are instances of verbal non-equivalence, sometimes translated by what is known as cultural substitution. In the sentence ‘What was he going to do before lunch-time?’ (Wells 1958a, 82), Wermin´ski used this strategy and replaced the word ‘lunch’ with ‘breakfast’, as in Polish usage the former is absent28 (1985, 72). Chwalewik, on the other hand, accords the word ‘lunch’ the Polish counterpart, ‘dinner’: And these letters being despatched, I had up as good a lunch as the hotel could give. (Wells [n. d.], 227) Contented with myself I ate the dinner brought in, the best I could order in this hotel.29 (1959a, 198)

Another example of such non-equivalence is the description ‘The darker hours’ which cannot be translated literally into Polish, but only paraphrased. Thus, So far I had seen nothing of the Morlocks, but it was yet early in the night, and the darker hours before the old moon rose were still to come. (Wells 1958a, 57) I couldn’t see the Morlocks, but the night was rather early and darkness was only approaching preceding moonrise in the last quarter.30 (1985, 72)

In ‘I laughed at that, and turned again to the dark trees before me’ (Wells 1958a, 57), ‘laugh’ has been translated as ‘smile’: ‘I smiled and turned to the forest thicket I had before me’31 (1985, 86). In the sentence, ‘Well, I do not mind telling you I have been at work upon this geometry of Four Dimensions for some time’ (Wells 1958a, 9), Wermin´ski has misunderstood ‘I do not mind’ and has translated it as ‘I do not remember’: ‘Good, I do not remember if I told you that for some time I was concerned with four-dimensional geometry’32 (1985, 5). In the phrase ‘I become absentminded, as you say’ (Wells 1958a, 10), Wermin´ski translates ‘absent-minded’ as simply ‘absent’: ‘I became absent then’33 (1985, 8). ‘For a minute, perhaps, my mind was wool-gathering’ (Wells 1958a, 17) has also been misunderstood by the translator, ‘wool-gathering’ being translated as ‘working on a riddle’: ‘For a

28 29

30

31 32

33

‘Co on jeszcze zamierza uczynic´ przed s´niadaniem?’. ‘Zadowolony z siebie zjadłem przyniesiony do pokoju obiad, najlepszy, jaki mogłem zamówic´ w tym hotelu’. ‘Nie widziałem Morloków, lecz noc była jeszcze dosyc´ wczesna i nadchodziła dopiero godzina ciemnos´ci poprzedzaja˛ca wschód ksie˛z˙yca w ostatniej kwadrze’. ‘Us´miechna˛łem sie˛ i skierowałem sie˛ ku les´nej ge˛stwinie, która˛ miałem przed soba˛’. ‘No, dobrze! Nie przypominam sobie, czy mówiłem juz˙ wam, ze przez pewien czas zajmowałem sie˛ geometria˛ czterowymiarowa˛’. ‘Staje sie˛ wówczas nieobecny’.

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while my mind was working on a riddle’34 (1985, 18). With regard to ‘I want to tell it. Badly’ (Wells 1958a, 19), ‘Badly’ as mere emphasis has been misunderstood and translated as ‘with bad consequences for me’ (‘I must tell you what I know, with bad consequences for me’35 [1985, 21]). Deficient lexical knowledge leads to literalness in translation, without regard for the idiomatic or figurative character of a word. After the Second World War it was the policy of the Communist authorities to select works for republication and translation which served its political and cultural interests. Wells was no exception here. His concern with science and what was regarded as technological progress, his criticism of contemporary bourgeois society and civilization, his commitment to socio-political causes generally, as well as his distaste for the Catholic Church, all made him an obvious choice. Wells has not, on the whole, been fortunate with his Polish translators and, with only a few exceptions, this appraisal applies to both the earlier and the later stage of his work. Kipps was translated by Celina Wieniewska in 1950 in the very midst of the Stalinist period, the choice of text being quite obviously due to its trenchant social criticism and its emphasis on the sad plight of the impoverished ‘little man’ representing the lower ranks of bourgeois society. There are many instances of awkwardness and clumsiness in the translation, largely due to its plain literalness evident, for example, in the very first sentence of the text: Until he was nearly arrived at manhood, it did not become clear to Kipps how it was that he had come into the care of an aunt and uncle instead of having a father and mother like other little boys. (Wells 1946b, 7)

The latter part of this passage was translated as ‘instead, like other little boys, to have father and mother’36 (1950, 7). Or, ‘He paid the cabman in a manner adequate to the occasion’ (Wells 1946b, 280) is translated as ‘He paid the cabman in a manner suitable for the occasion’37 (1950, 315). The History of Mr Polly (Historia pana Polly) has been translated twice: in 1913 by ‘Z. N.’ (the translator, very appropriately in view of the quality of his or her work, preferred not to disclose his or her name), and in 1958 by Róz˙a Czekan´ska-Heymanowa – the latter perhaps the best translation of Wells into Polish. To exemplify, I will cite a fragment from the opening portion of the original, and then from the two translations: ‘Hole!’ said Mr Polly, and then for a change and with greatly increased emphasis: ‘ ’Ole!’ He paused, and then broke out with one of his private and peculiar idioms. ‘Oh! Beastly, Silly Wheeze of a hole!’ [Original] (Wells 1946a, 7)

34 35 36 37

‘Przez chwile˛ mój umysł pracował nad zagadka˛’. ‘Musze˛ wam to powiedziec´. Wiem, z˙e z´le na tym wyjde˛’. ‘zamiast, jak inni mali chłopcy, miec´ ojca i matke˛’. ‘Zapłacił woz´nicy w sposób odpowiedni do sytuacji’.

Translations of Wells’s Works into Polish

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‘Accursed hole!’ – Mr Polly suddenly burst out. ‘Hooole’ – he repeated louder – ‘idiotic, devilish hole!!’38 [‘Z. N.’] (K 1913, 3) ‘Hole’ – Mr Polly hissed, and then repeated with much greater emphasis for a change: ‘ ’Ole!’ He fell silent, but after a while burst out in his strange jargon: ‘Oh, this silly, damned, scabby hole!’39 [Czekánska-Heymanowa] (K 1958, 5)

There are a number of omissions and inaccuracies in the earlier translation. The colloquial ‘ ’ole’ is conveyed by a repetition of the ‘r’ consonant in Polish; the rendering by way of the prolonged ‘u’ vowel in the later translation proves much more appropriate and natural in these circumstances. In the case of ‘Beastly, Silly Wheeze’, only two words have been translated in the earlier version, not quite suitably as ‘idiotic, devilish’; all three appear in the later version, quite aptly as: ‘Silly, damned, scabby’. Janina Sujkowska’s translation of Men Like Gods (Ludzie jak bogowie) was reprinted in 1959. The novel was undoubtedly chosen by the Communist authorities for its markedly, even virulently anticlerical and especially antiChristian stance. The translation is anything but satisfactory, and abounds in unintentionally comic effects. The famous ‘Our education is our government’ (Wells 1923, 80) has been ineptly rendered as: ‘Our educational methods are our government’40 (1959, 85), which sounds altogether absurd in Polish, incomparably more awkward than this transliteration into English. I would propose, ‘education is the basis of our statehood’41 (Palczewski 2000, 127). In 1924, Jan Parandowski, one of the most brilliant Polish stylists of the past century, translated A Short History of the World (Historia s´wiata). And yet, it has to be conceded that the translation is uneven, awkward and cumbersome at times, alongside true flights of poetry. Parandowski was an authority on and connoisseur of classical culture and Romance languages and literatures. He was less expertly proficient in English, especially in his younger days. His undertaking was therefore fairly bold and daring. There remain, however, the poetic flights which in beauty and power indisputably transcend the Wellsian original. Here is an example of a cosmic tableau in Chapter 2: the moon’s pace in the sky slackened [. . .] and the water in the first seas increased and ran together into the ocean garment our planet henceforth wore. (1929, 14–15) the moon slackened pace in its subcelestial strolls [. . .] more and more water

38

39

40 41

‘Przekle˛ta dziura! – wybuchna˛ł nagle pan Polly. Dziurrra! – powtórzył głos´niej – idyotyczna, dyabelska dziura!!’ ‘Dziura – sykna˛ł pan Polly, po czym dla odmiany ze znacznie wie˛kszym naciskiem powtórzył: – Dziuuura! Umilkł, ale po chwili wybuchna˛ł w swoim dziwacznym z˙argonie – Ach, ta głupia, cholerna, parszywa dziura!’ ‘Nasze metody wychowawcze sa˛ naszym rza˛dem’. ‘Os´wiata jest podstawa˛ naszej pan´stwowos´ci’.

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appeared in the first seas which slowly changed into that blue ocean garb that was henceforth to adorn our planet.42 (1978, 8)

Between 1978 and 1983 four reprints of the translation appeared, with a total sale of 128,000 copies. The period from 1981 to 1983 was when martial law was imposed in Poland to prohibit the Solidarity movement, and the book was expected to have a role to play due to the manner in which it treated the history of the Catholic Church. The first volume of Experiment in Autobiography (Próba Autobiografii) appeared in Ludwik Krzyz˙anowski’s translation in 1938. It is highly regrettable that one of the most stirring and fascinating autobiographies of our time should have been translated in a manner so embarrassingly awkward, inept and literal in a distinctly negative sense. Characteristically, only the first volume has been translated; quite evidently it was considered more attractive in view of its manifestly personal tone when compared with the more general and didactic second volume. Or, alternatively, one might not altogether rule out the possibility that continuation under the circumstances was simply beyond the translator’s powers. Most of the translations of Wells’s works were made before the Second World War. In view of the fact that the writer’s novels had an undoubted appeal to the mass reader and owing to purely commercial considerations, the standard of the translations was not indeed high. This, however, did not affect reception negatively. Intellectual verve, imaginative and visionary power, and that peculiarly overpowering plasticity of the unknown, were so compelling that the reading public simply yielded to the magic unreservedly. To quote but one example, the translation of The Time Machine, with all its deficiencies and even inanities, did not stand in the way of reception. The genius of Wells shone through and triumphed over them. The book, in Feliks Wermin´ski’s original 1899 translation, had five reprints in the 1980s and 90s and a total sale of almost half a million copies – practically all sold out! This one example speaks for itself. The writer’s current status in Poland is still high, in keeping with his standing among professionals, writers and critics, although publishing houses admittedly incline towards more modern authors. The need for new translations obviously arises when the perceptible omissions are considered, particularly some of Wells’s short stories.43

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‘ksie˛z˙yc zwolnił kroku w swych podniebnych przechadzkach [. . .] coraz wie˛cej przybywało wody w pierwszych morzach, które zmieniały sie˛ powoli w ten błe˛kitny strój oceanów, jaki odta˛d miał zdobic´ nasza˛ planete˛’. I have in fact recently translated and offered for publication three Wells short stories, ‘A Dream of Armageddon’ (‘Sen O Armageddonie’), ‘The Flowering of the Strange Orchid’ (‘Kwitnienie Dziwnej Orchidei’) and ‘The Moth’ (‘C´ma’).

10

A Welcome Guest: The Czech Reception of H. G. Wells Bohuslav Mánek

H. G. Wells’s writings entered the Czech literary scene at a very important moment of its development. During the nineteenth century, Czech society and culture gradually recovered from the general decline caused by the defeat of the Kingdom of Bohemia in the Thirty Years War, and in the 1890s it was entering a stage of rapid development. Wells began his literary career just at the time when Czech literature was managing to keep pace with contemporary trends in European literature and was open to various impulses from abroad. Translation was an important means of restoring Czech cultural prestige during the nineteenth century. Translations provided information about trends in foreign literatures and also filled the gaps in the range of genres available in the Czech territories; indeed, new translations occasionally acted as inspirations for original Czech works. During that century, particular attention was paid to Shakespeare and Byron (Goldstücker 1975, Mánek 2000), and the turn of the twentieth century saw the onset of a great blossoming of original Czech writing in all genres. At the same time, there was a growing readership for translations of contemporary prose, in particular the novel, from various literatures, especially French, Russian and English (Sˇalda 1892). In the first half of the twentieth century, Wells, together with Hardy, Shaw, Galsworthy, Chesterton and Bennett, was one of the most widely translated and discussed living English writers (Masnerová 2002, 50; Kunzová 1963; Peprník 2001). Of particular interest and influence were Wells’s beliefs in evolution, progress and socialism, his projects of rational social organization and, later, his worries about the future of civilization and his warnings against war and the potential abuse of science. He was also a man of public affairs and so it is no surprise that his reception was connected with the political development of the country. His ideas and topical political statements were often used as arguments in the discussions regarding the organization and future of society in a rapidly changing world, as many of these changes – above all, the changes wrought by the two world wars – had a direct influence on the development of Czech society in the twentieth century. Wells’s books were generally translated after a relatively short period of time following their publication in English and they quickly became popular with Czech readers. The Island of Doctor Moreau (Ostrov doktora Moreaua) was the first

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in a long series of translations, being published in 1901, followed by The War of the Worlds (Válka sveˇtu˚) in 1903, and an omnibus edition of The Time Machine and The Invisible Man (Stroj ˇcasu. Neviditelný) in 1905, The First Men in the Moon (První lidé na Meˇsíci) in 1908 and The War in the Air (Válka ve vzduchu) in 1909. Wells was thus introduced primarily as a science-fiction and fantasy writer and he soon enjoyed popularity similar to that of Jules Verne, whose scientific romances started to be translated into Czech as early as the 1870s. Wells’s critical reception was generally favourable, as can be seen in a review of the Czech translation of The War in the Air by Arne Novák, one of the leading young critics of the period and later a distinguished literary historian: In this book as in his other naturalist-fantasy writings, Wells is not a mere adventurous spirit of wild imagination and scientific speculation like Jules Verne, but is also a social satirist who boldly and originally criticizes the social order of today, often possessing the sharp ridicule of Shaw. [. . .] In H. G. Wells there is no place for idyllic sentimentality, which governs the actions of Verne’s novels; rather there is heard the sarcasm of a socialist who pushes the picture of the contemporary ruling class to the point of caricature.1 (1909–10, 52)

Literary critics often distinguish two lines of development in modern science fiction: the Vernean branch, focusing on externals, which uses fantasy to invent or adapt the scientific ‘facts’ and ‘technologies’ ahead of the writer’s time, and the Wellsian branch which concentrates on the inner life of humankind and the development of human society. Of the founders of modern science fiction, it was Wells who introduced the largest number of themes and motifs, such as the technology and social conflicts of the future, aliens and genetic engineering, many of which were employed by Czech science-fiction writers. Though Verne’s books have been very widely read, twentieth-century Czech sciencefiction writing almost completely ignores the Vernean type of fiction (Neff 1995, 12–13). On the other hand, Wells’s ‘social fables’ have substantially underpinned its development. Czech literature of the nineteenth century and several later periods was often a medium for a patriotic, a social or a political message, searching for answers to topical social problems as well as major philosophical and artistic questions. Thus the prime concern of Czech science fiction was not just with playful or thrilling fantasy. Its focus on the social consequences of scientific and technological advance, particularly on their moral and psychological aspects, was in close harmony with Wells’s writings. In the interwar period, there were the great figures of Karel Cˇapek, whose utopian

1

‘Nejinak nezˇ v jiných skladbách skupiny prˇírodoveˇdecky fantastické, není ani v této knize Wells jen dobrodruzˇným duchem divoké imaginace a veˇdecké spekulace jako Jules Verne, nýbrzˇ tézˇ zárovenˇ sociálním satirikem, jenzˇ smeˇle a svérázneˇ kritisuje dnesˇní rˇád spolecˇenský, maje cˇasto ostrý výsmeˇch Shawu˚v. [. . .] Pro idylickou sentimentálnost, jaká ovládá vnitrˇní deˇje románu˚ Verneových, není u H. G. Wellse nikdy místa, spísˇe se u neˇho ozve sarkasmus socialisty, jenzˇ azˇ do karikatury zkresluje dnesˇní vládnoucí spolecˇnost.’

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allegorical novels and plays were quickly translated into English,2 and Jan Weiss, whose masterpiece Du˚m o tisíci patrech (The thousand-storey house) was published in Czech in 1929. After the Second World War, Josef Nesvadba, a psychiatrist by profession, earned worldwide recognition for philosophically based speculative fiction in a series of short stories and novels of the 1950s and 1960s. In Czech science fiction we find numerous references and allusions to Wells, as in one of Nesvadba’s stories entitled ‘Druhý ostrov doktora Moreau’ (The second island of doctor Moreau) (1964, 72–80). Chesterton, Wells and Shaw (in this order of preference, according to Vocˇadlo [1995, 168–69]) were Cˇapek’s favourite English writers. Their works were instrumental in helping him to create his own specific poetics. He was anxious to meet all three of them during his eight-week visit to Britain between May and July 1924 (1924), and this he managed to do (Vocˇadlo 1995). Wells invited him to Easton Glebe, his Essex home, and they maintained contact until Cˇapek’s death in 1938. Wells visited Czechoslovakia several times, mostly on Cˇapek’s invitation and in connection with the activities of the PEN Club, his last visit being in June 1938, just before the Munich Crisis.3 The 1920s represented a new period in the reception of Wells’s works: he emerged as an influential essayist and realistic novelist. His moral and philosophical essays and his books on history came into prominence and he was hailed as a prophetic thinker and social reformer who combined collectivism with individualism. One of the results of the Great War was the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the creation of the Czechoslovak Republic, comprising the Czech lands (Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia) which had been under Hapsburg rule since the Thirty Years’ War, and Slovakia, a province inhabited by Slavs but governed by the Kingdom of Hungary since the Middle Ages. Independence accelerated the development of both Czech and Slovak cultures in all respects, including literature. Many new questions regarding the character of the new state and its external relations were raised and had to be answered, so a look at the broad state of affairs in Europe and the world was necessary. Wells was considered both as a typical representative of Britain, one of the victorious great powers, and as a profound and perceptive thinker, well informed about modern science as well as the past of humankind, and discussing topical progressive social trends. The Outline of History and A Short History of the World each went through two editions between 1926 and 1948 (Wells 1926b; 1931), while many people also drew information from his books on biology (The Science of Life, co-authored with Julian Huxley and G. P. Wells and translated 1931–32) and economics (The Work, Wealth and Happiness of Mankind,

2

3

These included the plays Veˇc Makropulos (1922) (translated the same year as The Macropoulos Secret) and Bílá nemoc (1937) (translated in 1938 as Power and Glory), and the novels Továrna na Absolutno (1922) (translated in 1927 as The Absolute at Large), Krakatit (1924) (translated under the same title in 1925) and Válka s mloky (1936) (translated in 1937 as War with the Newts). It appears that Wells’s first visit to Czechoslovakia preceded his friendship with Cˇapek; according to Wells’s ‘Introductory Remarks’ to Edvard Benesˇ’s Building a New Europe, he attended the Sokol Festival in 1920 (1939, 7).

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translated 1933). His opinions were valued and highly influential. In 1919, The World Set Free was printed in two different translations (1919a; 1919b). Very important events were taking place in Russia and Wells’s views as a visitor to that country, and who had talked with Lenin, were also of great interest. Russia in the Shadows was translated in 1921, shortly after the publication of the English original. His interview with Stalin was also published in 1935 (Wells and Stalin, 1935). In 1922 the translations of This Misery of Boots (1922a), A Modern Utopia (1922b), and a selection from An Englishman Looks at the World (Wells 1922c) were published. The latter was prefaced by Vilém Mathesius, the distinguished linguist and literary scholar and first Professor of English at Charles University in Prague: Wells the novelist and Wells the thinker interpenetrate and supplement each other in such a way that any judgement based on his works of fiction – and only they are known in our country – is false. For that matter, a judgement based only on his purely reflective books would also be false, as it is difficult to decide who supports whom, whether a thinker trained in scientific analysis and induction supports the novelist, or the novelist, endowed with sharp insight into the uniqueness of the real, supports the thinker.4 (1922, 5)

The book’s blurb includes the following prophetic words: ‘Get to know the way of thinking and the character of the nation which will soon have a say in the destiny of our country!’5 (Wells 1922c, blurb). A similar blurb introduces A Modern Utopia: Wells’s ‘Modern Utopia’ is a key to the knowledge of the mentality and ideals of the English nation; it is necessary to know and understand them as today the existence of our state depends on gaining the help and affection of Great Britain. The readers of Wells’s novels will not be disappointed this time either: there is the same sparkling form, pertinent expressions and forceful vocabulary, and so every sentence speaks in a voice of steel.6 (Wells 1922b, blurb)

The preface to the book was written by Otakar Vocˇadlo (1922), Mathesius’s disciple and, at that time, a lecturer at the School of Slavonic Studies in London

4

5

6

‘Wells romanopisec a Wells myslitel se tak navzájem prostupují a doplnˇují, zˇe jakýkoli úsudek staveˇný pouze na Wellsoveˇ díle beletristickém – a to je u nás vlastneˇ dosud jedineˇ známo – je krˇivý. Stejneˇ krˇivý by byl ostatneˇ i úsudek opírající se výhradneˇ o jeho knihy ryze úvahové, nebot’ teˇzˇko je rozhodnouti, kdo koho podpírá víc, zda myslitel, sˇkolený ve veˇdecké analysi a indukci, romanopisce, cˇi romanopisec, nadaný bystrým zrakem pro jedinecˇnost reality, myslitele.’ ‘Poznejte mysˇlení a charakter národa, který bude jednou spolurozhodovati o osudu nasˇí vlasti!’ ‘Wellsova “Moderní utopie” je klícˇem k poznání mentality a ideálu˚ anglického národa, které znáti a chápati je nasˇí nutnou povinností, nebot’ na získání pomoci a sympatií Velké Britanie spoluzávisí dnes i existence nasˇeho státu! Cˇtenárˇi Wellsových románu˚ nebudou ani tentokráte zklamáni: tatázˇ jiskrˇivá forma, prˇiléhavé výrazy, nutnost, takzˇe kazˇdá veˇta zní prˇímo kovovým hlasem.’

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and, later, a distinguished Czech Anglicist. He was Cˇapek’s guide and companion during his trip to Britain and continually wrote about Wells; he also penned the preface to Wells’s final essay, Mind at the End of Its Tether, published in Czech in 1948. He edited the Standard Library, a series publishing only contemporary writers from English-speaking countries such as John Galsworthy, Arnold Bennett, G. K. Chesterton, Sinclair Lewis and H. H. Richardson, which he opened with Wells’s Men Like Gods in 1926 (1926a). In his survey of English literature of the first three decades of the century, Vocˇadlo claimed that there were four representative figures who expressed the principal tendencies in the literature of their time and whose works were ‘the quintessence of their periods, which was the cause of their great popularity’7 (1932, 48): Oscar Wilde, Rudyard Kipling, H. G. Wells and Aldous Huxley. Wells’s great influence on young members of the Czech intelligentsia at the beginning of the twentieth century can be illustrated by a statement made by the sociologist Edvard Benesˇ, later Czechoslovak Minister of Foreign Affairs and President of the Republic from 1935 to 1948, which he made in a speech when in exile in Britain in 1939: ‘I have been a reader of Wells’ books even from my youngest days and I have learned much from them. Also in politics. His imagination, looking into the future[,] is a source of great enlightenment for every politician’ (1939, 11). In the interwar period, too, Wells’s realistic novels from the first decade of the century were made accessible to and enjoyed by Czech readers – Love and Mr Lewisham (Láska a pan Lewisham) in 1922, Kipps (Kipps. Prˇíbeˇh prosté dusˇe), TonoBungay (under the same title) and The Invisible Man (Neviditelný muzˇ) in 1925, and The History of Mr Polly (Pan Polly) in 1936. This belated reception might be due to the fact that realistic prose has had a firm position in original Czech literature and there had been a steady supply of it in translation from all literatures since the 1890s. On the occasion of Wells’s seventieth birthday in 1936, Cˇapek appreciated Wells not as a leader or prophet ‘but as a poetic guide of the way to the future. He does not preach to us what we have to do, but he suggests where we can aim, if we reasonably make use of everything that history and the physical world have taught us’8 (1947, 86). Wells’s writings were also valued by critics whose aesthetic norms and values were substantially different from his, such as Frantisˇek Xaver Sˇalda (1934–35), who characterized him in the following terms in his essay on Jakub Arbes, a nineteenth-century Czech journalist and writer of sociological novels and fantastic ‘romanettos’: Like Wells, Arbes is not a poet, not an artist, but rather a writer, and one of considerable stature, by which I mean an intellectual experimenter, a mind of a certain intellectual partiality and from a specific social background, an author with a socially

7 8

‘Jejich dílo je takrˇka kvintesencí své doby a odtud jeho ohlas.’ ‘nýbrzˇ básnickým ukazovatelem cesty do budoucnosti. Nekázˇe nám, co musíme deˇlat, nýbrzˇ naznacˇuje, kam mu˚zˇeme mírˇit, vyuzˇijeme-li rozumneˇ vsˇeho, cˇemu nás ucˇí deˇjiny a fyzický sveˇt.’

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critical and ameliorative tendency, and an educator rather than a discoverer in the spheres of soul and form.9 (Sˇalda 1934–35, 159)

The 1920s also saw the emergence of the first original academic papers on various aspects of Wells’s works – his religious experience (Soucˇek 1924), the scientific element in his thought (Rohácˇek 1928), and a comparative study of his and Shaw’s philosophies of evolution (Vancˇura 1928). Vilém Mathesius considered Wells and Shaw the most important contemporary writers and urged young scholars to write about them. He also cultivated essays on the topics and style inspired by English essayists, including Wells (1925), and advocated the introduction of various elements of the English way of life into Czech society. Another professor, the sociologist Tomásˇ Garrigue Masaryk, the first Czechoslovak president, considered utopias to be concrete pictures of future social development and discussed them in the context of sociological literature with reference to Wells, with whose works he was well acquainted (1925, 131; 275). Wells esteemed Masaryk for his knowledge of Russia and was greatly impressed by him when they met and had a talk on contemporary issues in Prague Castle in 1935. In a short article published both in the English original and in Czech translation, he praised him as the ‘son and heir of all that was best in nineteenth-century liberalism, surviving not so much by growing old as by remaining persistently vital, into the dawn of a new age of fearless thought and outspoken effort’ (1935, 321). Wells’s active involvement in public and international political affairs was also appreciated, in particular his support of Czechoslovakia against chauvinistic Magyar and Nazi German propaganda in the 1920s and 1930s, during the Munich Crisis and later. Vocˇadlo (1995, 143) praised Wells’s insight into international politics and his understanding of the Czech standpoint regarding Czechoslovak–German relations, and Viktor Fischl (1994, 60–66) greatly appreciated his support for the Czech PEN Club in exile in London during the Second World War and his help in obtaining British visas for Czech writers of Jewish origin so that they might escape from the occupied country. Wells’s most direct involvement in assisting Czech Jews to escape Nazi tyranny did succeed in saving one Pavel Eisner, though, by an odd twist of fate, not the Pavel Eisner Wells believed he was assisting. According to Wells’s correspondence, and its editor David C. Smith, Wells acted as sponsor for the Czech-Jewish writer, Pavel Eisner, and his wife and daughter during 1939. In English-language studies of Wells’s involvement in this affair, it has hitherto been believed that his intervention was successful. Indeed, Smith comments, in a footnote to Wells’s correspondence on the subject, that ‘The Eisner saga ended well [. . .]. Eisner (1889–1954) lived in London and New York after his and his family’s escape’ (Wells 1998, 225, n. 1). In fact, according to Viktor Fischl, the

9

‘Jako Wells není Arbes ani básník, ani umeˇlec, nýbrzˇ spísˇe spisovatel, ovsˇem úctyhodného formátu, cˇímzˇ rozumím spísˇe nezˇ objevitele ve sveˇteˇ dusˇe a tvaru experimentátora mysˇlenkového, ducha urcˇitého mysˇlenkového zaujetí a sociálneˇ spolecˇenské základny, autora s tendencí spolecˇensky opravnou a meliorizacˇní, s intencí osveˇtnou.’

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writer, translator and editor, Pavel Eisner (1889–1958), and his family had to survive the war in the infamous Terezín concentration camp in Bohemia because the British Consular Office in Prague mistakenly issued the visa guaranteed by Wells to Eisner’s namesake, who thus managed to get to Britain. The Consular Office refused to issue a second visa for one guarantee and the war broke out before the matter was resolved. Fischl happened to meet the namesake in Britain during the war. That Pavel Eisner told him that Wells’s guarantee surprised him but he thought that it had been the result of some charitable action by English writers helping Czech Jews to escape Nazism. After the war, Fischl wrote a letter to Wells to tell him that the Eisner whom he had sponsored did survive the Holocaust (1994, 60–66).10 The exiled President Benesˇ, in his post-war memoirs, also acknowledged Wells’s support: ‘One of the first persons who came to see me at Gwendolen Avenue in Putney and expressed his contempt for the policies of the so-called democratic great powers was the writer H. G. Wells’11 (1947, 123). Later, after the massacre of the Czech village of Lidice by German Nazis in June 1942, Wells wrote to Benesˇ to express his sympathy and indignation, and Benesˇ replied, greatly appreciating his support (Fischl 1994, 65–66). On the other hand, the distinguished Protestant theologian Josef Lukl Hromádka (1889–1969) was greatly disappointed by an anti-war speech given by Wells to the British Students’ Congress in Leeds on 28 March 1940, the tenor of which he probably misunderstood. His religious conviction and Czech patriotism led him to accuse Wells and Shaw of contributing to pre-war pacifism and irresponsibility: Under their tutelage, young educated people learnt to regard all serious questions of life and death with easygoing playfulness, without responsibility and without the ardour of spirit. Witticism dispelled serious earnestness, coldness of heart suppressed all fervour and readiness for sacrifice. [. . .] What help do they give to the unhappy mankind of today that it may overcome tyranny, moral helplessness, and violence?12 (1946, 36–37)

After the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia, many books were withdrawn

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11

12

For more information on Wells’s part in attempting to assist the Eisner family, see Wells 1998, 221–25. ‘Jeden z prvních, kdo mne prˇisˇel navsˇtívit do Gwendolen Avenue v Putney a vyjádrˇil mi své opovrzˇení k politice tzv. demokratických velmocí, byl spisovatel H. G. Wells.’ ‘Vzdeˇlaná mládezˇ se ucˇila pod jejich vedením dívat se na vsˇechny vázˇné otázky zˇivota a smrti s lehkomyslným hracˇkárˇstvím, bez odpoveˇdnosti a bez vrˇelosti ducha. Duchaplnost zahnala vázˇnou opravdovost, studenost srdce potlacˇila vsˇechnu vroucnost a odhodlanost k obeˇtem. [. . .] Jakou pomoc prˇinásˇejí dnesˇnímu nesˇt’astnému lidstvu, aby zdolalo tyranii, mravní bezradnost a násilí?’ Wells’s speech was printed in several American newspapers so, as Hromádka spent the war years in the USA, his comments are apparently a response to a printed version of the speech. A likely source for Hromádka was the New York Times, which printed the speech the day after it was delivered (Wells 1940).

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from public libraries and, on 16 August 1940, the Nazi authorities forbade the publishing of translations from and papers about contemporary writers from ‘enemy countries’ (Masnerová 2002, 51). When the war ended, several reprints and new translations of Wells’s books were issued, including a new translation, this time from the Russian version, of his 1934 talk with Stalin in a series of brochures for the education of Communist Party members (Stalin 1946; Stalin 1949). However, after the Communist takeover in 1948 all publishing houses were nationalized and Wells’s name had to disappear from the publishers’ lists. This lasted for eight years until a certain ‘thaw’ in the Soviet bloc in the late 1950s. Wells was reintroduced in 1957 by a new translation of The Invisible Man (Neviditelný), followed by The History of Mr Polly (Prˇíbeˇh pana Pollyho) in 1959 and, surprisingly, Russia in the Shadows (Rusko v mlze) in 1960. In the 1950s, the Fabian Society and Fabian socialism were viewed as a reformist movement of bourgeois intellectuals and as the antithesis of the ruling ‘scientific socialism’. Later, however, some positive features of the movement were found. Communist Party ideologues stressed that some representative Fabians were, at least at times, in sympathy with the Soviet Union, in favour of economic and political cooperation with it, or wrote about positive aspects of Soviet society. There was also a tendency to appropriate, though with some qualifications, writers who enjoyed high international prestige. This was the case with Wells. In spite of his negative attitude to Marxism, the critical views on British society, education and politics in his realistic novels and moral essays were interpreted in socialist terms. Socialism was held to implement the positive aspects of his science-fictional visions, whereas capitalism threatened to materialize in the negative ones. Wells’s support for the Communist Party of Great Britain in the last months of his life (1945, 2) was another argument for his appropriation. A typically telling example is the essay by the Soviet academic G. Krzhizhanovski in his preface to a Czech translation of Russia in the Shadows, which also included the underlinings and notes which Lenin had made in his English copy of the book. In typical Party jargon, the Soviet academic appreciated the vivid picture of Russia in the early 1920s, but he objected that In Wells, this photographic precision of description is connected with insufficient generalization. Wells does not comprehend the driving forces and the essence of proletarian revolution. Behind the visible manifestations of hunger, winter and decline he was not able to recognize the rise of the creative energy of the people, safely guided by the Communist Party and our great leader and teacher V. I. Lenin. For a long period of time in his remarkable works and in his craftsmanship, Wells revealed the antagonisms in capitalist society, unmasked the iniquity, hypocrisy and inhumanity of capitalism, lashed Fascist barbarity and demonstrated that under capitalism scientific discoveries and advances in technology are misused for the sake of destruction. [. . .] Wells has never understood the theory of class struggle or the historical task of the proletariat as the gravedigger of capitalism.13 (1960, 5–6)

13

‘Ale tato fotografická prˇesnost popisu je u Wellse spojena s nedostatecˇným zevsˇeobecneˇním. Wells nechápe hybné síly a podstatu proletárˇské revoluce. Za vneˇjsˇími projevy hladu, zimy a rozvratu nedokázal rozeznat rozmach tvu˚rcˇí energie lidu, s

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To a different degree, these words resonate in many Czech prefaces and afterwords of Wells’s books published from the 1960s through the 1980s, such as in the following afterword to a new translation of Men Like Gods in 1964: He represented perfectly the decay of the capitalist world, the untenability of the British social structure and world imperialism, and he rightly pointed out that the roots of evil lie in the class system, which impedes the bolder progress of mankind, in its imperfect system of education, which does not guarantee the same education to all and does not teach people to think, in clericalism, which subjugates the fearful and diverts their outrage at social injustice to self-righteous preaching against immorality. [. . .] In contrast to modern socialism, Wells did not believe in social revolution.14 (Bubeníková 1964, 255–56)

The illusions of the Khrushchev era were vividly expressed by the cartoonist and writer Adolf Hoffmeister, who splendidly illustrated a new translation of The First Men in the Moon in 1964: In a year’s time or perhaps two years after this book is published, who knows, the Intervision15 will broadcast via a TV satellite the landing of the first people on the Moon. By all appearances and scientific conditions it seems that it will be Soviet cosmonauts. But it will not be a science-fiction story. It will be an ordinary factual report.16 (1964, 149)

Nevertheless, one must be aware of the fact that in this period not all opinions expressed by Czech commentators were entirely their own as they had to reflect official ideology. Czech critics and scholars thus had to resort to compromises and make concessions and sacrifices in order to give the readers at least limited access to Western bourgeois literature.

cont. jistotou usmeˇrnˇované komunistickou stranou a nasˇím velkým vu˚dcem a ucˇitelem V. I. Leninem. Dlouhá léta odhaloval Wells svými pozoruhodnými díly a svým mistrovstvím rozpory kapitalistické spolecˇnosti, demaskoval nestvu˚rnost, pokrytectví a nelidskost kapitalismu, bicˇoval fasˇistické barbarství a dokazoval, zˇe veˇdeckých objevu˚ a technického pokroku se za kapitalismu vyuzˇívá k nicˇení. [. . .] Wells nikdy nepochopil teorii trˇídního boje ani historický úkol proletariátu jako hrobarˇe kapitalismu.’ 14 ‘Výborneˇ vystihl rozpad kapitalistického sveˇta, neudrzˇitelnost britské spolecˇenské struktury i sveˇtového imperialismu, správneˇ poukázal na to, zˇe korˇeny zla jsou v trˇídním systému, který brzdí smeˇlejsˇí rozvoj lidstva, v nedokonalé soustaveˇ sˇkolství, které nezarucˇí vsˇem stejné vzdeˇlání a neucˇí lidi myslet, v klerikalismu, který si podrobuje bázlivé a odvrací rozhorˇcˇení proti spolecˇenské nespravedlnosti k svatousˇkovskému horlení proti nemravnosti. [. . .] V protikladu k modernímu socialismu Wells neveˇrˇil na sociální revoluci.’ 15 The network of the TV stations of Communist states. 16 ‘Mozˇná rok, dva roky po tom, kdy tato kniha vyjde, kdo ví, mozˇná zˇe bude intervise prˇes telstar vysílat prˇistání prvních lidí na Meˇsíci. Podle vsˇech známek a veˇdeckých prˇedpokladu˚ se zdá, zˇe to budou soveˇtsˇtí kosmonauti. Nebude to vsˇak veˇdeckofantastická povídka. Bude to obycˇejná reportázˇní skutecˇnost.’

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In the 1970s and 1980s, Wells was rediscovered and valued mainly as an artist, an author of realistic novels with autobiographical features depicting and satirizing late-Victorian and Edwardian society and lower-middle-class English life.17 His pre-Great War prose was made available in new translations. He was predominantly presented as a pioneer of science fiction in world literature, and in politics as an unbiased observer with some mistaken opinions. In this period, Wells’s writings were sensitively, understandingly and positively evaluated by Zdeneˇk Strˇíbrný, who discussed his contribution to English as well as world literature, both in his commentaries to some translations and in his large Deˇjiny anglické literatury (History of English literature) (1987, 601–08). Since the fall of the Communist regime in 1989, the country has returned to European democratic standards, and Czech literature has started to develop freely again. The peaceful split of Czechoslovakia in 1993 into two independent countries, the Czech and Slovak Republics, has not had any significant negative impact in this respect. There has been a constant flood of translations, particularly from English, ranging from quality books to pulp literature. Readers have access to the writings of George Orwell, Tom Stoppard and other formerly forbidden writers, as well as the latest postmodern fiction. Both original and translated science fiction and fantasy enjoy an enormous publishing boom. As far as Wells is concerned, there has been no interest in his moral and political essays and realistic novels but a renewed strong interest in his science-fiction stories and novels. The 1990s saw reprints and/or new translations of The Invisible Man (Neviditelný) (1990), The Time Machine (Stroj cˇasu) (1992b), The Island of Doctor Moreau (Ostrov doktora Moreaua) (1992a), The War of the Worlds (Válka sveˇtu˚ a jiné povídky) (1999) and other stories. The centenary of the publication of The Time Machine was hailed by an article in Ikarie (Icaria), a magazine specializing in science fiction and fantasy (Kusák and Adamovicˇ 1996), but no major original academic papers have been published in Czech. The latest publication is a single-volume edition of The War of the Worlds and The Invisible Man in 2003. Wells has thus entered Czech culture in the twentyfirst century in the same way as he did a hundred years earlier and he will certainly remain a most welcome guest.

17

The 1970s and 1980s saw the republication of Wells’s TB (1977), K (1978) and HMP and LML (together, 1988), as well as a selection of his short stories (1970).

11

Critics and Defenders of H. G. Wells in Interwar Hungary Gabriella Vöo´´

‘H. G. Wells,’ remarked Antal Szerb in 1937, ‘is a writer whose literary career has not unfolded due to the interest of a small private sect, but with the assistance of a worldwide readership’ (1937, 308).1 He was by no means exaggerating: Wells was probably the most widely discussed English author in Hungary during the 1920s and 1930s. Together with Arnold Bennett and John Galsworthy, he represented the contemporary English novel for the average Hungarian reader between the world wars. Most of the novels of Wells, Bennett and Galsworthy became available in translation during this period, while major experimental writers like James Joyce and Virginia Woolf only became accessible half a century later. Wells’s popular success was secured by his early scientific romances which, by 1910, had been translated into Hungarian by Lajos Mikes and Sándor Tonelli. Mikes and Tonelli remained among his regular translators during the 1920s, when large numbers of his novels appeared in the ‘Representative Novels Series’ published by Franklin Társulat (the Franklin Society). The series made it possible for his earlier fiction to reach a wider Hungarian audience at the same time as the more politicized novels of the late 1920s and 1930s. These latter novels appeared in Hungarian within a year of their publication in England.2 The World of William Clissold (1926), for instance, was translated (as William Clissold világa) in 1927 (1927f) and was reprinted seven times before the Second World War. Wells himself was a favourite of the most widely circulated liberal papers.

1

2

All translations from Hungarian to English in this chapter are mine. ‘[Wells] irodalmi mu´´ködése nem egy kis szekta magánérdeklo´´dése mellett zajlott le, hanem az egész olvasóvilág asszisztenciájával’. The translation of OH (1920) only appeared in 1925 (A világtörténet alapvonalai) (1925c), but other books from this period were quicker in reaching the Hungarian public: OC (1928), with DUR (1927), was translated in 1929 (A nyílt összeesküvés, A demokrácia revíziója és egyéb tanulmányok), SOL (1929, with Julian Huxley and G. P. Wells) in 1930 (Az élet csodái. H. G. Wells, Julian Huxley és G. P. Wells nagy biológiája), STC (1933) in 1933 (Mi lesz holnap? A jövo´´ regénye) and EA (1934) in 1935 (Önéletrajz).

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National dailies (Az Est [The Evening], Pesti Napló [Pest Journal]) and monthlies (Literatura [Literature], Uj Ido´k [New times]) informed the reading public about his sixtieth and seventieth birthdays, reported his public appearances and commented upon such topics as his hostility to Karl Marx and his self-image as a ‘mere’ journalist.3 In 1927 the national daily Pesti Napló published a series of articles, written by Wells specifically for the paper, in which he tackled some of his pet issues: the extension of the human life span, the progress of humanity towards universal happiness and the development of air travel. In 1930 he announced the imminence of world peace through an alliance of the five great powers (Wells 1927a, 97; 1927b, 35; 1927c, 4; 1930a, 33–34). The liberal national press rewarded him with regular reviews and repeated eulogies. More substantial professional criticism appeared frequently in literary and critical journals and in political journals across the spectrum from the reformist conservatives to the radical left. Such criticism went beyond popularization in order to discuss the intellectual and ideological background of his arguments. Wells’s polemical tendencies elicited a reaction that was to be expected: perhaps no other foreign author’s work was met by so much controversy, from enthusiastic acclaim to outright rejection. In the history of Wells’s reception in Hungary, the interwar period offers the most abundant critical treatment and the largest scale of response. This is a reflection not so much of the timeliness and novelty of Wells’s work as of the turbulent political situation of Hungary after the First World War and the violent changes that restructured the social, political and cultural map of the country. Having come out of the First World War as a defeated nation, twothirds smaller than its pre-war size, political instability saw the establishment first of a bourgeois democracy in October 1918, followed by the proclamation of a Soviet republic the following March, before a counter-revolutionary regime under Miklós Horthy emerged in the aftermath of a short war between Hungary and the Little Entente (Czechoslovakia, Romania and Serbia) in August 1919. In such a context of division and disappointment Wells was able to claim the attention of an audience of diverse ideological and even professional orientation. The reformist impulse and the political edge of his novels written in the 1910s and 1920s were either well received and embraced as world-saving schemes, or they stirred up heated polemics. Their author was claimed as an intellectual leader, or dismissed as an incompetent meddler. As an artist, he was repeatedly assessed by the professional critics and fellow writers who – continuing a tradition of liberalism and orientation towards Western European culture – judged his works against aesthetic standards shared by three different generations of literati grouped around the leading literary journals Nyugat (West), Napkelet (East) and Literatura. Writers and critics of the political left, publishing in Nyugat, in the left-leaning Szép Szó (Beautiful Word) or in the

3

The articles, with one exception, are anonymous (‘A 60 éves Wells és az emberiség köztársasága’ 1926; Kelen 1936; ‘H. G. Wells meg akarja borotválni Marxot’ 1920; and ‘Wells újságírónak vallja magát’ 1926).

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more radical Korunk (Our Age), also submitted his writings to aesthetic judgement, but scrutinized his politics as well, repeatedly accusing him of superficiality, naïvety and theoretical ineptitude. Reflections on Wells’s work also came from outside literary circles. Most of these concerned his political and public activity. His criticism of the League of Nations stirred hopes that he would support Hungarian claims for territorial revision, and there were repeated attempts to win his support for this cause. The failure of such tentative efforts produced several reproachful articles in the national dailies, condemning Wells’s indifference towards, and ignorance of, the Eastern European situation.4 There was, however, one group whom he never disappointed. During the 1920s and 1930s some of his suggestions regarding education found their way into Hungarian reform pedagogy. Specialists tried to incorporate the most recent findings of child psychology into educational practice. Wells’s presentation of the child characters in his earlier novels was invoked on the side of these arguments for a change of educational approach. Selecting from his works what they needed to endorse their own views, Hungarian educationists did not open up Wells’s writings to criticism or discussion, but relied on his authority for professional support (Nánay 1936; Hort 1938; Kemény 1966). Inevitably, the oversized figure of Wells crumbled under these various demands and, with the sole exception of Hungarian reform pedagogy which found a strong, though unwitting ally in him, no group was entirely satisfied in the long run with what the writer, the social reformist or the public figure was able to offer. Parvenu in the profession: Wells’s reception by the literary establishment ‘The fact that Hungary belongs to the Western cultural sphere [. . .] means that we have never been isolated from the political and spiritual life of England’,5 declared Sándor Fest in an attempt to promote the development of a professional approach to English literature. He added that English ideas ‘could easily find roots in Hungarian soil’, so that one of the most important tasks of English studies in Hungary was to trace the results of this influence: ‘how ideas were transformed and how they inspired’6 (1936, 3). What Fest was actually calling for was a reinforcement of what had been a persisting orientation in Hungarian

4

5

6

On Wells’s attitude towards Hungarian revisionist claims and propaganda, see Csala 1997. ‘Magyarországnak a nyugati kultúrkörhöz való [. . .] tartozása azt is jelenti, hogy Anglia politikai és szellemi élete felé sohasem voltunk teljesen elszigetelve.’ ‘Az angol gondolat könnyen tudott eljutni a magyar szellemi élet talajaiba. Hogy itt mit eredményezett, hogyan formálódott, és miképpen élesztett, ösztönzött, még ismeretlen fejezete mu´´velo´´déstörténetünknek. Ennek kutatása, tudományos megírása – egyik legfontosabb feladata anglisztikánknak.’

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culture since the beginning of the nineteenth century. During the 1820s and 1830s, the ‘Anglomania’ of the reformist aristocracy took the form of admiration for Britain’s political institutions and economic achievements, together with attempts to follow British models of economic and political reforms. As for English literary culture, it represented a refreshing alternative to German and French influences resulting from the long lasting Hapsburg occupation and the general patterns of education among the ruling classes. After the Compromise of 1867 which gave Hungary a relatively independent status within the Dual Monarchy, the orientation of liberal intellectuals towards England and English literature gained even more in importance. At the fin de siècle, due to the rapid development of literary life in Budapest and other major cities, the new literary journals and the leading publishing houses increased the circulation of contemporary European literature. The liberal intelligentsia remained characteristically Anglophile: foremost among those who turned towards English culture with eager interest in the early twentieth century were the liberal writers and critics grouped around the journal Nyugat. Launched in 1908 with the intention of reflecting Western European literary life, it was a major forum for three generations of writers, promoting high intellectual and artistic standards. With its cosmopolitan attitude, the journal remained a central and prestigious forum for modernist writers until its cessation in 1938. Those publishing in Nyugat considered criticism integral to its profile and essential in setting the standards for a new literary output that would be modern, innovative and integrated into Western European intellectual and artistic trends. The journal’s ideological orientation was by no means homogeneous, thanks to the liberalism and tolerance of its editorial board. Most of the serious criticism of Wells’s work by leading creative writers of the period was published there. In the early years of Nyugat, its criticism was predominantly impressionist and subjectivist. Hugó Ignotus, its first editor-in-chief, summed up his irreverence towards established critical norms with the pronouncement that ‘Art is sovereign: you may do anything you wish, provided that you are able to do it’7 (1969, 439). Such a view opened the way for subjectivist evaluations that transformed the genre of the critical essay into something as individual and idiosyncratic as a work of art. However, unlike his models, Jules Lemaitre, Anatole France and Oscar Wilde, Ignotus did not entirely share the moral and political disengagement of ‘art for art’s sake’ in his critical practice, and he did not object to socially and politically progressive agendas in literary works. It was he who wrote the first significant review of a Wells book – New Worlds for Old (Uj világ a régi helyén) (1910) – discussing ‘H. G. Wells, the clever fantasist’,8 and his ‘version of socialism’9 (1910, 1913). This, according to Ignotus, is a typically English kind of administrative socialism, brought about by management. Ignotus sees Wells as

7 8 9

‘A mu´´vészet szuverén, mindent meg szabad csinálnia, amit meg tud csinálni.’ ‘H. G. Wells, az okos fantaszta’. ‘egy igen józan és éles eszu´´ s ezzel különösen izgató könyvet írt a szocializmusról, vagy mondjuk arról, amit o´´ szocializmusnak nevez’.

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exemplifying the common stereotype of the unemotional, rational Englishman, whose ‘stupid practicality [. . .] astonishes people in southern and eastern Europe’10 (1910, 1913). He reminds the reader that Wells’s thought is anchored in Fabianism, ‘a scheme of amelioration evolved from capitalism, but suffering from the ennui of capitalism [. . .] which makes it especially suitable for propaganda in layers of society not yet reached by socialism, where its more perfect forms would not be comprehended and [. . .] would be received with hatred and terror’11 (1910, 1913). The review has a condescending and patronizing tone, and its qualification of Wells’s work as propaganda creates a precedent: critics grouped around Nyugat will consider this to be a major flaw. A similar opinion was formulated by one of Ignotus’s successors in editing Nyugat, Mihály Babits, editor-in-chief of the journal in its final years between 1933 and 1938. Himself a high-modernist poet, fiction writer and translator, he was an enthusiastic connoisseur of English literature, reading it in the original and possessing a rich collection of Romantic, Victorian and contemporary authors. His library contained the early scientific romances of Wells.12 Babits never reviewed any of these, though, as the author was clearly not among his favourites: his wife, Sophie Török, declared that ‘he could not stand Wells’13 (quoted in Gál 1942, 23). Nevertheless, he could not avoid discussing Wells’s work in Az európai irodalom története (The history of European literature), a onevolume literary history originally published in 1935 (1979). In his chapter on the fin de siècle and the early twentieth century, Babits appreciates the high art of Thomas Hardy and Thomas Mann, whom he considers to be in aristocratic opposition to their age and society, since literature separates itself in principle from public taste and the entertainment media (1979, 453). Set against Hardy and Mann are Kipling, Shaw and Wells, who appeal to large audiences by addressing political and social issues in a journalistic manner. Wells fares the worst of the three, for Babits considers his manner of writing marred by ‘self-conceit’ and ‘philistinism’14 (1979, 455). His comments on Wells’s career reflect the modernist author’s distaste for mass culture and for the lowering of standards in order to achieve popular and financial success:

10

11

12

13 14

‘Azt hiszem, azzal a stupid praktikussággal szemben, mely az angolban a délibb és keletibb embert elképeszti, a Wells adminisztratív szocializmusa sokkal jobb formája a propagandának, mint a tisztavizu´´ marxizmus, vagy éppen a mindezekre fütyülo´´ szindikalizmus.’ ‘Wells szocializmusáról, mint általában az angol fábiusi gondolatmenetro´´l [. . .] egészen bizonyos, hogy a kapitalizmusból no´´tt, de a kapitalizmus unalmától szenvedo´´ polgári intellektualitásnak világjavítása.’ The novels by Wells in the collection are marked in pencil and annotated by Babits (Gál 1942, 16). ‘Török Sophie szerint Wellset nem bírta.’ ‘Kipling kapta soronként a legnagyobb honoráriumot, Shaw öt világrész bohóca lett, Wells fejedelmeknek osztott tanácsokat és intelmeket, akár hajdan Voltaire, noha nagyképu´´ és nyárspolgári stílje igen különbözött Voltaire-éto´´l.’

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[I]nstead of the half-Irish Shaw’s Voltairean or Celtic grin, Wells’s face has the sober expression of British practicality. His fantasy was initially rigorous and exact, like Poe’s; and behind his exactitude none of Poe’s demons were lurking. Before long, sobriety made him abandon the free play of the imagination for profitable and contrived utopias; and then, for practical social criticism. In the mean time he wrote a couple of Dickensian novels of social criticism, but he moved further and further away from creativity. He became a prototype of the journalistic writer who indulges in the idea of progress, constructing dreams on behalf of the masses and serving the taste of the masses, his popular ideas clad in cheap belletristic form.15 (Babits 1979, 454)

Although no titles are mentioned, the ‘journalistic’ works referred to are probably The Salvaging of Civilisation (A civilizáció megmentése) (1922a), The World of William Clissold and The Open Conspiracy, books available in translation, and much reviewed in the Hungarian press. Babits is not concerned to engage with Wells’s arguments, but objects to the literary quality of his work. His own conception of literature is explicitly ‘aristocratic’: in the introduction to his literary history he defines ‘world literature’ as a dialogue between great writers ‘across ages and lands [. . .], reaching towards one another over the heads of the nations’16 (1979, 11). For Babits, the only acceptable form of involvement and moral pronouncement was by means of art. In 1933 he published a utopia of his own, Elza pilóta vagy a tökéletes társadalom (The pilot Elza, or, the perfect society). This dystopian novel depicts a world condemned to total war. Elza, the protagonist, is a student of comparative religion who is drafted as a pilot when military service is extended to women. To the distress of her mother who educated her in the spirit of nineteenth-century respect for moral and cultural values, she faces certain death. The main plot of the novel is interrupted by several ‘Notes’ about a scientist’s experiment with an artificially closed system, the ‘little Earth’, which re-enacts, in miniature space and accelerated time, the natural and historical development of the Earth. During an air raid, the Little Earth breaks loose and joins the other planets revolving around the Sun. The ‘Notes’ end in ambiguity as to whether the ‘little’ or the ‘real’ Earth have been objects of a scientific experiment. Elza falls prisoner and, in total denial of her family and national allegiances, ends up by taking part in a gas attack

15

16

‘[A] félig ír Shaw voltaire-i vagy kelta vigyora helyett Wells arcán a brit gyakorlatiasság józan kifejezése ül. Fantasztikumában eleinte szigorú és egzakt, akár Poe; s az o´´ egzaktsága mögött nem settenkedett Poe démona. A józanság a szabad játékból hamarosan haszonra szánt és tervezgeto´´ utópiákba vitte; majd praktikus társadalomkritikába. Közben írt néhány dickensi ízu´´ társadalmi regényt is; de lassanként mind messzebb távolodott a költészetto´´l. Valóságos típusa lett a zsurnalisztikus írónak, aki a haladásról ábrándozik, álmokat szo´´ a tömeg helyett és a tömeg szája ízére, népszeru´´ elgondolásait olcsó szépirodalmi formába öltöztetve.’ ‘A “világirodalom” arisztokrátikus fogalom: értékbeli kiválasztást jelent. Az igazi világirodalomhoz csak a legnagyobbak tartoznak. S az igazi világirodalom-történet ezeknek a története. A nagyoké, akik folytatják egymást századról századra, s kezet nyújtanak egymásnak a népek feje fölött.’

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against her home town, during which her own mother is killed. The novel reflects Babits’s sense of the struggle between humanistic values and the total annihilation of culture and the capitulation of the intellect in the face of universal destruction. This novel has undeniable Wellsian overtones – it reverses the utopia of In the Days of the Comet (1906) – yet for Babits’s fellow-writer, Frigyes Karinthy, the Armageddon of Elza pilóta was far more convincing than Wells’s utopias. In a review of Elza pilóta, Karinthy contrasts the two works, noting that ‘[t]he fantastic, for Wells, is self-serving: for Babits, it is a means of serving greater thoughts. For Wells, it is a brilliant mind-game, for Babits a terrible symbol. [. . .] The utopia of Wells is mere combination, that of Babits, a prophecy’17 (1933, 545). Karinthy, a cosmopolitan liberal in his views and a high-modernist author, refuses to be lectured and prefers Babits’s argument with its compelling artistic logic.18 There were, however, critics such as Agota Szilágyi, Lajos Pál Bíró and Antal Szerb who did not find extra-literary concerns objectionable in principle, but classified and judged Wells’s novels of the 1920s and 1930s as belonging to the category of the novel of ideas. The academic critics Szilágyi and Bíró respect Wells’s popular success and authority. Szilágyi, in A Huszadik század angol regénye (The English novel of the twentieth century) (1935), appreciates The World of William Clissold and sets it beside Aldous Huxley’s Point Counterpoint in terms of intellectual content and narrative perspective, her only criticism being that Wells’s didacticism sometimes arrests the plot (1935, 35). Bíró, in A modern angol irodalom története (The history of modern English literature) (1942), calls Wells a ‘fiery reformist’ who ‘surpassed Shaw in his impatient radicalism’19 (1942, 208). However, like Babits he regards Wells’s career as a decline from the high literary qualities present in its first phase: ‘vivid storytelling, precise situations, dramatic plots, interesting stories, daring fantasy, great knowledge and superior wit’20 (1942, 209). But ultimately Bíró is more willing than either Ignotus, Babits or Karinthy to dissociate intellectual argument from literary merit, and he finds Wells to be a genuine visionary: Wells is more than a novelist. He is a nervous, anxious seismograph of his age, the spokesman of various intellectual trends [. . .]. [His writings are] a museum of the ideas and slogans of the present century, and if the man of the future wants to grasp

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‘Wells fantasztikuma öncél: Babitsé eszköz, nagyobb gondolat szolgálatában. Wellsnél zseniális elmejáték, Babitsnál félelmetes jelkép. [. . .] Wells utópiája csak kombináció, Babitsé prófécia.’ For a discussion of the relationship between Karinthy and Wells, see the chapter by Csala in the present volume. ‘Tüzes reformátor volt és Shaw-n is, kivel egy világnézeti oldalon állott, túltett türelmetlen és radikális követelo´´zésével.’ ‘Az író a legnagyobb írói erények: élénk elbeszélés, precíz helyzetrajzok, drámai bonyodalmak, érdekfeszíto´´ történetek, merész képzelet, nagy tudás és fölényes humor varázslói köntösében pompázott.’

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the social and cultural essence of our age, he has only to examine this museum.21 (1942, 215)

Bíró did not, however, entirely share the standards of the writer-critics around Nyugat, as he was the only critic in interwar Hungary to praise the literary achievement of The Bulpington of Blup (Egy test, két lélek) (1942, 214). Antal Szerb showed less reverence for Wells’s authority than the academic critics. The most flamboyant character in Hungarian criticism between the wars, Szerb owed much to Babits, his mentor and model. Like Ignotus and Babits, he was a writer as well as a critic, and also one of the main mediators of English literature in Hungary. His 1928 essay ‘H. G. Wells világa’ (The world of H. G. Wells) (1928b), written for the conservative journal Magyar Szemle (Hungarian review), is a lengthy review of The World of William Clissold. Here Szerb presents the genre of the novel of ideas as ‘the latest fashion [. . .], the only literary product that can accommodate intellectual content’.22 He also adds with regret that ‘[t]he public apparently demands to be educated besides being entertained, partly because the times have become more serious, partly because respect for the purely artistic is dying out’23 (1928, 295). He shares these misgivings with Babits, who never wavered in his resolution to preserve the standards of high culture from the demands of the larger reading public. This 1928 review exhibits the rigorous professionalism and elegant wit that are the distinctive qualities of a Szerb essay. Briefly acknowledging Wells’s virtues as a novelist and politely praising the love plot of The World of William Clissold, he brings the novel’s ‘ideas’ under scrutiny and characterizes them as ‘dining-table compatible, philistine metaphysics’24 (1928, 296). Apparently taking pleasure in the dissection of Wells’s world – assuming that the character is the author’s mouthpiece – Szerb looks for contexts and precedents for Wells’s arguments and questions his originality. He points out that the assault on Catholicism is nothing more than a bow to the Voltairean bourgeois tradition and that Clissold himself is an echo of Shaw’s superman (1928, 296). He dismisses Wells’s attempts at Jungian psychoanalysis as a mere caricature, and discovers in it traces of nineteenth-century biology and evolutionary thought ‘so outdated that it is believed only by English novelists, and not by biologists’25

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‘Wells több, mint regényíró, vagy gondolkodó. Ideges, nyugtalan szeizmográfja a kornak, melyben él, különféle irányok szócsöve [. . .] Írásai egyeteme a jelen század eszméinek és jelszavainak múzeuma és ha a jövo´´ embere korunk társadalmi vagy kulturális keresztmetszetét akarja megkapni, csak ezt a múzeumot kell tanulmányoznia.’ ‘Wells regénye valóban már a megírás módját tekintve is igen modern regény, utolsó divat. [. . .] [Ú]jabban a regény az egyetlen, közönség elé kerülo´´ irodalmi termék, amely megbírja a szellemi tartalmat.’ ‘Újabban úgy látszik, a regényolvasó közönség meg is követeli, hogy a regény tanítson, ne csak szórakoztasson. Részint az ido´´k fordultak komolyra, részint a tiszta artisztikum tisztelete van kiveszo´´ben.’ ‘metafizikája a leheto´´ leginkább ebédlo´´asztalképes, nyárspolgári metafizika’. ‘Ez is olyan hit, melyben ma már legföljebb angol regényírók hisznek: biológusok semmi esetre sem.’

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(1928, 296–97). Moreover, he delights in Wells’s illusions about human perfectibility, and allows himself to be carried away into mockery: Wells is horribly angry with Romanticism, as is to be expected of the philistine tradition. Yet his view of history and, indeed, his entire world-view are based upon the proto-romantic analogy, traceable to Herder, between epochs in the life of mankind and phases in the life of the individual. Nations have childhoods, adulthoods and all the rest. There are still some who believe in this analogy, Lord Keyserling and maybe a couple of Venezuelan professors, but this is exactly what marks the dilettante in historical studies. Let us assume that the Australian Negro corresponds to a sixyear-old child, and the self-important Englishman to a fifty-year-old man. But what about the analogy when it comes to the Chinese who, according to such calculations, is at least a hundred and forty-four years old and, as an individual, has been long dead?26 (1928, 297)

Further on in the essay Szerb expresses his astonishment that Wells’s beliefs have not been shattered by the Great War, which has discredited the idea of progress once and for all. The idea of the World State does not appeal to him either, and is easily dismissed as a pure fabrication. In fact, Wells seemed to challenge the young conservative essayist’s most cherished ideas about the power of tradition, including that of the Church and the nation. Returning to a discussion of the English novel of ideas, in 1935 Szerb repeated his remarks on Wells in a chapter on English novelists in Hétköznapok és csodák. Here he added little to what he had said in 1928. However, his comments on Wells take on additional relevance when read alongside another essay in the volume, devoted to American novelists, entitled ‘Az amerikai regény’ (The American novel). Here he sees the United States as a culture in crisis, caused by the lack of individuality, or rather, the suppression of the individual personality under the system of industrial capitalism (1935, 152). Szerb was seriously concerned about the Americanization of European culture,27 and he most probably saw Wells as the European forerunner of this phenomenon. Like Babits before him, he explained Wells’s popularity by his intellectual shallowness: [I]n the world of Clissold the novel and the intellectual content run separately. The writer puts on his Sunday clothes and turns intellectual. His intellectualism is not the indelible quality of the mind, but wealth earned with difficulty, which he wishes to

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‘Wells szörnyu´´ségesen haragszik a romantikára, amint ezt is magával hozza a nyárspolgári tradíció. Mégis történelemszemlélete, so´´t egész világnézete, azon az o´´sromantikus, Herderre visszameno´´ hasonlaton alapul, hogy az emberiség élete, életének fázisai olyanok, mint az egyes ember életének egyes korszakai. A népeknek van gyermek-, ifjú- és egyéb koruk. Ebben az analógiában még ma is hisznek néhányan, például Keyserling gróf és vele talán néhány venezuelai egyetemi tanár, – de ma már éppen ez a hit jellemzi a történettudomány dilettánsait. Tegyük fel, az ausztrálnéger máma megfelel a hatéves gyermeknek, a jeles angol pedig az ötven éves férfinak. De mi lesz az analógiával, ha a kínaira gondolunk, aki e szerint már legalább száznegyvennégy és fél éves és mint egyes ember már rég meghalt volna.’ For Szerb’s anxieties about the American cultural influence see Poszler 1973, 251–53.

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share with his brethren. An originally unintellectual person is addressing his unintellectual public about intellectual matters that he has actually nothing to do with, and this is awkward. For the half-cultivated this is naturally much more enjoyable than the mentality of truly intellectual authors.28 (2002, 73)

Finally, Szerb, in A világirodalom története (The history of world literature) published in 1941,29 also discusses Wells along with Shaw. He places the peak of Wells’s career in the 1920s, but he only acknowledges his mastery as a writer of fantastic novels. His criticism is directed against Wells’s later novels of ideas, and he is compared unfavourably with Thomas Mann and Aldous Huxley, once again calling into question his stature as a thinker. ‘In his work the novelistic and the intellectual content come separately. Sometimes he seems to clear his throat and give a lecture. His intention is always to teach. His parvenu self-assurance is really difficult to bear. And what he teaches is all manifestly obvious’30 (1941, 210). Politically incorrect: the ‘Wellsian creed’ under challenge In the problematic political and cultural scene of post-Trianon Hungary, Wells’s political utopias of the 1920s and 1930s received special attention. Differences in critical responses generally correspond to the ideological commitments of the journals that published them. The liberal Nyugat gave evidence of openness and tolerance by accommodating a wealth of reviews and critical articles on Wells, widely divergent in opinion. He was warmly received by liberals, but bitterly criticized by the writers of the left. The radically leftist Korunk hosted uncompromising criticism of his work according to the canons of Marxist politics. Journals with a more nationalistic alignment such as Napkelet and Magyar Szemle took issue with The Outline of History, contesting Wells’s historical and political views on the grounds that he was misinformed about, or ignorant of, the Hungarian situation. Liberals disillusioned by the alternating extremes of politics welcomed

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‘Clissold világában külön van a regény és külön a szellemi tartalom. Az író felveszi ünnepi ruháját, és intellektuális lesz. Intellektualitása nem a lélek eltörölhetetlen milyensége, hanem nehezen szerzett vagyon, amelyet altruista módon gyümölcsöztetni akar felebarátai számára. Egy eredetileg nem intellektuális ember beszél nem intellektuális közönségének szellemi dolgokról, amelyekhez voltaképpen nincs köze, és ez kínos. A félmu´´veltek számára természetesen sokkal élvezheto´´bb, mint az igazán intellektuális írók szellemisége.’ The literary histories of Mihály Babits and Antal Szerb, championing highmodernist standards, are still in print. As they are captivating pieces of reading by literary classics, they continue to shape the larger reading public’s understanding of ‘world literature’. ‘Regényeiben külön van a regény és külön a szellemi tartalom. Ido´´nként mintha megköszörülné a torkát és elo´´adást tartana. Mindig tanítani akar. Parvenü magabiztosságát nagyon nehéz elviselni. És amit tanít, az is mind olyan magától érteto´´do´´ igazság.’

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Wells’s post-war utopias, agreed with his criticism of Marxism and supported his suggestions for non-violent social change within the system of industrial capitalism, although they sometimes found his solutions utopian, unrealistic or unduly limited. Positive reviews in Nyugat reflect the liberals’ disillusionment as a result of the 1919 Communist turn and their determined rejection of Marxism. In a 1922 review of The New Machiavelli, The World Set Free (A fölszabadult világ) (1922b) and The Salvaging of Civilisation, Imre Kinszki contends that Wells’s ‘correct understanding of the present state of our civilization, his ideals of freedom and his genuine and enthusiastic interest in the development of spiritual forces distinguish him, to his advantage, from orthodox continental social democracy’31 (1922, 1031). Imre Görög, in a 1927 essay on The World of William Clissold, gives an outline of what he regards as Wells’s ‘creed’: the possibility of putting an end to the injustices of the existing social order ‘without destruction and class struggle’32 (1927, 982, emphasis in the original). With a middle-class liberal intellectual’s aversion to leftist radicalism, Görög condemns revolutionary ideologies, stating that ‘the revolutionary anger of mobs is unable to build, and one can hardly find real organizers and unifiers among such hatemongers and vandals’33 (1927, 985). Both reviewers welcome the moderate collectivism of Wells’s World State with slight reservations. Kinszki is sceptical about the possibility of achieving such grand communal objectives with the help of the half-educated masses – such is his interpretation of Wells’s educational scheme in The Salvaging of Civilisation – and he defends liberal individualism as a fundamental requisite of social transformation (1922, 1032). He complains of the general vagueness and indefiniteness of the utopias, arguing that Wells cannot give a reason for the present ills of society, nor can he envisage a desirable social structure (1922, 1031). Görög also finds the outline of the World State lacking in vividness and persuasive power (1927, 990), but he appreciates the flippancy of Wells’s attack on Marx (1927, 989) and is enthusiastic about the prospect of a ‘social aristocracy’, a responsible elite whose ‘synthesis of socialism and capitalism may finally bring Paradise to Earth’34 (1927, 985, emphasis in the original). What was warmly received by some was seen as a provocative gesture by others. The unflattering portrayal of Marx prompted writers otherwise unsympathetic to Wells to review him and debate his ideas on Marxism, social utopia and reform. The same June 1927 issue of Nyugat that included Görög’s apology for Wells’s ‘creed’ also published a review of The World of William

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‘civilizációnk jelen helyzetének helyes felismerése, szabadságeszméi, a szellemi ero´´k iránti o´´szinte és lelkes érdeklo´´dése elo´´nyösen különböztetik meg o´´t a kontinens ortodox szociáldemokráciáitól’. ‘társadalmunk fennálló berendezésének értelmetlenségeit és igazságtalanságait rombolás és osztályharc nélkül meg kell és meg is lehet szüntetni!’ ‘a tömegek forradalmi dühe építeni nem tud és az igazi organizátorok, a nagy egység rátermett kovácsai nincsenek a gyu´´lölo´´k és rombolók között’. ‘Ez a szociálarisztokrácia [. . .] a szocializmusnak és kapitalizmusnak az a szintézise, amely elhozhatja a Paradicsomot a Földre.’

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Clissold35 in which Lajos Kassák attacked Wells’s ‘sociological straying’36 (1927, 992). Writer, poet, editor and artist, and the leading figure of the Hungarian avant-garde movement, Kassák also had considerable political experience. His working-class origins and proletarian loyalties linked him to the political left, although he never formally joined the Communist Party. He served a short prison sentence for his involvement in the cultural politics of the Hungarian Soviet Republic, and lived in exile in Vienna until 1926. As an active participant in the ideological debates of the period and editor of leftist journals, he had little patience for ‘the cheap tricks of a utopian agitator’37 (1927, 991). Kassák starts his review by announcing his utter dislike of Wells (1927, 991) as well as his astonishment at the general fuss caused by the novel: ‘[t]he exhausted Hungarian public and its irresponsible literary critics grab at this book as a sick man grabs at his medicine’, so that even social democrats have managed to find something of interest ‘in the folds of Mr Clissold’s nightgown’38 (1927, 994). Kassák dismisses the plot as thin and the characters as commonplace (1927, 992–93) and explains Wells’s success by his ability to break down the reader’s resistance through the sheer power of quantity (1927, 995). As for the ‘world’ of William Clissold, Kassák regards it as nothing more than a heap of banalities, a product of the encyclopaedic mind of an unproductive babbler (1927, 994). He attributes the book’s criticism of Marx to Wells’s total ignorance of Das Kapital (Capital), finds the arguments about Marx’s bad liver, excessive smoking and lack of physical exercise ludicrous (1927, 995), and holds Wells’s World State governed by a small, responsible elite to be a veritable Fascist nightmare (1927, 995–96). At exactly the same time, in the June 1927 issue of Századunk (Our century), Lajos Nagy reached a similar conclusion: Wells’s aristocratic revolution was nothing less than ‘Fascist dictatorship’39 (1927, 244). Nagy, a writer with socialist commitments although without party allegiances, presents a lucid counter-argument to Wells’s ‘unfair caricature’40 of Communism, suggesting that his motives are class-based and prompted by personal grievances (1927, 240–41). Disregarding the novel’s preface where Wells insists upon the separation of writer and character, Kassák and Nagy build their critical offensive on the assumption that William Clissold serves as the author’s mouthpiece. The novel, argues Kassák, lacks the balancing factor of another character professing opposing views: a flaw in composition, or rather a deliberate scheme to mislead the

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For a more detailed discussion of the polemics around WWC, see Suvizhenko 1993. ‘a regény félreismerhetetlenül egy a körülményekto´´l megbántott vagy öregségében elfáradt ember társadalomtudományi tévelygése végérejárhatatlan fejezetekben’. ‘[Wells] az elo´´szóban sem veti meg a népboldogító agitátor olcsó fogásait.’ ‘A lefáradt magyar olvasóközönség s a felelo´´tlen irodalmi kritika úgy nyúlt ez után a könyv után, mint beteg az orvosság után. [. . .] És a szociáldemokrata pártok hivatásos politikusai [. . .] is látnak valami üdvözíto´´ darabkát Clissold úr hálóköntösének ráncaiban.’ ‘Amiro´´l itt szó van, azt magyarul fasiszta diktatúrának nevezik.’ ‘Ez rosszhiszemu´´en fölvázolt karikatúra.’

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reader (1927, 992). Nagy too believes that the viewpoint of ‘William Clissold’ is that of the author, and accuses Wells of evading responsibility when he disclaims identity with Clissold: ‘How come that a novel proceeds in the first person, the main character voices opinions on contemporary humanity and all aspects of contemporary society – and these are not to be taken as the writer’s own, especially when there is no trace of any contrary opinion’41 (1927, 237). Both critics blend literary judgement with ideological scrutiny. Kassák claims that in The World of William Clissold the major elements of plot and character, the father’s bankruptcy and suicide, the love triangle and the conventional female figures like the despotic slut, the demonic actress and the angelic prostitute, are but ‘clichés worthy of halfpenny novels’42 (1927, 993). Nagy had earlier exposed Wells’s underlying class prejudice in a 1925 review of Bealby (1925a). In a piece of critical bravado that today would be labelled as deconstructive, the critic analysed Madelaine’s love relationship with Captain Douglass and argued that Wells displayed such a degree of unawareness and naïvety about his character’s real motives – which were unabashedly material – that ‘he would be best placed among authors writing for women’s magazines’43 (1927, 178). While positive and negative opinions of Wells coexisted in the liberal Nyugat, the literary and cultural monthly Korunk was jealous of the purity of its ideological orientation. Edited and published in Transylvania, the eastern part of former Hungary that had belonged to Romania since 1921, the journal was a major forum for writers of the left from Hungary and of Hungarian extraction. The critical reflections published here were unanimous in considering Wells’s work as exemplifying the ideological deadlock of the bourgeoisie. In the title of a review of The Open Conspiracy44 the poet and essayist István Vas announces ironically that ‘Wells Conspires’ and reassures his readers that the book is relevant only on account of its lack of horizon ‘characteristic of the latest phase of bourgeois ideology and of the way in which the once rock-solid bourgeois ideology has recently collapsed’45 (1929, 64). According to Vas, both Marx and Spengler demonstrate that the bourgeoisie has lost its cultural and ideological relevance. Wells’s attempt to reconcile elements of capitalism, Marxism, parliamentarism, democracy and dictatorship is ‘like the desperate efforts of some of our bourgeois youth to concoct, within the frame of capitalism, new structures

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‘Aztán ki látott már olyant, hogy a regény elso´´ személyben folyik, a fo´´alak a mai emberro´´l s a mai ember társadalmának minden jelenségéro´´l mond véleményeket – s ekkor a vélemények nem az íróéi, holott nincs szó sehol ellenvéleményro´´l.’ ‘S ebben a könyvben ezeken a füzetes olvasmányokba illo´´ szépirodalmi kliséken és vaktöltényeken kívül még sok egyéb komoly dolgokról is van szó.’ ‘Ó, milyen naiv! Akár a Színházi Élet is leközölhetné.’ The review was written before the Hungarian translation came out in the same year, 1929. Vas quotes the German translation, Die offene Verschwörung (1928c) as the object of the review. ‘érdemes evvel a könyvvel foglalkozni azért, mert nagyon jellemzo´´ a polgárság ideológiájának legujabb fázisára, illetve arra a módra, ahogy a nemrég még sziklaszilárd polgári ideológia összeomlott’.

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and ideologies in opposition to capitalism in the search for human unity’46 (1929, 65). Reviewing The Work, Wealth and Happiness of Mankind (1932),47 István Szalay appreciates the lucid treatment of encyclopaedic materials concerning the present state of civilization, but expresses weariness over the author’s world-saving schemes. ‘The alarming ease with which Wells presents these platitudes as extraordinary facts is only surpassed by his lack of information’48 (1932, 847), he witheringly concludes. In a review of The Shape of Things to Come, Endre Bajomi makes his position as a Marxist clear when he describes the book as a belated utopia based on an old-fashioned utopian socialism which ignores the economic basis of society (1933, 938). Like all the leftist critics, Bajomi returns to the problem of the central character’s ideological perspective. Reading Philip Raven’s opinions as the author’s own, he insists that such ‘framing’ is but a strategy to evade responsibility. Hiding behind a persona, Wells ‘is ashamed to step forth as the author of this strange handbook on the interpretation of dreams’49 (1933, 937). Besides the political utopias applauded by the liberals and condemned by the political left, there was another aspect of Wells’s work that attracted attention in Hungary: his frequent statements about the actual politics of the immediate post-war period. His disapproval of the Paris peace accords brought him temporary popularity in the nationalist press. An anonymous article in Auróra (Aurora) prompted by Wells’s 1922 volume of journalism, Washington and the Hope of Peace, welcomes his condemnation of the role of France during the Paris negotiations. The writer’s tone and attitude clearly reflect how Trianon, the scene of the peace accord between the Entente and Hungary, became an icon of national tragedy. Taking the opportunity to denounce French foreign policy before and after the First World War, the reviewer applauds Wells’s suggestion that during the treaty negotiations France was driven by a selfish desire to weaken Germany and he/she condemns ‘French propaganda’ resulting in ‘famine, epidemics, moral debasement, discord and hostility to culture’50 (‘H. G. Wells a világpolitikáról’ 1923, 293–94). Once Wells’s opinions about post-war politics, his criticism of the League of Nations, and his speculations about the future of Europe had found their way

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‘Analóg ez a törekvés az intellektuel polgári fiatalság egy részének ama kétségbeesett ero´´lködésével, hogy a kapitalizmus keretein belül különbözo´´ új, a kapitalizmussal mero´´ben ellenkezo´´ rendszerek és ideológiák töredékének átmentésével olyan eszmét teremtsen, melynek intenzitása egybeforrasztaná az emberiséget.’ This review is of the German translation, Arbeit, Wohlstand und das Glück der Menscheit (1932). The book has no Hungarian translation. ‘Azt az ijeszto´´ könnyedséget, amivel Wells ezeket a laposságokat rendkívüli ismeretekként elo´´adja, csak Wells tájékozatlansága múlja felül.’ ‘Wells úgy látszik szégyell a különös álmoskönyv szerzo´´jeként szerepelni.’ ‘A francia külpolitikának [Wells szerint] a fo´´ irányelve abban áll, hogy Németországot gyöngítse és rajta uralkodjék. [. . .] Csak [a világháború elo´´zményeinek elemzésekor] fog majd kiderülni, hogy ki árasztotta el Európát a hamis imperializmusnak szennyáradatával, amelynek nyomán éhínség, járványok, erkölcsi lezüllés, mu´´veltségellenes széthuzás ütötte fel a fejét mindenütt?’

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into a substantial work claiming both public and professional attention, his views were again divisive, this time pitting liberals against conservatives. The Outline of History (A világ történet alapvonalai) (1925c) was published in 1925 in the translation of Dezso´´ Kiss and Kálmán Lambrecht. The first Hungarian edition, an expensive octavo, was supplemented with an appendix by Kálmán Lambrecht and Sándor Petho´´, summarizing the history of Hungary. The book had considerable market success: a second edition in the same year was followed by a third in the next, not to mention paperback reprints. The journal Nyugat, always open to relevant cultural events in liberal Western Europe, paid the book due attention and published approving, almost apologetic reviews by Lajos Nagy and Róbert Braun. Both reviewers used the opportunity to assert their Anglophilia, stressing that Wells’s achievement was but another expression of England’s traditional commitment to education and culture. Nagy, who would later criticize Bealby and The World of William Clissold in the name of socialist ideology, here expressed admiration for Wells’s balanced synthesis of scholarly knowledge. He pointed out that such a history of the world could only be conceived by an Englishman and produced in London where the British Museum, the learned societies and the scholarly journals provided the necessary resources for a book that was both exhaustive and up-to-date (1924, 653–54). Showing, as yet, no trace of the ideological rigour of his later reviews, Nagy praised the objectivity of The Outline of History: ‘The tone of the work is calm and distinguished, and stems from the same frame of mind as that of the fair-minded judge: thousands and thousands of culprits, burdened with thousands and thousands of misdeeds, are paraded in front of him, but he states the facts with the most conscientious care and passes judgement without any bias’51 (1924, 653). Reviewing the book in the following year, the sociologist and lexicographer Róbert Braun offers a viewpoint characteristic of cosmopolitan liberalism. Braun praises Wells’s decision to break with the Eurocentrism of traditional histories and welcomes the book’s outlook on Asian civilizations (1925, 590). Raising no objections to the book’s manifest propaganda for ‘pacifism and democracy’52 (1925, 590), he finds ‘strength and weight’53 (1925, 592) in Wells’s words and attributes these qualities to the rising social and political relevance of the British lower-middle class. Dissatisfied with the ossified social stratification of Hungary, Braun laments that a unified and articulate middle class is what his own country and the rest of Europe lack (1925, 592). His admiration for Wells’s outspokenness and irreverence towards the established traditions of historical scholarship reflects the traditional Anglophilia of Hungarian liberal intellectuals, who were anxious to distance themselves from

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‘A mu´´ hangja nyugodt és elo´´kelo´´, körülbelül abból a lelki beállítottságból fakad, mely az igazságos bérói lehet: ezer és ezer vádlott ezer és ezer cselekedettel terhelten vonul fel elo´´tte, o´´ a leglelkiismeretesebb gondossággal állapítja meg a tényeket s legpártatlanabbul itél.’ ‘nagyon is érzik rajta, hogy pacifista és demokrata propagandát akar folytatni’. ‘Ero´´ és súly van Wells szavaiban.’

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the conservative and largely German-oriented culture of the prevailing establishment. A relevant section of Braun’s review tackles the disciplinary biases of Hungarian historians: It is especially beneficial for Hungarian readers that they are not presented with a history of ‘the middle- and modern ages’ that consists [. . .] of nothing else than the history of Central Europe, more exactly of Germany and its neighbouring countries, wherein the major personages are generals, the minor ones diplomats; and the conclusion a hymn of praise to German unification and Bismarck, seen as fulfilling the ultimate goal of universal history.54 (1925, 591)

Lajos Nagy also exposed what he considered to be the veiled allegiances of historical scholarship when he spoke of The Outline of History’s negative reception in England by ‘reactionary forces’ that demanded ‘imperialist nationalism, religious bigotry and hypocritical, sham morality’55 from scholarly works, and rejected Wells’s objective and balanced analyses and judgements (1924, 654). ‘It is scarcely possible to establish that shifting borderline that divides history from politics’, the critic notes, and adds that ‘every political regime, as soon as it can, strives to create a propaganda for itself through historical scholarship’56 (1924, 655). With these words Nagy clearly alludes to the reactionary regime of Miklós Horthy that succeeded the Hungarian Soviet Republic. In the same measure as it pleased liberal and socialist reviewers, The Outline of History offended conservative journalists and historians. The book deeply affected national sensibilities. Wells’s deprecation of nationalism and his perspective of a future World State struck the wrong note in a country for which territorial loss was a recent and tragic national experience. A review in the national daily Pesti Napló by László Szabó claimed that Wells had ‘thrown himself on history’57 (1930, 6) and that, abusing his authority, he was deceiving thousands of people as to the object of this discipline. ‘If Wells is of the opinion that wars and conquests are irrelevant to an understanding of the historical process,’ Szabó argues, ‘our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will have no

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‘A magyar olvasóra különösen jótékony hatású az, hogy nem kap oly “közép-és újkori” történelmet, amely tulajdonképpen nem más, mint Középeurópa, pontosabban szólva Németország és szomszédos államai történeténél, amelynek fo´´ho´´sei a hadvezérek, mellékho´´sei a diplomaták, befejezése pedig a német egység és Bismarck apoteózisa, mint a világtörténelem tulajdonképpeni céljának elérése.’ ‘A hazájabeli reakció, melynek természetesen imperiálista nacionálizmusra, vallásos bigottságra s szemforgató álerkölcsre van igénye a tudományos könyvekkel szemben, már támadta is o´´t, éppen A világ története miatt.’ ‘A történetírás ma válságban van, a válság egyik oka, so´´t legfo´´bb oka, hogy alig állapítható meg az a labilis határvonal, amely a történelmet a politikától elválasztja, minden politikai rendszer, amint csak tehette, a történelmen keresztül igyekezett propagandát csinálni magának.’ ‘[K]ár, hogy [Wells] ráveti magát a történelemre, s óriási hírnevének kihasználásával az emberek százezreit [. . .] megtéveszti a tekintetben, hogy tulajdonképpen mivel foglalkozik ez a tudomány?’

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idea of that four-years’-long world war between 1914 and 1918, and future history teachers will not be able to explain to them how Great Hungary became Small Hungary’58 (1930, 6). Even harsher attacks came from Gyula Szekfu´´, a major historical authority in interwar Hungary, and from the literary historian and bibliographer Gyula Bisztray. Szekfu´´ discussed the book in Napkelet, the literary and cultural journal established as a nationalistic counterbalance to the cosmopolitan Nyugat, in 1926. Bisztray’s review was published in the reformist-conservative cultural journal Magyar Szemle, edited by Szekfu´´. Apart from a common tone and viewpoint, these reviewers use the same metaphors: they both refer to the The Outline of History as a fraud: a book ‘wearing a mask’59 (Szekfu´´ 1926, 255) in which the ‘coy layout hides the soul of a pharisee’60 (Bisztray 1930, 101). In the introduction to his article ‘Álarcos könyvek’ (Books in disguise) Szekfu´´ gives a lurid picture of the worthless intruders capable of insinuating themselves among books of genuine value: In daytime they stand on the bookshelf, as any well-bred book would, quietly, inconspicuously. At night, however, when the master leaves his library, they take off the masks that secured their admittance to such good company, and reveal their true faces: ungainly, boorish fellows who reached adulthood deprived of any skill and art, or else cunning manipulators who take pleasure in misleading the reader, spreading perfidious slander, and stirring animosity.61 (1926, 255)

This noted historian refuses to grant The Outline of History the status of a decent, professionally sound work of history and provides a long list of faults of conception, scope and method (1926, 257). He is outraged by the book’s subversion of ‘the very foundations of religious and national sentiments’ and its championship of ‘international radicalism and [. . .] socialism’62 (1926, 257). Speaking as a social conservative and an historian contesting the

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‘És miután Mr Wells úgy gondolja, hogy a háborúkat és a hódításokat nem kell tanítani, unokáinknak és dédunokáinknak sejtelmük sem lenne arról, hogy mi volt az az 1914–1918-iki négyéves világháború és a leendo´´ történelemtanárok nem tudnák o´´ket felvilágosítani a tekintetben, hogy a Nagy-Magyarországból hogyan lett Kis-Magyarország?’ ‘Álarcos könyvek’. ‘kevés történeti munkát találni, melyben a szemérmetes külso´´ olyan farizeus lelket leplezne, mint Wells világtörténete’. ‘Napközben ott állnak a könyvespolcon, csöndesen feltu´´nést sem okozva, amint ez jól nevelt könyvekhez illik. Éjszaka azonban, mikor a gazda kihúzta lábát a könyvek szobájából, levetik az álarcot, melynek köszönhették, hogy a jó társaságba bebocsátást nyertek, s megmutatják magukat, amilyenek valóban; formátlan, mesterség és mu´´vészet híján felno´´tt faragatlan fickók o´´k, vagy ravasz intrikusok, kik az olvasó félrevezetésében, rosszhiszemu´´ rágalmak terjesztésében, az emberi gyu´´lölség szításában találják örömüket.’ ‘ez a könyv gyökerében támadja a vallásos és nemzeti érzéseket és aki egyszer befogadta tanait, az híve lesz és támogatója a nemzetközi radikalizmusnak, vagy esetleg, ha temperamentumosabb, a szocializmusnak’.

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grounds for the Trianon peace accord, Szekfu´´ accuses Wells of replicating the slanderous tone of the Entente press in his treatment of the First World War (1926, 260). Wells’s major affront, however, was his defence of the Czechoslovakian politicians, Eduard Benesˇ and the ‘learned president Masaryk’ (quoted in Szekfu´´ 1926, 260) as the pioneers of a new type of Eastern European cooperation. According to Szekfu´´, such approval made Wells an open partisan of the Little Entente. Thus, he concludes that Wells ‘lacks political discernment’, and calls the book a piece of ‘socialist-communist-Little Entente propaganda’ wholly unsuitable for ‘our Hungarian, Christian reading public’63 (1926, 261). Gyula Bisztray’s similarly dismissive criticism was prompted by the publication of a cheap paperback edition in 1930, without the appendix on the history of Hungary. Bisztray finds the five references to Hungary in the history of the world ‘from prehistoric reptiles to the Washington Conference’64 much too meagre to inform Hungarian readers about the history of their own nation (1930, 103). He welcomes the fact that the new edition does not include Wells’s statement about the Trianon borders being close to natural borders, and the passage praising the Czechoslovakian contribution to the new world order. Yet he makes sure that his readers stay informed about Wells’s previous position, and quotes from the first edition the unfavourable references to Hungarians before their adherence to Christianity as well as the passage referring to Benesˇ (1930, 104). Despite the four years dividing them, the arguments in Bisztray’s review bear the marks of Szekfu´´’s opinion. The fact that Szekfu´´ was editor-in-chief of Magyar Szemle, the journal in which Bisztray was writing, is a possible explanation, but Bisztray himself was highly sensitive to the book’s treatment of recent political events. An ethnic Hungarian from Transylvania who resettled, as many middle-class intellectuals did, in post-Trianon Hungary, he considered Wells’s attitude to the question of Eastern European borders patronizing and arrogant. Wells, the outdated rationalist: concluding remarks Despite its mixed reception, The Outline of History earned Wells a lasting reputation as a thinker in the liberal, rationalist tradition. Imre Görög, one of his few apologists in interwar Hungary, placed him in no lesser company than that of ‘good old Socrates and Voltaire’, while noting the precariousness of such an association: ‘One of the basic characteristics of Wells’s creed is that which is regarded as naïve and out of date: his faith in the power of reason and enlightenment. [. . .] In the twentieth century Wells still believes in our ability

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‘[Wells] politikai érzékkel és éleslátással nem rendelkezik. [. . .] Minden szocialistakommunista-kisantant propaganda iratra nem terjeszkedhet ki folyóiratunk. [. . .] [A] kérdés most már csak az, hogy érdemes-e és szükséges-e, hogy keresztény magyar közönségünk éppen Wells mu´´vébo´´l ismerje meg a világtörténet “tükörét”?’ ‘az o´´shüllo´´kto´´l a washingtoni [sic] konferenciáig’.

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to understand and control the phenomena of life and society’65 (1927, 983). Lajos Nagy, before he was disappointed by The World of William Clissold, compared Wells to Voltaire and Diderot (1924, 654). On the other hand, weighing his literary merits, Antal Szerb acknowledged Wells’s place in the ‘bourgeois tradition stemming from Voltaire’66 (1928, 296), but judged this orientation to be no more than a superficial habit of thought. For the historian Gyula Szekfu´´ such rationalism amounted to propaganda for the ‘progressivism’ of the socialist state ‘without nation and religion’: in this respect, he remarked, ‘Voltaire was a trifler compared to Wells’67 (1926, 257). Indeed, for those who sought to contextualize Wells’s work and define his place in an intellectual tradition, Voltaire was a likely choice without being in any way a guarantee of critical approval. Such divergent critical judgements reflected the basic dilemma of Hungary’s modern history. Due to the country’s arrested historical development resulting from its colonial situation in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the possibility of social and economic modernization repeatedly presented a set of difficult alternatives. Throughout this period, the political elite had to face the choice of loyalty to the Hapsburg monarchy rewarded by modernization, or resistance to it through the preservation of national culture and identity within the old, outdated social forms. In the first decades of the twentieth century, the attempts by the revolutionary governments of the 1918 Hungarian Republic and the 1919 Hungarian Soviet Republic to modernize Hungarian society were repealed by the Horthy regime, and the long-desired national independence came together with territorial loss. Thus Wells’s insistence on social transformation raised associations with a well-remembered period in Hungarian history, the 1790s, when the political elite had the chance under Joseph II to change the social and economic structures according to the historically most up-to-date, Enlightenment model. Then, this possibility was rejected in order to preserve national and cultural identity. For such reasons, terms like ‘rationalism’ and ‘Voltairean’ had an ambivalent ring. Finally, the importance attached to writers making their voices heard in political and social matters also derives from the arrested historical development of Eastern European countries. This is why so many of the leading Hungarian men of letters between the wars, such as Hugó Ignotus, Mihály Babits, Antal Szerb, István Vas, Lajos Kassák and Lajos Nagy, as well as one of the most notable historians, Gyula Szekfu´´, attached to Wells’s work a significance far exceeding

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‘Wells hitvallásának egyik alapveto´´ vonása egyúttal az, amelyet legtöbbször a szemére vetnek, mint naivat, elavultat: az emberi ész és felvilágosodás hatalmába vetett bizalma. [. . .] Wells a XX. században még ugyanúgy hisz az ész és a felvilágosodás erejében és arra való hivatottságában, hogy az élet és társadalom jelenségeit megértse és kormányozza, mint akár az öreg Sokrates, vagy Voltaire.’ ‘Voltaire óta élo´´ polgári tradíciók kötelezik’. ‘ami a racionalizmust, egyházellenességet, az ész tiszteletét illeti, Voltaire kismiska Wellshez képest [. . .] Mert az a közös jövo´´, melyet el akar érni: vallás és nemzetnélküli felvilágosodás a szocialista államban. Manapság nálunk ez a progresszív frazeológia szemérmetesen elfátyolozva jár’.

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what would normally be given to an internationally famous writer. Inevitably, the oversized figure of the author crumbled under such demands: neither liberals, conservatives nor leftists were entirely satisfied with what the writer, the social reformist or the public figure was able to offer, or what intellectual contribution he was willing to provide. But to express an opinion about Wells was obligatory for those preoccupied with literature, the historical process and the political aspects of social change in Hungary, especially in the post-war, post-revolutionary, post-Trianon period.

12

The Puzzling Connection between H. G. Wells and Frigyes Karinthy Katalin Csala

Born into the Jewish-Hungarian intelligentsia, Frigyes Karinthy (1877–1938) was a man of humour, grief and superb intelligence. He was a polyglot, interested in the medical and technical sciences, who was obliged to work as a journalist and translator to make ends meet. As such, he translated H. G. Wells’s The Sea Lady (A tengerkisasszony) in 1913, and he retranslated ‘The Country of the Blind’ (‘A vakok völgye’) in 1936 following its first Hungarian publication in 1927 (Wells 1927). He was the most popular literary personality of his time; a humorist, a parodist and the author of innumerable short sketches, a poet of considerable depth and a writer of utopias. He was a contributor to the fantastic-utopian tradition of Wells, Aldous Huxley, Karel Cˇapek, Franz Kafka and Eugène Ionesco and he enriched that tradition through his unique blend of merciless satire and deeply philosophical fantasy. He published two significant fantasies, the Swiftian Utazás Faremidóba (Voyage to Faremido) (1917), and Capillária (Capillaria) (1921). His lifelong engagement with Wells’s work and thought is well documented by some fifteen publications of differing lengths, to be discussed below, which contributed significantly to Wells’s popularity in Hungary.

From The Sea Lady to Capillaria In the late nineteenth century, Karinthy thought highly of Jules Verne’s work, but this gradually gave way to admiration for English science fiction, and in particular to that of H. G. Wells. In 1913 Karinthy published his translation of The Sea Lady in Athenaeum’s ‘Modern Library’ series. Experiencing difficulties with the translation, Karinthy took refuge in fantasy, and this resulted in a special treatment of The Sea Lady: the ‘translator’ reshaped the work by cutting it to slightly more than half of its original length and modifying its theme. He made the story more compact and easier to digest for his Hungarian readers by stressing the two extremes: the sexually attractive, lax and lawless ‘moonshine’ character of the title and, in sharp contrast, the

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rational, restrained and austere fiancée, with the weak, puppet-like male vacillating between the two, enchanted by the night-lure of the mermaid, but restrained by the daylight reasoning of his fiancée, the ‘agent general of his duties’ (Wells 1902, 215). Karinthy’s edited translation of the Wells original resulted in a major structural modification. As the story advanced, growing portions of it were condensed or entirely omitted. Thus in Wells’s book Chatteris appears one-third of the way through the plot whereas in Karinthy’s version we meet him in the second half, as if to stress that his fate was so hopeless that there was no point in dealing with his self-torture, remorse and defeat in great detail. Again, in the middle of Wells’s original the narrator explains the fate of Chatteris, which does not come to light until near the end of the Karinthy ‘translation’. Consequently, the adaptation-like translation makes the story less lyrical and changes its atmosphere. Wells’s original highlights the logic of the final outcome, thickening the shroud of mystery through the use of mystical sounds and lights urging us to question the fate of the young man chasing after ‘better dreams’. The ‘translation’, shrinking the original eighty pages of this section to ten, emphasizes the elemental power of nature and of the feminine will, while the English original concentrates on how Chatteris may have faced death. In this way Wells’s romantic love story, mingled with social criticism, was turned by Karinthy into the tragicomedy of a weak male victimized by female oppression. In 1918, four years after Karinthy’s treatment of The Sea Lady, he published the first part of his Capillaria, the subject of which resembled The Sea Lady: the juxtaposition and contrast of the weak human being to omnipotent nature, or of the weak male to the omnipotent female. Karinthy’s translation of The Sea Lady may have convinced him of the incompleteness of the story. He may not have believed that death claimed the man sinking into the depths of the sea in the arms of the mermaid, but imagined him continuing his life among the immortals. He may have felt obliged to shed light on the underwater world of the Sea Lady which was obscured by the cunning and insidious secrecy of Miss Waters, who ‘volunteered no information, contenting herself with an entertaining superficiality’ (Wells 1902, 60). This provided Karinthy with the artistic freedom to create a fantastic seabed which was not the scene of romantic love between a human and a demigod, but rather a land of women – a feminist paradise depicted with the profoundness and irony of Jonathan Swift.1 Having identified with Wells through his work as translator, Karinthy continued the story in his own novel. The final motif of The Sea Lady, with the mermaid carrying off her victim to the depths of the sea, represents the starting point for Capillaria: ‘Down these [stairs] it must have been they went together, hastening downward out of this life of ours to unknown and inconceivable things’ (Wells 1902, 268). This was where Karinthy’s main character, Gulliver, the henpecked husband, arrives as if

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Swift’s influence on Karinthy is undeniable as, in 1914, Karinthy had translated Gulliver’s Travels.

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a shipwreck victim. His life is saved by the ‘filthy and mongrel’2 (1965, 70) bulloks, the ‘dwarfed, stunted males’3 (1965, 79), caricatures of men whose name clearly indicates that the story was rendered for the readers of the anticipated English-language edition of the book; with the bulloks bearing a close resemblance to bollocks and bullocks, with all their sensational connotations, including castration. This ‘small monster, completely backward and primitive, imprisoned in the shape of a despised and humiliated domestic animal’4 (1965, 70), is the provider for the dominant females, the Oihas, whose name means ‘Human Being, the Perfection of Nature’5 (1965, 69) and whose translucent dream-like bodies are the unattainable but constantly desired target of the bulloks’ passionate love. Being mistaken for a female, Gulliver lives among the Oihas, whose queen, Opula, asks him about the inhabitants of dry land. Her understanding of his explanation of gender relations reveals numerous satirical implications: in the battle of the sexes man is the helpless victim of woman’s tyranny. Eventually, Gulliver falls in love with the queen, but she, realizing that he is a male rather than a distorted female, banishes him to bullok society. The struggles of the bulloks caricature contemporary terrestrial political life. There is an open reference to Wells when the bulloks are described as a kind of ‘homo faber’ or ‘technical man’ ‘that only writers with the most unbridled imagination – a Wells or a Shaw – would have dared to dream about [. . .] and even then only in their most extreme and far-fetched utopias’6 (1965, 114). In another place, Gulliver describes his own appearance at the bottom of the sea ‘as if a Martian had landed in London’7 (1965, 65), a clear reference to Wells’s The War of the Worlds. In the end, the disillusioned Gulliver returns to dry land. The use of an unreliable first-person narrator was characteristic of both Swift and Wells. Aware of this, Emil Kolozsvári Grandpierre rightly referred to Karinthy’s Voyage to Faremido and Capillaria as not only reminiscent of Gulliver’s fifth and sixth travels but also of Wells’s fantastic stories, which clearly indicates that Capillaria is a continuation of both Gulliver’s Travels and The Sea Lady (1984, 401). The chapters in Capillaria dealing with underwater reading and methods of propagation undoubtedly have Wellsian roots, but they are handled and developed with Karinthy’s peculiar irony. Wells’s ‘extremely well-read’

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‘elcsökevényesedett kis szörnyszülött’ (Karinthy 1921a, 51). ‘förtelmes lények, kiknek törpe teste eltorzult’ (Karinthy 1921a, 86). ‘tökéletesen visszafejlödött, elcsökevényesedett kis szörnyszülött, megvetett és lenézett kis háziállat’ (Karinthy 1921a, 51). ‘az Oiha az ö nyelvükön Embert, a Természet Tökélyét [. . .] jelent’ (Karinthy 1921a, 51). ‘Az, amit mi itt Európában “homo faber”-nek, “technikai embernek” nevezünk olyan mértékben fejlödött ki a bullok-oknál, amilyenröl nálunk csak a legvadabb üszerzök: egy Wells, egy Shaw merészelt ábrándozni legörjítöbb álmaiban’ (Karinthy 1921a, 137). ‘mintha, teszem föl, Londonban vagy Párizsban egy napon partra szállna holmi marsbeli ember’ (Karinthy 1921a, 42).

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mermaid (1902, 33), a member of the distinct underwater reading public, is well informed through ‘Deep Sea Reading’ (1902, 34). The source of her information and ‘soft clear grammatical manner’ (1902, 45) is the ‘submerged library’ (1902, 35) consisting of copies of The Times, the Daily Mail and the Encyclopaedia Britannica, along with a ‘rain of light literature’(1902, 40) such as illustrated magazines and fashion papers. These ‘saturated books’ (1902, 43) are contrasted with the government Blue Books and the ‘Condition of the Poor’ texts read by Adeline, Chatteris’s fiancée. The ‘drowned scraps of paper’ (1902, 43) recall the diet of the few most prized bulloks of Capillaria, the scientists, who consume much bullok sweetmeat, ‘special feeding stuff [. . .] drifting down [. . .] from time to time from the upper regions, [. . .] thin sheets with many layers, covered with small black dots’8 (1965, 81). These bulloks are pupated to produce from their brains the very thin, long threads of ink-like material, which can be ‘spun into a fabric’9 (1965, 81), providing the clothes and the ‘favourite tit-bits’10 (1965, 81) of the Oihas. By means of this bullok-keeping, which parallels marriage, the male brain becomes both sweetmeat and woven textile. Both Wells’s mermaid and Karinthy’s Oihas symbolize the irresistible elemental whirl of Nature conceived as a feminine deity. The mermaid refers to all earthly problems with ‘a certain sceptical levity’ (Wells 1902, 41). She does not take earthly existence seriously, laughs outright at the things that are most important and vital to humans and lives for her own whims, as do Karinthy’s Oihas ‘in their eternal pursuit of pleasure’11 (1965, 72), who regard the struggle of the tiny males with frivolous indifference. Their irresistible femininity, like that of the Sea Lady, subjugates and destroys the will of the fragile males. Chatteris’s defeat by and subordination to the strong female will has a certain dignity, though he is clearly to become no more than an ‘article of pleasure, [. . .] a possession, [. . .] a plaything’12 (Karinthy 1965, 86) in the underwater world. Karinthy stretched Wellsian sexual servitude to the furthest limits of absurdity; in Capillaria, the weak male becomes a ‘loathsome little worm’13 (1965, 57), ignored both as provider and maintainer of female society and as propagator of the race, and doomed to a shameful death. The irresistible charm and sometimes merciless austerity of the Oihas lies in the fact that they are a perfect but complex alloy of the charming mermaid and the career-conscious fiancée, ‘Venus Anadyomene’ and ‘Michael and his Sword’ (Wells 1902, 253), who require considerable armour to subdue the male. The mermaid uses charm and cunning to entangle her long-selected prey while the fiancée displays firmness and austerity. The Oihas need no tricks to subdue the degenerate offspring

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‘egy bizonyos tápláléka [. . .] bizonyos alkalmakkor fölülröl szokott lefelé szállingózni réteges, soklevelü vékony lemezek alakjában, tele apró fekete potokkal’ (Karinthy 1921a, 74). ‘a fonalat le lehet fejteni és szövetet csinálni belöle’ (Karinthy 1921a, 73). ‘fö tápláléka és csemegéje’ (Karinthy 1921a, 73). ‘oihá-k egész élete [. . .] az élvezetek örökös gyakorlásában telik el’ (Karinthy 1921a, 55). ‘élvezeti tárgy [. . .] birtok [. . .] csecsebecse’ (Karinthy 1921a, 83). ‘borzalmas kis szörnyetegek’ (Karinthy 1921a, 70).

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of the male sex. The sheer presence of the females mesmerizes both Chatteris and the bulloks, and drives them into an hypnotic trance, so that they are happy to go to their deaths. The mermaid and the Oihas self-confidently aim at sensual enjoyment and take unscrupulous advantage of their immortality and invulnerability. They are able to destroy the male with fatal femininity, but are insensitive rather than wicked, like Nature and its elements. Wells said little about the mode of propagation of the underwater immortals, with the mermaid ‘born of the elements and resolved into the elements again’ (1902, 48). Although the fully grown Oihas are similarly unaware of the means of reproduction, Karinthy was quite clear that the tiny bulloks are their necessary partners; they are the ‘male organ’ existing ‘like a parasite around the Oihas’14 (1965, 70).

Karinthy as Wellsian encyclopaedist Besides Wells’s ideas and literary example, his encyclopaedism exerted a deep influence on Karinthy. Thus, following the publication of Wells’s The Outline of History in 1920 and the complete version of Capillaria in 1921, the Hungarian writer published a letter, full of sincere enthusiasm for Wells, in Nyugat (West) (1921b, 941–43), the leading Hungarian literary periodical between the two world wars. Here Karinthy refers to Wells as a follower of the long tradition of adventurous travellers, a fantasist and utopist eager to ‘bridge the gap between the finite and the infinite, Art and Metaphysics, Cognition and Thinking’15 (1921b, 941). Wells’s fantastic art was opposed to that of Verne and Swift as its aim was to give shape to the vague picture of the unknown without stripping it of its empirical, philosophical and speculative message. In contrast to Verne, Karinthy regarded Wells’s fantasies as possessing the strictest logical structure, borrowing more from the logically possible than from the fantastic. Wells’s avoidance of mysticism was of greater interest to him than Verne’s dreamworlds, since Wells’s extraterrestrial and unreal fantasies afforded a clearer and more comprehensive picture of the real world. Karinthy added that Wells’s political views and propagandist activities had to be taken seriously by ‘the most theoretical literary critics’16 (1921b, 943). Writing once more on The Outline of History in Nyugat in 1925 he repeated the introductory motif of his 1921 letter, describing the book as an adventure story that clearly exposed the merciless logic of history. The main character, ‘Man’, could not be blamed for his mistakes; his excuse was youth, and the hopeful promise of his future lay in his gradual development towards adulthood (1925a).

14

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‘Teste nincs ötvenedrésze sem az oiha testének’, ‘kis’, ‘ez a testész afféle élösdi módjára ott él az oiha környezetében’ (Karinthy 1921a, 51). ‘akik megpróbáltak átjárót keresni a két birodalom: véges és végtelen, Müvészet és Metafizika, Megismerés és Gondolkodás között’ (my translation). ‘Wells müvészetét komolyan kell venni a legelvonatkoztatottabb müvészetesztétának’ (my translation).

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In 1927 Karinthy wrote a preface to the first major Hungarian study on Wells, H. G. Wells, by Tivadar Szinnai, subtitled ‘The life and ideas of the most widely read author in the world’17 (Szinnai 1927). This preface is merely a summary of the articles of 1921 and 1925 in which Karinthy spoke openly of his kinship to British encyclopaedists in general and Wells in particular. Indeed, on the strength of his journalism, published between 1925 and 1930,18 Karinthy became known as ‘the Hungarian Wells’ (Fráter 1987, 279), an association he readily accepted as it was his most ardent wish to co-author a new encyclopaedia with Wells and others. As his friend and translator, Pál Tábori, wrote about him, If he had had his way, he claimed, he would have devoted all his time and ingenuity to creating a new encyclopaedia. Although he was unable to work systematically on the new definition of ideas, he did at least produce many scattered, occasional pieces under the various headings of his imaginary ‘New Encyclopaedia’. He quite often used the sub-heading ‘an article in the New Encyclopaedia’ for his essays; even his humorous pieces, sketches, short stories, novels were all part of a great comprehensive plan. (1965, xix)

Despite the fact that both Wells and Karinthy were intellectuals engaged in popular writing, they had completely different motives for desiring a world encyclopaedia. Karinthy sought ‘the simplest manner to express the basic ideas so that all men could understand him’ (Tábori 1965, xix) and he hoped to contribute to new interpretations of the problems of his age by providing a poetic explanation of the human qualities which were so inconceivable and elusive. Wells, on the other hand, sought to reinterpret the whole of human biology and history including art. While the differences in their approach to the problems of their time must be stressed, what they shared was the sense that there was a niche to be filled. Wells pursued the illusion of a world state by every means at his disposal, while his Hungarian counterpart tried to grasp the right verbal expressions for the most incomprehensible ideas. The prefaces of the German and American editions of Capillaria In 1925 Karinthy wrote a twenty-page letter as a preface to the German edition of his Capillaria. The letter was addressed ‘To the poet of a “Short History of the World” and to the scientist of the “First Men in the Moon” ’19 (1925b, 139) as an expression of the book’s artistic inspiration. Ever since its publication, it has been a puzzle as to why the preface, entitled ‘A Letter to H. G. Wells’ (1925b,

17

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‘A világ legolvasottabb írójának élete és eszméi’ (translation by Gabriella Vöo´´, with thanks). Much of this journalism was collected in a two-volume anthology entitled Címszavak a Nagy Enciklopédiához (Entries to the great encyclopaedia) in 1975. ‘A “Short History of the World” költöjéhez és a “First Men in the Moon” tudósához.’

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139), was indeed addressed to Wells. In the letter Karinthy placed himself on a par with Wells, one of the great English encyclopaedists. Karinthy began by explaining the circumstances of Capillaria’s creation, describing his ‘disturbed state of mind and terrible living conditions’ and adding that, initially, he had not wanted to write the book but ‘merely to tell the story to a lady’20 (1925b, 139) who could not comprehend what he was talking about. Similarly, he failed to tell his story to a man. So, as a last resort, he selected the greatest contemporary writer and encyclopaedist, H. G. Wells; to tell him publicly what nobody wanted to listen to individually. The preface analyses the irreconcilable antagonism between man and woman with a great deal of sparkling wit. Karinthy blames his unfavourable opinion of women on his intrusive relatives, whose sense of decorum prevented him from establishing a proper relationship with anyone of the opposite sex. This happened in his childhood when he was still unaware of the characteristic female figures of the nineteenth century. The main characters of Capillaria (the Chocolate Angel, the seductive Manon, the Sergeant General and the emancipated Nóra) all hint at the heroines of The Sea Lady, the mermaid and Adeline, both of whom force men ‘to give up part of their human pride’21 (1925b, 152). Karinthy’s preface, along with the English-language manuscript of the novel itself, must have been sent to Wells in 1925 or 1926, and perhaps more than once, but it appears to have remained unacknowledged for some time. However, as a result of repeated requests, the preface of Capillaria was finally graced with ‘very kind and warm lines’ (1929, 1) according to a recently discovered letter written by Karinthy.22 This letter, dated 12 April 1929, was sent to Wells’s cottage in France, but a typewritten copy was delivered to London personally by a friend of Karinthy’s, Leutalia Vértes Lengyel. A letter written by Vértes Lengyel states that Karinthy’s letter was delivered to Wells’s secretary ‘at an inopportune moment’, though as an excuse she added that ‘My reason for calling was to have a personal interview with you concerning Mr F. Karinthy’s book, Capillaria, that shall be published in New York. I am bringing a letter from Mr Karinthy addressed to Mr Wells, which I would like to hand to you personally’ (1929, 1). This letter, together with the secretary’s apparently unwelcoming behaviour, is a strong indication of Wells’s polite indifference to Karinthy’s proffered friendship. Wells’s ‘very kind and warm lines’ addressed to Karinthy personally did not conceal the fact that he had not even read Capillaria. Despite Wells’s tepidity, Karinthy asked him to provide an introductory note to the then imminent New York edition of the book (1929, 1):

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‘zaklatott lelkiállapotban és keserves körülmények között írtam [. . .] egy [. . .] úrihölgynek a mulatatására rövidesen el akartam mondani mindazt’ (my translation). ‘a férfinak engednie kell emberi büszkeségéböl’ (my translation). Capillaria’s Chocolate Angel and Manon bear similarities to the Sea Lady while the Sergeant General and Nóra resemble Adeline. The letter is contained in the Wells collection of the Rare Book and Special Collections Library of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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(the MS of this was sent to Grasse some time ago) Dear H. G. Wells, With pleasure do I take the opportunity to-day and thank you for the very kind and warm lines in which you remember the Preface addressed to your estimated person in my work ‘Capillaria’. If I can hope, that since you have already found the occasion to read ‘Capillaria’ itself, and still recall the thought expressed in the Preface – and if you do feel, that you would have something to say about the latter, for I indeed have the feeling, that this Preface is not complete without your remarks, you would oblige me greatly by writing them, so as not to deprive the English edition that is soon to appear, of this precious supplement. I have already an English editor and am only waiting to have the book printed, for I sincerely hope, you will not refuse me the favour to lend me some of your mighty and powerful words as an introduction to my modest voice, that is to reach the delicate ears of English readers. I hope and I thank you for it in advance very devotedly yours F. Karinthy

A posthumous book gives Karinthy’s account of the story in his tongue-incheek, but disappointed, style:

One of my friends delivered to him [Wells] the ‘Preface’ of Capillaria asking for a written opinion. In his answer, Wells claimed to have read all my works (though only a few of them had been published in English), adding that he felt overwhelmed by the sparkling and coruscating wit of the ‘Preface’, which discouraged him from reviewing it. This was, of course, irony against the humour, which he felt had been exhibitionistic [. . .]. – Well, do tell me how to respond to this arrogance? Do you think an equally polite rejection of all the world histories, including his, would be a worthy revenge? – And what could be substituted for it? My encyclopaedia, of course.23 (quoted in Fráter 1987, 279–80)

23

‘egyik barátom eljuttatta hozzá a Capillária címü regényem elöszavát. Arra kértem, hogy mondjon véleményt róla. Wells válaszolt a levélre, és azt írta, hogy minden müvemet ismeri (megjegyzem, csak alig néhány munkám jelent meg angol nyelven), de annyira eltörpül ö [Wells] az elöszóban sziporkázó, kápráztató szellem mellett, hogy nem érzi magát hívatottnak arra, hogy véleményt mondjon. Ez persze gúny volt a szellemesség ellen, amely szerinte öncél ként hatott. [. . .] Már most mondja, hogy viszonozzam ezt a szemtelenséget? Mit gondol, méltó bosszú lenne, ha én meg visszautasítanám hallgatólagosan – az egész világtörténelmet, a Wells-félét is beleértve? – Es mit tenne a világtörténelem helyére? – Mit? Hát az Encyklopédiámat’ (my translation).

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Wells in Karinthy’s journalism of the 1930s During the course of the 1910s and 1920s, Karinthy’s attitude towards Wells mellowed from an outright adoration to a less passionate respect. Following his disappointment at Wells’s refusal to pen a preface for Capillaria, however, Karinthy became somewhat more critical of Wells during the 1930s. While Karinthy never wavered in his praise for Wells’s early literary achievements, during the early 1930s he began to show less sympathy for Wells’s educational efforts. Thus while he praised The Science of Life in 1930, calling it ‘The Second Part of the Great Trilogy’24 (1930, 6), in 1933 he wrote three less positive articles on Wells, one criticizing his The World of William Clissold (1984, 101–04) and another two contrasting him negatively with Mihály Babits (1984, 292–98) and G. K. Chesterton (1984, 183–86). Further, in 1934, Karinthy openly criticized The Outline of History, calling it a ‘thumbnail-sketch’25 (1979, 117) of world history that could be taken as easily as a pill, and he caricatures Wells’s oversimplification and distortion of facts. In the same year, marking the publication of Wells’s Experiment in Autobiography (1934), Karinthy describes Wells as the only mentally mature, though ordinary, brain involved in describing the future through an analysis of the past (1984, 435–39). He praises Wells for interweaving autobiography and science fiction, and thus stretching the boundaries of the novel. Later in the same article Karinthy notes that ‘I have read few lines as “poetic” and “warm” as those of Wells’s résumé’ while nonetheless reproaching Wells for being ‘little more than an average educator of the masses’26 (1984, 439). Despite the souring of Karinthy’s attitude towards Wells between 1930 and 1934, it is interesting to note that in an article of 1935, written during Karinthy’s visit to London as a correspondent for the daily Az Est (The Evening), he makes an incidental reference to the fact that ‘I will meet Wells tomorrow’27 (1984, 666). No further mention is made as to whether this meeting actually took place but Karinthy’s sober, disillusioned mood in the article suggests low expectations on his part. It seems that the two writers knew each other personally, but their acquaintance never resulted in active literary cooperation. Conclusion Karinthy’s explanation for Wells’s negative treatment of Capillaria, and his refusal to write an introduction to the English-language edition of the novel, was that the older writer’s sensitivity had been deeply hurt by being compared

24

25 26

27

‘A Nagy Trilógia Második Része’ (my translation). The first of the trilogy was OH (1920) and the third was WWHM (1932). ‘az olvasó itt egy körömvonalat kap’ (my translation). ‘Kevés olyan “költöi” és “meleg” sort olvastam, mint Wells rezüméjét’ (my translation). ‘Holnap meglátogatom Wellst’ (my translation).

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with a younger Hungarian author. To be sure, it must have been apparent to Wells that his unwillingness, expressed in his only surviving letter to Karinthy, to write an introduction to Capillaria would be certain to wound Karinthy’s self-esteem. Karinthy’s preface to the German edition of the novel had called on Wells to cooperate with him in composing an encyclopaedia, a joint redefinition of the ideas of the new world of the twentieth century. In return for his development of the themes contained in The Sea Lady, Karinthy expected Wells to include his ideas in his projected world encyclopaedia, though Wells showed no interest in doing so. While Karinthy tried to capitalize on his celebrated humour in approaching Wells and attempting to stimulate him to literary cooperation, Wells appears to have been offended by Karinthy’s wit, and may have chosen to ignore the Hungarian writer as a kind of revenge for Karinthy’s reinterpretation of The Sea Lady in Capillaria. Wells’s refusal to collaborate with Karinthy in any form deprived the latter of a high-profile preface for Capillaria, but more importantly it deprived Wells, and ultimately the world, of an international collaborative encyclopaedia which might have gone some way towards addressing Wells’s demand for a ‘World Brain’ (Wells 1938, title). Given Wells’s eagerness to advance universal education, his lack of interest in such a collaboration is as much a puzzle to researchers of Wells’s ideology as it was a disappointment to Wells’s one-time Hungarian disciple, Frigyes Karinthy.

13

H. G. Wells, Italian Futurism and Marinetti’s Gli Indomabili (The Untamables) Maria Teresa Chialant

The aim of this chapter is to explore the connections between H. G. Wells and Italian Futurism, focusing especially on the analogies that Filippo Tommaso Marinetti’s novel Gli Indomabili (The Untamables) exhibits with some of Wells’s scientific romances, in particular with The Time Machine, The Island of Doctor Moreau and When the Sleeper Wakes.1 The authoritative Italian critic Silvio Benco was the first to point out this literary kinship in his review article ‘Due libri africani su Marinetti’ (‘Two African books on Marinetti’), with which he welcomed The Untamables in the journal Nazione-Trieste (Nation-Trieste) when the book came out in 1922. Here he writes, among other things, that ‘it is possible to detect certain similarities of imagination and of construction –that the author is probably unaware of –with some books by Wells’ (1922, n. p.). 2 The Untamables was published two years after its author’s resignation from the original Fascist Coalition, the Fasci di Combattimento, and it is considered an important step in Marinetti’s development as an artist. The founder of Futurism certainly knew Wells’s work, which he might well have read in the original version, but more likely in any of various translations, either in French, which was a second language to him, or in Italian, in which there were sixteen translations before 1922. Although there is no proof of a direct influence of the English writer on Marinetti’s novel, it is legitimate to establish a connection between this text and Wells’s work, owing to its utopian/dystopian vision, to some specific narrative elements in the plot, and to certain morphological and semantic features that can be identified as belonging to the science-fiction genre. This chapter will

1

2

My thanks go to Judy Rawson for having first drawn my attention to the possible connections between Wells and Marinetti. ‘a me pare di riscontrarvi, inconscio forse l’autore, certe affinitàdi imaginazione e di proiezione con alcuni libri di Wells’. Unless otherwise indicated, all translations in this chapter are mine.

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mainly consist of a close reading of The Untamables alongside the three Wellsian texts mentioned above, followed by a more general discussion on the analogies – as well as the differences – between the two writers. But before that, a short introduction to Marinetti (1876–1944) and to the reception of Italian Futurism in England may be useful. Marinetti on the English scene The avant-garde movements that developed throughout Europe in the first two decades of the twentieth century were generally greeted in England with the term ‘modern’, as witnessed both in T. E. Hulme’s essays and in Katherine Mansfield and John Middleton Murry’s journal Rhythm (1911–13). In Virginia Woolf’s well-known words, ‘In or about December, 1910, human character changed’ (1966, 320): she referred to a turning point in the spread of the new ideas in art, the 1910 Exhibition of Post-Impressionist painters in London, organized by Roger Fry (‘Manet and the Post-Impressionists’, November 1910–January 1911). After that momentous opening, a further cultural event that galvanized the intellectual circles of the capital in those years was the arrival of the Futurists in London. Marinetti had already given a ‘Futurist speech to the English’ in April 1910 at the Lyceum Club; the first exhibition of Futurist painters, at the Sackville Gallery, took place in March 1912, while a second exhibition of Futurist painters and sculptors was held at the Doré Gallery in April 1914. Various events – from concerts to public readings – quickly followed one another and involved not only art galleries, but also music halls, fashion and, of course, the press (Cianci 1991, 156–58). During Marinetti’s Futurist campaign in London, the local press used such expressions as ‘ultra-modern school of art’, or ‘advance-garde’, as it appears in the manifesto Vital English Art (1914)3 by Marinetti and the painter Christopher Nevinson – the only Futurist produced in England, according to one critic (Flint 1972b, 18). In the period before the war the term ‘Futurism’ generally defines not only the Italian movement but all those contemporary radical ‘-isms’ that were connected to the ‘subversive’ proposals of Post-Impressionism. On the whole, in spite of an earlier positive reaction on Ezra Pound’s and Wyndham Lewis’s part, Marinetti provoked a snobbish hostility on English soil; too many London lectures in 1914 must have contributed to this.4 Also D. H. Lawrence – who, together with Mayakovsky, was among the major writers

3

4

Vital English Art can be found reproduced in Futurist Manifestos, edited by Umberto Apollonio (1973). Wyndham Lewis speaks of Marinetti in Blasting and Bombardiering (1967, 33–35); in Time and Western Man he attacked Pound, who in the late 1920s began to hail Marinetti as the inventor of Modernism, perhaps to please his Fascist friends (Flint 1972b, 18–19). See also Edward Moore in the New Age (1920), who criticizes Marinetti by reference to Wells’s ‘The Lord of the Dynamos’.

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whose work had been most influenced by Marinetti – ended up with a divided mind about Futurism, as some passages in Women in Love testify.5 Marinetti declaimed parts of one of his most ‘revolutionary’ works, Zang Tumb Tumb, in various European cities during 1913 and 1914. He gave these readings – which were real shows – in London, from 16 to 20 November 1913, and again at the Doré Gallery, on 28 April 1914 in the presence of Wyndham Lewis. The founder of Vorticism, during a taxi drive between the Doré Gallery and the Café Royal, told his guest that, after all, the English had ‘invented’ the machine society and could hardly be expected to get excited about it at that late date. In an article, ‘A Man of the Week – Marinetti’, Lewis defined him as ‘the intellectual Cromwell of our time’ (1989, 30). H. G. Wells also met Marinetti at one of the Futurist lectures in London. He recalled the occasion in an article on Fascism and the future of Italy, published on 9 February 1927: I can remember that rich voice in London at some dinner of the Poetry Society long before the war, reciting, shouting, the intimations of a new violence, of an Italy that would stand no nonsense, that abjured the past and claimed the future, that exulted in the thought and tumult of war, that was aristocratic, intolerant, proud, pitiless, and, above all, ‘Futurist’. (1929, 26)

This is the version the Italian artist gave of the same meeting: In London poets painters sculptors playwrights headed by Wells invite us to a banquet in honour of Marinetti and the Italian Futurists in the hall of the Poetry Society While praising me in his toast Wells says in his chirping voice ‘I am a bird but Mr Marinetti is a lion’ The comment hides a sly irony about the declared systematic violence of Futurism and I reply by reciting my free verse in honour of racing cars and The Battle of Adrianople and acclaimed by the whole group I conclude in French improvising extremely light words-in-freedom on the scratchy metallic noise made by the inhabitants of Mars (1972, 345)6

The encounter – or, rather, the confrontation – between those ebullient personalities, well condensed by the animal imagery they both adopted (the lion’s ‘rich voice’ and the bird’s ‘chirping voice’), would prove more meaningful to the Italian artist than he could expect at the time. Marinetti had published the first ‘Futurist Manifesto’ in Le Figaro on 20 February 1909, but he had been active in Milan since 1905 as editor of Poesia

5

6

But already in 1914, Lawrence wrote, in a letter to his friend A. W. McLeod, that he had been interested in the Futurists, he liked them, but did not believe in them (1981, 180–81). See also Cianci (1991, 168–72) and Nicolai (1991, 149). The allusion to the lion refers to the image of young lions that Marinetti uses for himself and his friends ‘who escape from the past in automobiles and whom he exhorts to “assister à la naissance du Centaure” (assist at the birth of the Centaur) – the traditional Greek symbol for animal desires and barbarism’ (Martin 1968, 42).

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(Poetry), an international journal which had among its aims the spreading of the works of the French Symbolists in Italy. However, he would later reject this literary movement in an article entitled ‘We deny our Symbolist Masters, the last Moon-Lovers’, where he claimed Zola and Whitman – among others – as his predecessors (Rawson 1976, 243). In ‘Futurist Theory and Invention’, Marinetti proclaimed the liberation of Italy from ‘the smelly gangrene of professors, archaeologists, ciceroni and antiquarians’, and the necessity to burn her libraries, flood her museums and galleries, and tear down her sacred cities (1972, 42–43). This attitude towards any form of so called ‘passéiste’ culture was shared by the various avant-garde movements in Europe in the early decades of the century. Mayakovsky, for example, in one of his first poems, entitled A Slap in the Face of Public Taste (published in 1912, the same year as the First Futurist Manifesto in Russia), writes: ‘Only we represent our Time. The horn of Time speaks through us in the art of words. The past constricts [. . .] From the tops of skyscrapers we look down at the significance of the writers of the past’ (quoted in Howlett 1985, 165). Quite interestingly within this context, Mayakovsky’s 1915 Futurist statement raises the ‘glorious participants of Futurist publications to the rank of Martians’, invites Marinetti and Wells into the Martian government, and proclaims: ‘(1) All artistic canons freeze inspiration and should be banned; (2) the language of the past, incapable of keeping pace with the speed of life, should be destroyed; (3) the masters of the past should be thrown off the ship of modernity’ (quoted in Howlett 1985, 166). The same aggressive dismissal of the experience of the past is found in some of the French poetic movements of the period – Dynamisme, Machinisme, Paroxysme, Impulsionnisme; but, although the leading avant-gardist Guillaume Apollinaire was not indifferent to the enthusiasm for a new mechanical age, his city poetry combines a challenging modernity with a strong sense of the values of the past (Kelley 1985, 80–96). Like Apollinaire, Wells experienced the contradictory appeal of tradition and modernity, as his ambivalent attitude towards the city testifies. In Tono-Bungay, for example, the narrator expresses both repulsion for the degrading effects of the monstrous expansion of modern London, and fascination for ‘the centre of civilization, the heart of the world! [. . .] a wonderful place’ (1975, 73). In When the Sleeper Wakes, on the other hand, there emerges a sense of wonder at the technological innovations of modern architecture such as the glass-domed city. But Wells also warns that the triumph of the metropolis would lead to the apocalypse of industrial civilization. Wells’s paradoxical position as a novelist between tradition and modernity (an aspect to which I shall return later) is to some extent shared by Marinetti himself, in spite of the fact that the latter was the founder of such an avant-garde movement as Futurism. An example of this is in fact offered by The Untamables, in which its author abandons the extreme experimental writing of his previous novels – Zang Tumb Tumb (1914) and 8 anime in una bomba (8 souls in a bomb) (1919) – to go back to a more conventional kind of fiction. In spite of some neologisms, a very personal use of punctuation and orthography, and a few other ingenious devices, this book is not written in a ‘Free Words style’.

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According to one of Marinetti’s critics, it represents ‘a stylistic compromise between the radical free-wordism of Zang Tumb Tumb, which was primarily a performance libretto with expensive typographical frills, and the normal florid art-prose of the pre-war years’ (Flint 1972a, 246). Actually, it is not easy to situate The Untamables in neat, clear-cut genre categories. Marinetti’s wife, Benedetta, to whom the novel is dedicated, called it ‘a religious and social prophetic fable’ (Benedetta, 1923).7 Marinetti himself, in the preface to the novel, wrote: ‘How could one define The Untamables? Adventure novel? symbolic poem? science fiction? [‘romanzo fantastico’ in the Italian version] fable? philosophical-social vision? None of these categories fits. It’s a free-word book. Nude crude synthesizing. Simultaneous polychromatic polyhumorous. Vast violent dynamic’ (1972, 163). Some of these definitions – fable, prophecy, science fiction – connect the book to Wells’s scientific romances. But the features that most support the hypothesis of a Wellsian influence on Marinetti’s novel are its utopian/ dystopian stance and its scientific and technological inventiveness. Marinetti’s novel and Wells’s scientific romances Marinetti’s novel consists of twenty-four chapters and covers seventy-three pages. It is preceded by a seven-page preface, entitled ‘The free-word style’, that functions as an introduction to the supposedly revolutionary language of the text. The title refers to one of the groups of people living on the island that provides the setting of the story. The social structure of this community is organized according to a rigid hierarchy, in which different levels of power are occupied by four different groups of beings, whose stratification corresponds to the physical and symbolic spaces they belong to. An homology is clearly established between space and characters and the best way to relate the plot of the novel is to describe its socio-spatial structures. On a volcanic island under a tropical sun there live the Untamables, their black Jailers, the Paper People and the River People, who occupy the following places: – the Pit, where the Untamables are kept in chains; – the Dune, overlooking the pit, from which the muzzled Jailers control the Untamables; – the Oasis to which the Untamables and the black Jailers crave entrance; – the Lake of Goodness and the Lake of Poetry, where the slaves and their jailers are led to temporarily purify them from their past cruelty; – the city of the Paper People, up on the hills, with high buildings and fluid houses made of vapour that incessantly change form, turning into different geometric shapes, and with roads upon which there lie large, open books lit from within; – underneath the city, below ground, a tunnel leading to vast caverns filled with

7

‘fiaba profetica religiosa e sociale’.

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furnaces, iron and smoke, where immense, bright wheels are constantly turned by the Light and Paper Workers, who are kept in slavery by the Paper People; – the Great River, inhabited by the River People, the workers who turn water wheels that produce the light for the city, and who try to rebel against their masters, the Paper People, and to flow into the Lake of Poetry.

In a failed attempt to help the River People to gain their freedom, the Untamables, together with the black Jailers, are swept away by the flow of the river and pushed back to the city, then to the Oasis and, in the end, respectively, to the Pit and the Dune. They go back to their previous condition as slaves, under the Paper People’s control, but the memory of their rebellion rescues them from their original abjection. The ‘philosophical’ meaning of The Untamables is illustrated by Marinetti himself in an open letter to Silvio Benco, quoted in its entirety in ‘A Note on The Untamables’ by R. W. Flint (1972b). From the following passage, there emerges the Freudian pattern – Id, Ego, Super-Ego – that shapes the text: Above the untamed ferocity of the Untamables is the less crude ferocity of the black Jailers, a guided, useful ferocity. Both are instinctive, primordial, cruel, unconscious forces. Above them are the Paper People, symbols of ideas and hence of the Book that confines but does not master the instincts. [. . .] The overmastered instincts of the Untamables are freed and serve the Untamed River People. The Forces transpose themselves in this way and transmit themselves without limitation because neat divisions are absurd. (246–47)8

I shall now analyse more closely the characterization of the various groups of figures represented in The Untamables, in order to prove that the mark of Wells is everywhere in Marinetti’s novel. The Untamables are introduced in Chapter 3 as ‘men-beasts’ with cannibalistic habits: [They] came into view, tall, red, their hair sticking straight upon their heads. About a hundred of them. All naked, but bristling with quills like porcupines. They were wearing iron collars like watchdogs, studded with spikes. Their calves, thighs, biceps, were encircled with bands of jagged teeth. Bands of every size. [. . .] Their legbands, fillets, and collars, made of shiny steel, had pointed studs, festooned with shreds of bloody flesh. Human flesh that was passed from man to man in their continual squabbles. About twenty of these men-beasts had risen to their feet. (1972, 178)

8

‘Su una ferocia indomata (quella degli Indomabili) la ferocia meno cruda dei Carcerieri negri, ferocia guidata e utilizzata. Entrambe forze istintive, primordiali, crudeli, incoscienti. Al disopra, i Cartacei, simboli delle idee e quindi del Libro che inchioda ma non doma gli istinti [. . .] Gli istinti domati degli Indomabili si scatenano e servono agli Indomati Fluviali. Le Forze si traspongono e si trasmettono così, senza limiti più, poiché le divisioni nette sono assurde’. (Marinetti 1968, lx–i).

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Here, as in his other ‘African’ novel, Mafarka le futuriste (Mafarka the Futurist) (1909) – for which Marinetti was put on trial for obscenity – the author indulges in scenes of extreme cruelty and violence. The Untamables are described as men who experience a sado-masochistic pleasure in physical pain; in the past, they were apparently respectable citizens who have tainted themselves with most degrading deeds. Their leader, Mirmofim, once a renowned surgeon, is the cruellest of all. The similarities with Doctor Moreau are evident here, even though Mirmofim is a slave and not the master of the island, as Moreau is. This hypothesis is confirmed by the words uttered by Mirmofim when he recalls ‘the time I was left groping with my instruments the day the fog in London poured into the hospital and hid the incision I had just made. [. . .] I was a surgeon and I was lightning, magically suspended over the English Channel’ (1972, 227). In spite of what appears to be a ludicrously grotesque parody of the mad scientist, the connection with The Island of Doctor Moreau is justified, more generally, by the presence of ‘men-beasts’, as the Untamables are defined from the start. They are represented as hybrids, but more in a moral sense than in a physiological or anatomical one, as in the case of Wells’s scientific romance. It is rather the power relation between master and slave binding groups of beings in a subhuman condition that allows a comparison between the two texts. Apart from the setting – the island in a tropical climate and the lush forest – the novels have in common a torrid atmosphere of violence and terror. Silvio Benco, in the article quoted above, introduces the connection between Marinetti and Wells in the following terms: The other book, The Untamables, might be called a novel, a poem, an allegory, a parable, and the author himself is uncertain how to define it. It seems to me that it is possible to detect certain similarities of imagination and of construction – that the author is probably unaware of – with some books by Wells. The black soldiers whose heads are locked in steel muzzles like mastiffs belong to the monsters’ progeny that the English writer created in order to characterize brute cruelty. (1922, n.p.)9

Benco does not mention any specific Wells books but he probably has The Island of Doctor Moreau in mind here, though it is questionable whether with the expression ‘monsters’ progeny’ (1922, n. p.) – which reminds us of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein – he is referring to the beast folk or to their persecutors, Moreau and Montgomery. After all, as between Frankenstein and his creature, which is the monster? Actually, the ambiguity is fully justified by the fact that, in Marinetti’s novel, ‘the black soldiers in muzzles’ play both the roles of guardians and victims. In fact, both the Untamables and their Jailers are tyrannically ruled

9

‘L’altro libro, Gli indomabili, non si saprebbe dire se sia un romanzo, un poema, un’allegoria, una parabola, e il poeta stesso è incerto su la denominazione che gli deve assegnare: a me pare di riscontrarvi, inconscio forse l’autore, certe affinità di immaginazione e di proiezione con alcuni libri di Wells. I soldati negri dalla testa di mastini chiusa nella museruola d’acciaio, appartengono alla progenie dei mostri che lo scrittore inglese ideò per individuare la barbarie bruta.’

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by their masters, the Paper People, who have reduced them to brutishness. In addition, the black soldiers in the Italian novel are reminiscent of the Black Police of When the Sleeper Wakes, who exhibit racial characteristics that are also found in The Untamables. In Chapter 24, Wells emphasizes racial stereotyping of the Black Police, especially bodily and facial structure; the ‘black multitude’ is described as having ‘obedient muscles’, ‘bright teeth’ and ‘glossy faces’ (1999, 224). Apart from any specific allusion to The Island of Doctor Moreau, what is important here is a more general imaginative contiguity with the English writer – a consonance of intents, we might say – as regards the discourse on power and violence. Further on in his article, Benco refers again to Wells’s works; in this case, as I shall argue, to The Time Machine and to When the Sleeper Wakes: [T]o Wells’s world there also belong the ‘Paper People’ – pages of books that are animated with life and made human, and that govern and control savage life – as well as the ‘River People’, liquid masses of beings who, in their craving for freedom and poetry, flood into the monstrous cities where they had been bound to the slavery of labour.10 (1922, n. p.)

It is necessary, at this point, to go back to Marinetti’s text and to the description of the Paper People, an example of the writer’s imaginative invention: They were swaying back and forth very gently, moving across the sand in their robes shaped like yellow paper cones with writing on them. Each wore a circumflex cap, in reality an open black book turned upside down [. . .]. They look out from gray, flat, eyeless faces, their mouths open round like ciphers or O’s of amazement. (1972, 194)

The Paper People are clearly symbols of ideas (as Marinetti himself explains in the open letter to Benco quoted above); they control the instincts (the savage Untamables and their violent Jailers) but cannot subdue them completely. The representation of the Paper People reminds one of the Eloi, not only because they both constitute the ruling classes but also for their ethereal, almost impalpable bodies: the extreme lightness of the former – owing to the very material they are made of – recalls the Eloi’s ‘graceful gentleness’ (Wells 2000b, 21) and their apparent frailty. Also, their environments are very much alike: the huge buildings in the Eloi’s territory are also part of the scenery of the city where the Paper People live. But the similarities stop here. The general impression the Time Traveller gets from the architecture of this new London is one of ruins and dilapidated buildings, vestiges of the past – ‘the condition of ruinous splendour in which I found the world’ (Wells 2000b, 25) – while in the Paper People’s world there are only intimations of the future. Actually, as will be seen,

10

‘[E] al mondo di Wells spettano i “Cartacei”, pagine di libri animate e umanizzate che governano e disciplinano la vita selvaggia, ed i “Fluviali”, masse liquide di popolo, che irrompono anelanti libertà e poesia nelle città mostruose dove furono legate alla schiavitù del lavoro.’

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the city in Marinetti’s novel has more analogies with the one depicted in When the Sleeper Wakes. On the other hand, there are interesting affinities between the vegetation that surrounds the Eloi’s buildings and the Oasis in The Untamables. At the end of the description of the territory he has just landed in, the Time Traveller concludes that ‘the whole earth had become a garden’ (Wells 2000b, 27); and again, in comparing its ‘exuberant richness’ to that displayed by the nineteenth-century Thames valley, he describes the place as an Earthly Paradise (Wells 2000b, 36). Also the Oasis in The Untamables is a sort of ‘green world’, whose narrative function as the space of utopia is evident: Above them, the crest of the Oasis was sagging like a bed under the weight of an invisible immense nude woman. There wafted about a perfume/memory of a night of love that had lasted a hundred years [. . .]. The path turned toward the fleshy tenderness of the jasmine and acacia, and suddenly three large trunks open. As at times the cottages of the forest open their warm hearts to the traveller wandering in the storm. (1972, 200–01)

The sensual, maternal and protective connotations of the Oasis are those usually attributed to Nature in Romantic literature, in spite of Marinetti’s scorn for the Romantic and the Symbolist movements. It is here, and in the purifying waters of the Lakes of Poetry and Goodness, that the savage Untamables and cruel Jailers become open to feeling and art. In Marinetti’s own commentary on his novel, ‘the instincts [. . .] are submerged only in the calm, even light of the Lake of Goodness that cancels diversity, destroys harshness, illuminates wounds, dignifies the torment of sin’ (1972, 247). The Edenic space of the Oasis, as opposed to the infernal pit of the Untamables, can be connected to The Time Machine in so far as it belongs to the surface/abyss pattern.11 More evident analogies between the two novels can be found in the ‘symbiotic relationship of predators and prey’ (Parrinder 1995, 75) that binds together the Eloi and the Morlocks, on the one hand, and the four groups of people in The Untamables, on the other. In both texts, ‘the masters’ stand for the rule of savage, brutish life on the part of a class or group of beings endowed with intellect and spirituality, but also for absolute power over the weak; ‘the slaves’ stand for violence and the baser instincts, as well as for the exploited labour and the working classes that produce wealth for those who rule them. The Pit in which the Untamables are imprisoned is an underground structure that has its counterpart in the wells and caves where the Morlocks live, just as the Upper-worlders and the Undergrounders of The Time Machine correspond, respectively, to the Paper People who inhabit the city, and to the River People who live beneath the city. At this stage of my analysis, the similarities between Marinetti’s novel and

11

John S. Partington has also suggested a connection with ‘A Dream of Armageddon’ (Wells 1903b), set in Capri, as regards the motif of dystopia intruding into utopia, and with FMM (1901a) for its geographical and social resemblances with The Untamables.

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Wells’s scientific romances point at When the Sleeper Wakes, where the surface/ abyss paradigm is paramount. The upper level of the city is introduced in the well-known passage in which Graham first perceives the urban space after his awakening: His first impression was of overwhelming architecture. The place into which he looked was an aisle of Titanic buildings, curving spaciously in either direction. Overhead mighty cantilevers sprang together across the huge width of the place, and a tracery of translucent material shut out the sky. Gigantic globes of cool white light shamed the pale sunbeams that filtered down through the girders and wires. (1999, 35)

Here, the monumentality of the buildings and the brightness of the light are the main features of the glass-domed city; these features also characterize the city where the Paper People live. Such is the striking scenery that confronts the Untamables and the black Jailers: They had noticed, in fact, that as the path widened, its light was broken up by phosphorescent writing. Farther on, tombs appeared along the road. But what they thought were tombs soon revealed what they really were. Large, open books, as tall as a man and lighted from within, but with a gentle light that was almost human. There were more. Then the first incandescent houses appeared. Surprising, fluid, constructed of unknown materials. (1972, 221)

Also the detailed description of the houses in The Untamables is reminiscent of Wells’s accurate and lingering depiction of the architectural styles in the city Graham awakens to: A cliff or edifice hung above him, he perceived as he glanced upward, and the opposite façade was gray and dim and broken by great archings, circular perforations, balconies, buttresses, turret projections, myriads of vast windows, and an intricate scheme of architectural relief. Athwart these ran inscriptions horizontally and obliquely in an unfamiliar lettering. Here and there close to the roof, cables of a peculiar stoutness were fastened, and drooped in a steep curve to circular openings on the opposite side of the space. (Wells 1999, 35) They came into a wide, very irregular street, with houses that were lighted differently, in varying shapes and proportions. These fluid houses were constructed of a powerful vapour that flowed incessantly upward, shaping the walls, changing the forms, the volumes, the protuberances, the architectonic whole, so that it became a cube, then a sphere, an egg, a pyramid, an upside-down cone. The buildings didn’t have windows, but movable holes, wounds, mouths, eyes, funnels, that opened and closed according to the whim and will of the inhabitants. (Marinetti 1972, 221)

What is original to Marinetti here is the material and substance with which the houses of his city are made, vapour, a material which produces an incessant change in their shapes and forms. The idea of constant dynamism – which is fundamental in the Futurist doctrine – is conveyed by a very ingenious narrative invention. But already in When the Sleeper Wakes we find a similar piece of

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bravura in the device of the moving pathways, a spectacular sight that overwhelms Graham. In the detailed description of its technical aspects, there recur such terms as ‘swiftly’, ‘swift’, ‘motionless’, ‘rushing’, ‘ran’ and ‘move’.12 This is true not only of the ‘Moving Ways’ chapter; throughout the novel a sense of speed and haste is conveyed with particular strength. The other interesting narrative invention in Marinetti’s text is the use of the pathetic fallacy, with the attribution of animate features (wounds, mouths, eyes) to such inanimate objects as houses. Marinetti’s literary model here is Dickens, rather than Wells, and in the descriptions of the crowd in both Wells’s and Marinetti’s novels we can also detect Dickensian traces.13 The passage in Chapter 8 of When the Sleeper Wakes (‘The Roof Spaces’), in which Graham overlooks the city from above, reads like a science-fiction version of the typical Dickensian overview (such as the one from Todgers’ in Martin Chuzzlewit): He saw he had come out upon the roof of the vast city structure which had replaced the miscellaneous houses, streets and open spaces of Victorian London. The place upon which he stood was level, with huge serpentine cables lying athwart it in every direction [. . .]. Far below, mere stirring specks and dots, went the people of the unsleeping city in their perpetual daylight, and the moving platforms ran on their incessant journey. (1999, 61–63)

Compare the following passage from the Italian novel: But no matter how the outlines changed, over all those houses of gleaming vapour there floated a balanced point, platform, terrace, or spire that dominated on high [. . .] pensively. The strangeness of those buildings so overcame the Untamables that they did not observe the crowd in the street. The crowd was bizarre, too, distinctly out of a fantasy. (1972, 221–22)

What are striking about these passages are the narrative elements from which Marinetti might have drawn direct inspiration for The Untamables: the platform on top of the city as a sort of roof of the world from which its masters (the Council before Graham’s arrival and the Paper People, respectively) can control and rule; the sense of verticality and upward ascent (with all its symbolic overtones) conveyed by the buildings as well as by the observer’s vantage point; and the perception of the crowd as an inescapable presence in the modern urban scenery. It is remarkable that in both novels this presence is announced by a ‘revolt’ on the part of the masses. But it is the thematic structuring of the image of the city above and below ground that allows a more direct comparison between the two novels and

12

13

Over a span of twenty-four lines of printed page, the adjective ‘swift’ (and its grammatical variations) recurs five times, and the verbs ‘run’ and ‘rush’ twice each (Wells 1999, 36). On Dickens’s influence on Wells as regards the vision of the city in WSW, see Vallorani (1996, 80–81).

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reminds the reader of Fritz Lang’s film, Metropolis, which would appear in 1926. This technique would actually become a general strategy of the German silent cinema (Minden 1985, 193–213).14 In The Untamables, this double-layered image of the city, or rather the awareness of the existence of a lower level on the part of the Untamables, is introduced by a strange rumble announcing a completely different scenario from the light and luminous one of the upper level: The street descended between the vaporous buildings, growing narrower as it went, like a funnel. No one was particularly aware of any danger, since they were all taken up with their new surroundings, and so they arrived happily at the wafting arch of a tunnel that burrowed under steel/smoke/dream girders. From the depths of the tunnel they could hear echoes of that always odder rumbling that forewarned of vast caverns. The Untamables advanced, but it was as if they were swallowed by the tunnel rather than entering it, sucked in by the voracious abyss. (1972, 222)

This recalls the descent into the underground level of the city in Chapter 21 of When the Sleeper Wakes: The road was a long and very broad and high tunnel, along which big-wheeled machines drove noiselessly and swiftly [. . .]. Presently they left the way and descended by a lift and traversed a passage that sloped downward, and so came to a descending lift again. The appearance of things changed. Even the pretence of architectural ornament disappeared, the lights diminished in number and size, the architecture became more and more massive in proportion to the spaces as the factory quarters were reached [. . .]. They penetrated downward, ever downward, towards the working places. (1999, 188–89)15

The general impression one gets from a comparison of the two texts is that, apart from the similarities I have pointed out, the narrative rhythm is different. This is partly due to the fact that Marinetti’s novel is much shorter than Wells’s, so that the action and the narrative tension had to be concentrated in fewer pages. Thus, while, in When the Sleeper Wakes, the description of the descent

14

15

For more on Wells’s influence on Fritz Lang, see Vallorani in the present volume. Marinetti’s representation of gigantic buildings in The Untamables is obviously connected to the Futurist architecture advocated in Antonio Sant’Elia’s manifesto of July 1914 (Davies 1985, 66). Such descriptions of a descent into places of industry as cited in The Untamables and WSW can similarly be found in TM when the Time Traveller descends a well in order to investigate the Morlocks’ underground habitat: ‘ “I had to clamber down a shaft of perhaps two hundred yards. [. . .] Though my arms and back were presently acutely painful, I went on clambering down the sheer descent with as quick a motion as possible. [. . .] The thudding sound of a machine below grew louder and more oppressive”’ (2000b, 47–48). As in The Untamables, the Time Traveller is also ‘sucked in by the voracious abyss’ – literally – as the wells in TM are shafts down which air is drawn to aerate the Morlocks’ subterranean caverns.

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underground and then of the galleries as ‘silent avenues of machinery, endless raked-out ashen furnaces’ (1999, 188) gradually and beautifully develops throughout the whole chapter, in The Untamables the narrative pace is breathless, almost frantic, as a result of various linguistic devices typical of the Futuristic doctrine: ‘the old Latin grammar is to go, and nouns are to be placed as they come; verbs are to be used only in the infinitive; adjectives, adverbs and punctuation to be abolished’ (Rawson 1976, 246). The effect of this example of ‘Words in Freedom’ style is quite remarkable: ‘Then, a burgeoning population of chimneys with flowing hair. Five Niagaras of fire. Staged naval battles [. . .]. Blasts from furnaces. Sledgehammers pounding. Sparklers [. . .]. Air vents, panting like athletic trainers. Voluptuous masses of molten metal’ (Marinetti 1972, 222). Silvio Benco praised Marinetti’s imaginative invention in creating the overexcited and mobile scenery of the city, but also lamented that quick-moving rhythm, underlined above. After the first part, Benco argues, in which the novel splendidly conveys the sense of Africa with great strength, through a language infused with wild images and neologisms, the second part is somewhat lacking in range and breath. The text, after such an overture, should have developed into a larger symphony, which the author probably intended to do, but could not, owing to his impatience as an artist. Our reading now turns back to the dark tunnel into which the Untamables march ‘like pilgrims in the catacombs’ (1972, 224). Here, in a chapter entitled ‘The Light and Paper Workers’, we come upon a powerful and dramatic scene in which these men are compelled to carry out their work in subhuman conditions. In a fantastic whirling of immense perpendicular wheels, that the writer attempts to reproduce typographically, some strange shapes become visible: Around each wheel busily whirred a complicated mechanism of smaller wheels, the height of a man, with what appeared to be black rags flapping at the spokes. The Untamables stopped, astonished at the sight. Those rags they saw seemed to be panting. They were living beings! Limp, as if boneless, rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr seemingly dragged around and around by the wheels, but in reality, it was rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr they who were turning the wheels [. . .]. The Untamables were impressed by the precise figure flashing across a giant electronic board: At work rotating: 10,000 right hands, 10,000 right feet 10,000 grinding mouths. (1972, 224–25)

This impressive description is followed by a sort of chant uttered by the workers, who express their refusal of the alienation of labour in almost Marxian terms. They protest against their monotonous, repetitive tasks and ask for variety, wholeness and imagination in their work: ‘Down with the division of labour, hurrah for the freedom of the body!’ Although we should not take these words as the author’s own convictions, it may be interesting to remember that the years between 1920 and 1924 were the only break in Marinetti’s long period of Fascist loyalty.

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To take up the comparison between The Untamables and When the Sleeper Wakes again, the analogies in the depiction of the underworlds with their factories, machines and locomotives, chimneys and cauldrons, caves, galleries and gigantic spaces, are striking in the details as well as in the general effect: not only the deafening noise, the acrid smoke and the nauseating smell, but also – in Wells’s words – the workers’ ‘disfigurement and degradation’ (1999, 191). The similarities between these descriptions even include the centres of institutional power (the Labour Police and the General Intelligence Office in When the Sleeper Wakes) and the sites from which the masters can control the workers (the Observation Gallery with the great Head of Paper-making in The Untamables). And all these seem to anticipate George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) in their vision of the future as anti-utopia (Parrinder 1995, 115). In the complex social hierarchy of Marinetti’s novel, a fourth group of beings, the River People, turn the great wheels that give light to the city. They constitute the aristocracy of labour – the elite of the workers, according to Karl Marx – who have developed a class consciousness and refuse to submit to hard work below ground. A group of Paper revolutionaries encourage the River People to rebel and launch an attack on the Cardboard Dam; water, in fact, is the Paper People’s great menace, as it threatens their very existence. At this point in the plot, Mirmofim, as the head of the Untamables, leads both the Paper revolutionaries and the River People to the Great River. Although the Great River floods the city, it does not destroy it; instead, ‘the newer incandescent vapour buildings floated gracefully, solemnly, without falling over [. . .]. On high, the Paper Futurists, unmoved by what was going on, intensified their activity as immortal lights and reigned over those wafting, luminous constructions’ (1972, 240). The Untamables and the Jailers, overwhelmed by the River People’s ‘destructive fury’, are compelled to flee back to their pit and dune, respectively. Once they have returned to their original condition, violence bursts out again among them, but the memory of their purifying experience in the Oasis and the Lakes of Goodness and Poetry saves them. Through the role of memory in the formation of consciousness, the Untamables (and the Jailers with them) become human, or rather, are humanized. The novel closes with these words: ‘Thus, stronger than the crude dissonance of Sun and Blood, it was finally the superhuman, cool Distraction of Art that caused the metamorphosis of the Untamables’ (1972, 245). This melodramatic ending exhibits Marinetti’s contradictory view of poetry. In the Lake of Goodness the Untamables had known poetry as part of a whole experience in which life and art coincide; at the end of the story, instead, art is represented as a form of distraction, an escape from harsh realities. And yet, a collective aesthetic dimension seems to prevail in the end. Marinetti’s own comment on his novel (in the open letter to Benco) is an attempt to explain its ‘message’: And the synthesis of the individual and society arises from a striving for progress. A striving toward a brotherhood almost achieved, illuminated by ideas, but arrested by the heat of the same ideas that newly inflame the dense and opaque elements.

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And the synthesis of Humanity comes into being. [. . .] The only truth, the only force: Goodness. [. . .] But goodness is not enough for human vitality. Humanity is dynamic, constructive. It believes in construction, wills the creation that is its future. (1972, 247–48)16

A first remark to be made here is on the affinity of these sentences with the final paragraphs of Tono-Bungay: But through the confusion sounds another note. Through the confusion something drives, something that is at once human achievement and the most inhuman of all existing things. Something comes out of it . . . How can I express the value of a thing at once so essential and so immaterial? [. . .] I have figured it in my last section by the symbol of my destroyer, stark and swift, irrelevant to most human interests. Sometimes I call this reality Science, sometimes I call it Truth. (Wells 1975, 329)

We shall return to these affinities later. For the moment I want to call attention to Marinetti’s emphatic verbosity and the bombastic words that cannot conceal the confused, incoherent gospel announced here. The destructive enthusiasm of classical Futurism has been transposed, in this allegorical novel of 1922, from the mind to the passions; the idea of Goodness plays a role that would have astonished the Marinetti of 1909. And yet, behind the expression ‘human vitality’, the adjectives ‘dynamic’ and ‘constructive’ and the verb ‘wills’ of the last sentence, one can still hear the aggressive Futurist credo. Moreover, in one of the last chapters of the book, titled ‘Toward Futurism’, a very effective scene takes place. The big books that lie about in the city are, literally, the cradles, the beds and the graves of the Paper People, who are actually produced by the pages of the great works of the past: ‘The liveliest of the pages ripped off in a single twirl and formed a cone, pasted itself shut and stood point upward. Suddenly a light budded inside and, as it unfolded, became redder and fiercer. Thus was born a Paper Person. A written thought magically transformed into action/life’ (1972, 230). According to Marinetti’s English editor, R. W. Flint, the verbal lushness of The Untamables reflects the Nietzsche of Thus Spake Zarathustra; the opening pages are reminiscent of Victor Hugo; and the chapter ‘The City’ strongly suggests H. G. Wells. ‘It is a very syncretic work,’ Flint concludes (1972b, 246). The question is whether these three authors – Nietzsche, Hugo and Wells – were Marinetti’s real ancestors, although the last two were not included among the great thinkers of the past mentioned in his book. The affinities with When the Sleeper Wakes go beyond the specific passages that have been quoted. It seems to me that the ideas of progress, dynamism and

16

‘E sorge la sintesi dell’individuo società nel suo sforzo di progresso. Sforzo verso una fratellanza quasi raggiunta, illuminata dalle idee, ma arrestata dall’arsura delle idee stesse che infiammano di nuovo gli elementi densi e opachi. E sorge la sintesi dell’Umanità. [. . .] Unica verità, unica forza: la Bontà. [. . .] Ma la bontà non basta alla vitalità umana. L’umanità è dinamica, costruttiva. Nella costruzione crede, vuole la creazione che è il suo avvenire’ (Marinetti 1968, lxi).

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change, on the one hand, and the centrality of the city, on the other, are the leitmotifs of both texts. When Graham asks Ostrog, in Chapter 12, ‘Is this city the world?’ (Wells 1999, 104), the novel reaches the highest point of its utopian vision: the city is a self-contained entity; it is entirely artificial, like a sophisticated machine. In The Untamables, too, the double-layered city is connected to the machine; the Untamables, in their attempt to decipher ‘the celestial writing’ (1972, 233) of the Paper People, climb on top of one another and mount their own Tower of Babel, from the summit of which Mirmofim finally manages to peer into the pages of a great book: ‘In fact, that great book was not only a gaping, inexhaustible womb, but also a tireless engine of the voyaging city of Thought’ (1972, 234). The book and the city, thought and the machine, words and things: an example of postmodern self-reflexivity in a modernist text? Wells and Marinetti: some closing remarks There is strong evidence of Wellsian echoes in The Untamables, but the numerous analogies identified thus far can be taken both as proof of Wells’s direct influence on Marinetti and as a sign of the common European cultural climate these artists inhabited. It would be difficult to claim Wells’s inclusion in the Modernist movement even though he was ‘much more consciously experimental in his work than is generally acknowledged’ (Hammond 1990, 67). One of his most enthusiastic critics convincingly outlines Wells’s contiguity to the Modernists. His writings reflect the sense of doubt and provisionality, and the awareness of the future that are typical of the Modernist sensibility; his novels are self-conscious and pessimistic, rejecting the cohesive world-view of the Victorians and focusing on the inner lives of the characters; his fiction shares with the Modernists an emphasis on flux rather than stasis, on discursiveness rather than cohesion, together with a richness of symbolism, imagery and metaphor, and a relationship between author and text, reader and narrator, much more complex than it appears at first reading (Hammond 1990, 75; 78; 80). In spite of Wells’s well-known controversy with Henry James and his later declaration that he was ‘outside the hierarchy of conscious and deliberate writers altogether’ (1930b, 13), there are certain features in his fiction that allow us to situate him next to the most innovative writers of his time. Bernard Bergonzi, for example, offers this comment on the passage from Tono-Bungay quoted earlier: The positives that George Ponderevo is groping for here remind one of the demands of avant-garde artistic circles in the years 1910 to 1914, for an art which would be austere, geometrical, mechanical, and above all ‘irrelevant to most human interests’. This demand was manifested in various ways in Cubism, Futurism, Vorticism. (1974, 90)

As to Wells’s more general similarities to Marinetti, we could summarize them in a few points that would, obviously, require a much wider and deeper discussion: the emphasis on flux and movement, the beauty of speed and simultaneity and the fetishism of the machine. The British critic Marianne Martin remarks

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that the concept of dynamism did not originate with Futurism and underlines the avant-garde’s awareness of the machine; she also claims that Wells (together with such visionaries as Zola, Whitman, Jarry and others) had perceived the aesthetic potentialities of the machine long before Marinetti (1968, 42). This is evident in most of Wells’s scientific romances and novels; in When the Sleeper Wakes and in Tono-Bungay, for example, the aeroplane – which was to take on a mythical status for Gabriele D’Annunzio and the Futurists – plays an important narrative role (Pagetti 1986, 55–56). It is an heroic symbol of ‘release, escape, dream, challenge’ that persisted in Wells’s writing to the end (Lawton 1999, xli). Although Wells’s prophetic vision and political loyalties were wholly different from those proclaimed by the Futurists – ‘The Italian Futurism [. . .] was never more than a projected return to primitive violence,’ he wrote in 1927 (1929, 31) – he nevertheless made an indirect contribution to the movement. At least in some of its features, Futurism shares his faith in science and technology, his trust in progress and fascination with the new and his rationalistic approach to art and literature. Moreover, Futurism exhibits the ‘impatient imagination’ that Wells mentions in one of his earlier writings (Parrinder 1995, 20–22), and that led him to explore the future and experiment with new forms of fiction throughout his career.

14

An Approximation of H. G. Wells’s Impact on Catalonia1 Teresa Iribarren i Donadeu

Wells’s reception before the Spanish Civil War The fame that H. G. Wells had achieved in France at the beginning of the twentieth century crossed the Pyrenees and reached Catalonia very early on. Wells made an impressive entrance into Barcelona with a prestigious debut in Pèl & Ploma (Fur and Feather), the most representative magazine of Modernisme, the Catalan version of Art Nouveau. Pèl & Ploma published two of the first texts written about Wells in Catalan. In February 1902 an anonymous reviewer (possibly Nicolau Serrafina), in a timely review of the French translation of The First Men in the Moon, pointed out the novelist’s debt to Edgar Allan Poe and praised the ingeniousness, sense of humour and ironic stance that he displayed in his critique of society. Almost a year later, Serrafina, in a well-researched essay, recounted the plots of Wells’s first novels and their publishing history. The critic maintained that Wells, an author of the technological age, signalled the beginning of a new era for the genre that included writers such as Cyrano de Bergerac, Poe, Villiers de l’Isle-Adam and Jules Verne. He thought that Wells’s chief strength was that his narratives, written with humour and an ‘admirable journalistic style’2 (Serrafina 1903, 26), were always conducive to reflection. Wells’s novels hit Catalonia with the force of an avalanche. A Barcelona publisher, Toribio Taberner, attracted by the commercial possibilities of ‘a bestseller’, published The Wonderful Visit in Spanish in 1904. In 1905 he brought out The First Men in the Moon, Anticipations, Love and Mr Lewisham, The Food of the Gods, The Wheels of Chance, The Invisible Man and When the Sleeper Wakes. These

1

2

In this essay, only materials in the written Catalan language will be studied and, in very few cases, also work by Catalan authors writing in Spanish. It is important to bear in mind that after the Spanish Civil War the prohibition of writing in Catalan, and later on the serious difficulties for the consolidation of platforms of Catalan expression, resulted in many authors adopting Spanish as a sole means of public expression. It is important to highlight that at present Catalonia is fully bilingual. ‘estil d’admirable periodista’. All translations of Catalan into English in this chapter are mine.

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translations were very well received in Barcelona’s literary circles. Wells was the most reviewed British novelist in Joventut (Youth), another of the leading magazines of Modernisme. The majority of these critiques, written either by Arnau Martínez y Seriñ á or Jeroni Zanné, were positive. Martínez congratulated himself on getting to know, thanks to the Spanish translation of The Wonderful Visit, one of ‘the most reputable foreign writers’3 (1904, 694). Nevertheless, he thought the novel was slightly uneven and not entirely successful. Later, he appreciated the originality and ‘inexhaustible imagination’ of an author endowed with ‘abilities and resources completely different from those of Jules Verne’4 (1905a, 195). He only regretted that such an illustrious writer should propose English as the only universal language of the future depicted in Anticipations (Martínez 1905a). Jeroni Zanné celebrated the discovery of a new Wells in Love and Mr Lewisham – a novelist fitting seamlessly into the great tradition of British literature. At the same time he applauded the writer’s works of fantasy, claiming that The Food of the Gods contained some of the most brilliant moments of Wells’s novelistic output (1905b). The rapidly growing interest in Wells was reflected in short notices, reviews and articles marking the appearance of new works of his in England and France. Eugeni d’Ors, the most influential intellectual of the first two decades of the twentieth century, pronounced in 1905 that Wells was ‘in fashion’5 (1905, 2). By 1907 d’Ors had included Wells in his brief bibliographic guide for university students. Wells’s influence on Catalan writers also became evident at an early date. In 1910, Pompeyus Gener published one of the first science-fiction short stories in Catalan, ‘Un somni futurista espaterrant’ (A wondrous futuristic dream), whose last sentence refers directly to The Time Machine. The first Catalan novel in the genre was published two years later, Homes artificials (Artificial men), by Frederic Pujulà i Vallès, a work that has much in common with The Island of Doctor Moreau (Martí 1986, 138) and whose precursor was a story published in Joventut (1904) by the same author. Towards the end of the decade, Wells attracted the attention of Josep M. López-Picó and Josep Carner, two of the main proponents of Noucentisme (an artistic and cultural movement that began in 1906 and ended with the inception of Primo de Rivera’s dictatorship in 1923). In 1917 López-Picó said that he preferred the Wells of Love and Mr Lewisham even though he valued the militant criticism present in the writer’s other ‘marvellous works’6 (1917, 371). LópezPicó was also openly sympathetic to Wells’s optimism about the future of Europe and his faith in intelligence as an instrument for overcoming hatred. He considered that Mr Britling Sees It Through embodied these qualities. In order to make the writer’s political thinking known, López-Picó commissioned a translation of a clearly pacifist article by Wells about the League of Nations (taken

3 4

5 6

‘dels autors estrangers més reputats’. ‘imaginació inagotable’, ‘de medis y de recursos totalment distints dels de que’s valgué Jules Verne’. ‘en moda’. ‘obres meravelloses’.

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from Excelsior) for La Revista (The review), the prestigious Noucentista publication that he directed. Moreover, López-Picó, in the brief monograph Escriptors estrangers contemporanis (Contemporary foreign writers) (1918), presented Wells as one of the four most relevant British authors of the moment along with G. K. Chesterton, Rudyard Kipling and George Bernard Shaw. Also in 1918, the great poet and Anglophile Josep Carner (who was at that time putting together a new literary collection in an attempt to present a wider selection of fiction in Catalan) asked the poet Marià Manent to translate a novel by Wells.7 However, the project never came about and Manent ended up translating The Jungle Book by Kipling. Neither was he able to complete two subsequent projects related to Wells. Manent did not get what he wanted when in 1926 he wrote to the Universe to ask for the translation rights for the Companion to Mr Wells’ ‘Outline of History’ by Hilaire Belloc, nor was he successful in requesting the rights for The Outline of History in 1927 (Roser 1998, 81). Towards the end of Noucentisme, Wells’s prestige grew in intellectual circles.8 Some authors sought to add him to the canon of the great British novelists, who were ever more appreciated by Catalan writers. But this process was met with a certain amount of resistance, since many considered Wells, first and foremost, as a genre writer of ‘best-sellers’. Throughout the 1920s, Wells’s new works arrived in Barcelona’s bookstores in Spanish and French editions as well as in various Catalan translations. This allowed reviews and articles about the writer to become even more widespread. ‘The Country of the Blind’ (1924) was published in a Catalan translation by Vincenç Garcia while J. Roure-Torent translated This Misery of Boots (1925). This work was first published in the socialist magazine Justícia Social (Social justice), prefaced by an effusive commentary by Anatole France, and it appeared later in book form. C. Rofes put together a synopsis and extracts of The Outline of History (1925–26), also in Justícia Social, and Just Cabot translated The Invisible Man (1929). There also appeared a brief essay in Criterion (1927) and a translation of the short story ‘The Pearl of Love’ (1928), both anonymous. Wells’s reception in the mid-1920s shows that he was more revered for his role as a controversial thinker than as a novelist, despite the fact that, in 1925, Catalan writers were in the midst of an absorbing and heated debate concerning the genre of the novel. Accordingly, left-wing factions published didactic articles expounding Wellsian politics. Lluís Capdevila wrote the most notable of these pieces. He had also written an enthusiastic review of This Misery of Boots (1925a). Criticism of the Spanish translation of The Outline of History took on a different tone. On the one hand, the republican Prudenci Bertrana (1925)

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Manent, while not being a great enthusiast of the author, had a fairly positive opinion of him: in 1919 for example, he recognized Wells as an authority on writing descriptions with a ‘scientific precision’ (‘precisió científica’) (1919, 4). Another sign of this is that the academic review Quaderns d’Estudi (Study notebooks) recommended in 1918 MM to teachers and professors (‘Biblioteca del Consell de Pedagogia: llibres d’adquisició recent’, 1918, 266). By contrast, the young and provocative painter, Salvador Dalí, insulted Wells for his defence of the Soviet regime (1921, 7–8).

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praised Wells’s gift for storytelling, his irony and his elegant condescension towards certain individuals and groups. On the other hand, the Catholic community took an opposing stance. Ramon Rucabado condemned Wells for his Darwinism and blasphemy (1926a) and set out to refute The Outline of History (1926b) with arguments from the Bible. Jeroni Moragues (1926) accused Wells of distorting the figure of Joan of Arc. Maurici Serrahima was pleased that G. K. Chesterton in The Everlasting Man and Hilaire Belloc in M. Wells et Dieu (Mr Wells and God) had discredited The Outline of History, ‘a compilation [. . .] of all of the most vulgar and outlandish theories against the Church and against the Catholic conception of the world and of history’9 (1928, 226). Apart from this criticism, another Catholic magazine produced by followers of Chesterton, La Nova Revista (The New Review) (1927–29), translated various articles of Chesterton’s from the Illustrated London News. These were attacks on Wells’s scientific and political ideology, as well as biting reviews of The Way the World is Going (Chesterton 1928a) and The Open Conspiracy (Chesterton 1928b). Nevertheless, the Catholics used Wells to their advantage when it was convenient (just as those from other ideological viewpoints did): in 1927 Criterion, a Catholic philosophy journal, reproduced Wells’s attack on spiritualism extracted from the Madrid newspaper El Sol (The Sun). C. A. Jordana, a novelist, Anglophile and admirer of genre fiction (who, over time, was to become the major proponent of Wells in Catalonia), opposed the general tendency of perceiving the English writer from an ideological standpoint. Jordana published an effusive essay in the prestigious Revista de Catalunya (Catalan Review), significantly titled ‘Les novel·les de Wells’ (The novels of Wells). According to him the writer was, above all, a novelist. He believed that the weight of Wells’s significant moral influence rested on the indisputable literary quality of his writing. Jordana declared that ‘the study of society and the human spirit that his writing achieves is one of the most beautiful performances that has ever been produced for the benefit of man.’ Jordana’s desire to highlight Wells’s significance as a novelist led him to go so far as to say that The Outline of History was ‘the most beautiful novel’10 (1925, 582; 584). By contrast, Josep Millàs-Raurell (the first translator of James Joyce in Catalonia as well as in Spain) translated a long commentary by Edward Shanks for La Revista in which the critic affirmed that Wells no longer wrote novels but rather ‘modern versions of philosophical dialogue’. Shanks stated that since the publication of The War in the Air Wells had ceased to be an artist and had become a mere ‘preacher’ and a ‘publicist’11 (1925, 240). In 1927, Onofre Parés published the second Catalan science-fiction novel, L’illa del gran experiment (Reportatges de l’any 2000) (The island of the great

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‘una recopilació [. . .] de totes les teories més vulgars i cridaneres contra l’Església i contra la concepció catòlica del món i de la història’. ‘l’estudi de la societat i de l’ànima humana que s’acompleix en la literatura wellsiana és una de les performances més belles que mai s’hagin fet en benefici dels homes’, ‘la novella més bella’. ‘versions modernes del diàleg filosòfic’, ‘predicador’, ‘publicista’.

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experiment [reports from the year 2000]). The majority of critics, such as Manuel de Montoliu (1927), compared it to Wells and looked favourably on the importation of utopian fiction as a genre in Catalonia. In the same year, in the elitist magazine D’Ací i D’Allà (From here and there), Carles Soldevila, an author of great cultural and moral weight amongst the Catalan bourgeoisie, asked readers to take notice of Shaw, Chesterton and Wells’s public debate and to follow their example of fair play. Josep Pla, the foremost Catalan prose writer of the twentieth century, displayed a similar attitude when he considered the dialectical tension between The Outline of History and Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man (which he believed to be greatly superior). Chesterton and Wells, he thought, offered an illustrious example of the art of controversy (1927b). Pla looked on Wells’s fiction with suspicion and described the author as ‘opinionated’12 (1924, 1), though he had some good words to say for The World of William Clissold (1926). Rather than praising Wells as a novelist, he acknowledged his important role as an intellectual in the European crisis of the time (1927a). (It must be said that many people shared Pla’s opinion of Wells.) Soon afterwards, the influential Soldevila once again expressed his appreciation of the writer. In Soldevila’s popular reading guide Què cal llegir? (What is convenient to read?), Wells was the living British author with the largest number of novels recommended: The War of the Worlds, The Invisible Man, When the Sleeper Wakes, Love and Mr Lewisham and Kipps. The Catalan translation of The Invisible Man (1929) had a real impact and initiated the epoch when Wells’s presence was most strongly felt in Catalonia. This period was cut short by the Spanish Civil War (1936–39). To begin with, The Invisible Man elicited the first general acceptance of Wells’s literary qualities. Jordana believed that Wells’s ‘magnificent narrative technique’ and ‘solid scientific research’ made him ‘one of the best contemporary novelists’13 (1929, 4), highly superior to Verne. Cecili Gasòliba (1929, 6) defended Wells against the attacks of Maurice Barrès, Chesterton and René Lalou and praised the novel, though he considered it less important than The Outline of History. Once again, it was the Catholic critics who were the most grudging. Serrahima praised and recommended The Invisible Man, while patronizing it as mere ‘popular’ fiction14 (1929, 51). Pau Romeva, much more reticent, criticized the ideological component of Wells’s fiction, the moral of The Invisible Man (‘the futility of trying to escape the laws of nature’15 [1929, 1]) and the superficiality of its characters. Domènec Guansé wrote two commentaries on The Invisible Man. Although the second was a brief notice of minimal importance, the first review was highly significant. Guansé tried to explain why so few works of one of ‘the most universal, most translated and most read writers’ of the time had been translated into Catalan. He rejected explanations based on the gratuitous optimism of the

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14 15

‘petulant’. ‘magnífica tècnica de narrador’, ‘sòlida preparació científica’, ‘un dels millors novel· listes contemporanis’. ‘popular’. ‘la inutilitat de voler defugir les lleis de la natura’.

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writer, his socialistic tendencies or the fact that his fantasies did not coincide with Catalonia’s traditional Mediterranean culture. Instead, the reasons were to be found in the realm of cultural opinion. In the first place ‘the social and philosophical problems put forth by Wells’ had not ‘stimulated debate’ amongst Catalan authors who, until then, had shown little interest in taking up his arguments. In the second place, the prejudice of the Catalan literary establishment impeded the arrival of a true best-seller. They preferred works that contained a ‘beauty of style and language’ (1929a, 4), and looked down on fantastic or ideologically based writing (a tendency that he trusted would quickly change thanks to the commercial success of The Invisible Man).16 However, despite his praise of Wells’s narrative talent, Guansé concluded by affirming that the writer was not a model novelist or intellectual, and that Wells’s potential Catalan readers were the consumers of popular fiction. Wells’s prominence in the media throughout the 1930s did not lead to many translations into Catalan: the main ones were Love and Mr Lewisham (1930) by C. A. Jordana, the short-story collection Pollock i l’indígena de Porroh (Pollock and the Porroh Man) (1935a) by Vincenç Garcia, and a fragment from The Autocracy of Mr Parham in the left-wing newspaper L’Opinió (The opinion) (1933) (the translation was anonymous, but it is no doubt attributable to Jordana). Although Wells’s writing had a very restricted diffusion in Catalan, his influence was reflected in the appearance of the third Catalan science-fiction novel, Retorn al Sol (Return to the Sun) (1936) by Josep M. Francès, a work that has been linked to ‘The Country of the Blind’ and The Time Machine (Solé 1998). Love and Mr Lewisham was not well received. Even the translator, in perhaps the book’s only printed review, lamented that its blurb described the work as ‘light’ and ‘morally wholesome without being insipid’17 (Jordana 1931, 4). Jordana attested to the novel’s worth and repeated that Wells was in no way comparable to Verne. Neither did Pollock i l’indígena de Porroh have much of an impact. Josep Palau i Fabre (1935) highlighted the superiority of ‘The Country of the Blind’ over the other stories included in the volume, and compared Wells to Zweig, Bontempelli and Poe. Aside from these commentaries, some reviews of his untranslated Experiment in Autobiography appeared before the Civil War. Joan Estelrich, one of the most important Catalan intellectuals of the time, considered it to be Wells’s best book. He believed that it revealed the writer’s true personality because it emphasized Wells’s faith in ‘the effectiveness of intellectual work’, an attitude that Estelrich found ‘simply stimulating and admirable’18 (1934, 5). An anonymous commentary in Mirador (Viewpoint) stated that the publication of Wells’s autobiography was ‘the most significant literary event in England of the last year and that, according to a widely held opinion, it is one of this prolific

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‘un dels escriptors més universals, més traduïts, més llegits’, ‘els problemes socials i filosòfics que Wells planteja no han seduït o han estat bandejats’, ‘bellesa estilística i de llengua’. ‘lleugera’, ‘saludable des del punt de vista moral, però no insípida’. ‘en l’eficàcia del treball intel·lectual’, ‘senzillament estimulant i admirable’.

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author’s most successful works’19 (‘Una autobiografia de Wells’, 1935). A critic from La Humanitat (The humanity) celebrated the fact that the author with such a ‘privileged mind’20 (‘Experiment in Autobiography’, 1935) had opened it to another genre, the autobiography. During the 1930s, the conservative factions adopted Wells as an ideological mentor. Estelrich headed his essay about the role of the intelligentsia with a quotation by Wells (1930). In 1932 Rafael Tasis wrote an article summarizing Wells’s political and economic thinking through a discussion of his major works. However, the prestige that Wells enjoyed amongst the Catalan establishment resided not so much in a wider exposure to his texts as in the fact that he was president of the PEN Club and used this position in the defence of intellectual freedom against Fascism and Soviet totalitarianism. The left-wing factions, ever attentive to Wells’s political pronouncements, followed his discourse on Soviet Communism with close attention. The press covered Wells’s interview with Stalin during the summer of 1934 and subsequently reported his disenchantment on leaving Moscow. The left-wing newspaper La Humanitat translated the Stalin–Wells Talk in February 1935. The next month the periodical published the correspondence between Keynes, Shaw and Wells concerning the talk, as well as a piece by the Spanish writer Ramón J. Sender defending Stalin’s arguments and adamantly pointing out the weaknesses of Wells’s position. Although the quantity of serious writing on Wells was not large, his impact on the Catalan press continued to increase throughout the 1930s. This is explained by the fact that his novelistic production ceased to be of primary interest and he began to receive more attention as a media phenomenon, something unheard of before in the history of Catalan culture. Numerous short articles give evidence of this. In the first place, the media generated quite a bit of expectation around his two trips to Barcelona. Because of this, his stay in the Catalan capital in May 1932 caused an increase in the sales of The Invisible Man, leading to more writings about Wells’s work. An enthusiastic appreciation by Tasis (1932) stands out amongst these commentaries as well as one by Serrahima (1932). Serrahima continued to deplore Wells’s anti-Catholicism. However, he had come to acknowledge the indisputable quality of various passages from the novels, such as the description of London in The New Machiavelli. Barcelona’s media singled out Wells from the more than one hundred representatives from all over the world who came to the PEN Club’s Thirteenth International Congress between 20 and 25 May 1935, hosted by the Catalan PEN Club (the third to be founded in the world, in 1922). Wells was given absolute precedence, and his persona built up so much expectation that many of the literati were disappointed by his behaviour. His lack of sensitivity (going so far as to fall asleep at the president’s table), his conflicts with the organizers, his reluctance to be interviewed (he did not want to make any statement about

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‘principal esdeveniment literari de les darreries de l’any passat a Anglaterra i que, en opinió força estesa, és un dels llibres més reeixits d’aquest fecund autor’. ‘cervell privilegiat’.

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Joyce, Huxley and Baring when he was asked about them; he only wanted to talk about cinema [Cabré i Oliva 1935]) and the abrupt fashion in which he left for Italy were not well received. As a result, his long-awaited visit produced a fairly negative response, with only La Humanitat being unconditionally supportive. J. V. Foix and Jordana were the only Catalan intellectuals who attempted to justify the novelist’s behaviour. In fact, Wells would not regain the prestige he had enjoyed in Catalonia until he openly supported the democratic parliament during the Spanish Civil War. In addition, Wells was constantly in the news because of his relationship with the cinema. He was considered a pioneer in this art, a man ahead of his times who felicitously married art with technique: a paradigm of modernity. Film criticism proliferated throughout these years: The King Who Was a King, Things to Come, Man Who Could Work Miracles and The Invisible Man were all discussed. The Invisible Man, which opened in Barcelona in 1934, had an extraordinary impact. There were numerous commentaries on the production of a film which many critics saw as a milestone in the history of cinema. The sales of the Catalan translation were once again increased by the showing of the film. Things to Come was also eagerly awaited, leading to much coverage even before the movie opened in June 1936. In a relatively short time, Wells had moved from the literary pages to those devoted to cinema. An anonymous critic stated in 1936 that Wells was a ‘one hundred per cent cinematic writer’21 (‘Els autors anglesos’, 1936). Jordana wrote another essay soon after the Spanish Civil War broke out in July 1936 to argue against the general tendency to perceive Wells from a cinematic point of view. The translator made it very clear that he wanted to bring Wells’s fiction back into the foreground. Jordana believed that the superficiality of the cinematic publicity campaigns had caused the writer to become either taken for granted or ignored.22 He sought to develop a critical and academic discourse capable of addressing these works of indisputable literary value with the rigour and consideration that he believed they deserved, in order to reestablish Wells’s prestige in Catalan literary circles. Jordana (1936) divided his novels into three classes: the scientific romances, the ‘social reform’ novels, and the so-called ‘normal’ or ‘pre-Proustian’ (that is, pre-modernist) works such as Love and Mr Lewisham.23 At the same time, Jordana continued to regard Wells as an active and engaged intellectual with extraordinary social and political impact. Similarly, Ramon Esquerra, who used to underline Wells’s importance as a short-story writer (1935, 1936), also praised the quality of his novels, devoting a eulogistic paragraph to him in Iniciación a la literatura (Initiation to literature) (1937, 141).

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‘autor cent per cent cinematogràfic’. Jordana neglected to take into account that Tasis had vindicated Wells’s novelistic production yet again in one of the most significant monographs on the novel of the decade, Una visió conjunt de la novel·la catalana (A general overview of the Catalan novel) (1935). ‘reformador social’, ‘normals’, ‘anteproustianes’.

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Wells’s Civil-War reception in Catalonia The Spanish Civil War squelched Wells’s increasing presence in Catalonia. As one might expect, more emphasis was placed on his political commitment to liberty and his stand against Fascism. In August 1936 the Catalan press translated a letter that British intellectuals had published in The Times criticizing the military uprising headed by General Franco. La Humanitat’s front page read: ‘The most renowned British thinkers, including Wells and Virginia Woolf, condemn military Fascism’24 (‘Els intel·lectuals anglesos davant la guerra civil espanyola’, 1936, 8). This manifesto was later included in a pamphlet entitled Les veus de la intel·ligència i la lluita del poble espanyola (The voices of intelligence and the Spanish people’s struggle) (1937). This was a compilation of statements by prestigious Western writers in defence of democratic values in Spain, and was published by the Propaganda Commission of the Catalan Government. The pamphlet also included a letter by Wells and others to the editor of The Times,25 attacking the British government for prohibiting volunteers from joining the Spanish Republican Army in order to fight against Fascism. Around mid-October 1936, La Publicitat (The publicity) and La Veu de Catalunya (Catalonia’s voice) reproduced the statement that Wells sent to Granada’s military authorities demanding information about Federico García Lorca. As is well known, neither the intervention of the President of the PEN Club, nor that of any other political or intellectual authority, was able to prevent the poet’s execution a few days later. Two political texts by Wells were translated in June 1938. The first, ‘I després d’Espanya?’ (And after Spain?), which caused a great impression (Campillo 1994, 50), was extracted from the French publication Ce Soir (This evening) and appeared on the front pages of both La Vanguardia (The vanguard) and La Publicitat. In this article Wells warned that the Western democracies’ policy of non-intervention in the Spanish conflict would have damaging effects. The second, a new Wellsian manifesto for a World State entitled ‘On va la humanitat?’ (Where is humanity going?), was followed by an article by Joan de Garganta. Garganta claimed that Wells had abandoned his impractical pursuit of intellectual elitism in order to engage himself more fully with the Spanish Republic. Garganta championed this move by saying ‘it was an unpardonable weakness of convictions that made us pull away from Wells in the fear that he could harm the integrity of our cause.’ Wells’s authority was invoked once

24

25

‘Les més altes mentalitats britàniques, entre elles Wells i Virginia Woolf, condemnen el militarisme feixista’. This letter was also signed by G. D. H. Cole and W. A. Jowit. By contrast, in 1938 Wells refused to support the ‘Pla d’Ajuda als Escriptors Catalans’ (a plan to help Catalan writers in need during the Spanish Civil War, supported by T. S. Eliot among others). When the writer John Langdon-Davies contacted Wells, he refused to join the project, claiming that he did not know any Catalan authors (Berga 1991, 176).

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again, just as it had been before the war: ‘Wells’s new attitude is an assurance of victory. We should know how to take advantage of it’26 (1938, 5). Apart from these political writings, two reviews of Wells’s work were published in the Revista de Catalunya, one of the Catalan intelligentsia’s main mouthpieces in the cultural struggle against Fascism. Manent (1938) spoke ironically about Star Begotten. He believed that Wells’s latest utopia was redeemed only by its faith in humanity. Jordana (1938) took a very different attitude in his opportune commentary on The War in the Air, which followed the current trend for war literature. Jordana presented Wells as one of the major exponents of war narratives within the British tradition, proposing him to some extent as a model for Catalan writers. He ended with an analysis of The War in the Air as seen from the perspective of the moment, highlighting the book’s prophetic nature. Again, another view was expressed by Tasis in the Revista de Catalunya, who compared Wells with Aldous Huxley. The critic considered that, even though Wells was a genius with a scientific imagination, he was not an artist like Huxley, whom Tasis considered a poet (1938, 200). From dictatorship to democracy: Wells stifled; Wells rediscovered The imposition of General Franco’s dictatorship (1939–75) radically changed the context of Catalan culture. The Catalan government was dissolved at the end of the Civil War and its citizens were harshly oppressed by the new regime. Madrid imposed an undisguised policy of centralization that attempted to annihilate any signs of cultural autonomy, beginning with the Catalan language which was prohibited during the first years of the dictatorship. The impoverishment of the world of letters was all-encompassing. The majority of the newspapers and magazines disappeared (Avui [Today], the first Catalan newspaper of the post-war period, was not published until 1976) and a rigorous censorship was established, making the publication of books extremely difficult. Many intellectuals were forced into exile. Of those who stayed, some opted for silence, while others took on Spanish as their mode of expression. Nevertheless, there were others who gradually went back to writing in Catalan. Catalonia’s cultural isolation deprived it of the ‘European status’ that it had achieved before the war. In the 1950s Catalan literary life began a slow process of recovery that only became complete with the restoration of the monarchy (1975), the arrival of democracy (1977) and the re-establishment of the independent governing body, the Generalitat de Catalunya (1977). The difficulties that Catalan culture faced after the Civil War meant that very few Catalan writers addressed Wells’s work during the first years of Franco’s dictatorship, even though his novels continued to be translated into Spanish.27

26

27

‘fóra una feblesa imperdonable de conviccions allunyar-nos dels Wells per por que perjudiquin la integritat de la nostra causa’, ‘La nova actitud de Wells és una penyora de victòria. Sapiguem-la aprofitar’. For a discussion of Wells’s uneasy reception in Francoist Spain, see the chapter by Lázaro in the current volume.

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Wells’s death in August 1946 was the occasion for three remarkable obituary notices. They demonstrate how far the situation had changed. The article by Tasis, written in Catalan in a sharply combative tone, appeared in a magazine published in exile in Perpignan, just across the French border. Tasis vigorously defended the novels, memoirs and essays. He described Wells as a revolutionary prophet and offered his own version of the writer’s behaviour during the PEN Congress of 1935. Wells’s ideological consistency made him ‘the only Republican in England’28 (1946, 28). On the other hand, Estelrich’s conservative articles were written in Spanish and published in Barcelona. Estelrich (1946a) respected Wells for his untiring struggle to promote social engagement and to address political issues. Nevertheless, he accused Wells of intellectual arrogance, condemning his naïve belief in the utopia of a socialist world state. In a later article, Estelrich (1946b) continued to unmask the fragility of Wells’s political doctrine. He pointed out that Wells had made uncanny predictions in the realms of technology and science, but had been mistaken about politics. The first science-fiction novelist of the post-war period, Antoni Ribera (1950), shared Estelrich’s attitude to Wells’s project for world government. Viewpoints such as those of Estelrich and Ribera show how the author’s political ideas quickly lost credibility and, over time, were practically forgotten. Because of this, when Wells again came to form part of Catalonia’s cultural panorama, even if only in a minor way, it was not as an intellectual figure. Wells’s work was invariably associated with the various film versions of his novels and, above all, with the genre of science fiction. For many reasons, science fiction did not fully catch on until the 1960s, when various Catalan authors began to cultivate the genre with enthusiasm, while intellectuals such as Joan Fuster came publicly to its defence. It was then that Wells came back to the forefront. He was frequently cited as the father and main architect of the genre. In addition, many plots were more or less derived from Wellsian models. This is the case, for example, with Manuel de Pedrolo’s best-selling Mecanoscrit del segon origen (Typescript of the second origin) (1974). The critics recognized that this novel, centred on the theme of alien invasion, was indebted to The War of the Worlds. Pedrolo’s book brought about the definitive consolidation of Catalan science fiction. Coinciding with the growing popularity of the genre, at the beginning of the 1970s the Barcelona publishing house Seix Barral considered publishing works by Wells in Spanish. The eminent Catalan poet Gabriel Ferrater was asked to report on three of Wells’s novels. Although Ferrater (1986) expressed his appreciation for Wells, he advised against the publication of Christina Alberta’s Father due to its intellectual snobbery, and of Men Like Gods because of its firebrand political tone. However, his report on The New Machiavelli was positive. He said it was the best of Wells’s serious works. Nonetheless, he felt that it exposed the difference in literary stature between Wells and Joseph Conrad or E. M. Forster. Josep Pla also failed to recognize Wells’s literary achievement

28

‘l’únic republicà d’Anglaterra’.

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when he reappraised the author’s science fiction in the 1970s. Pla thought that the novels had not ‘made an impression’ because Aldous Huxley, Wells’s ‘sensational contradictor’, was the one who was ‘right’29 (1979, 284). By contrast, Miquel Porter i Moix, the most outstanding film critic of the moment, pointed out the superiority of Wells’s The Island of Doctor Moreau, the ‘terrible moral fable’30 (1978, 29), over Don Taylor’s film adaptation – a work which he felt lacked poetry. Science fiction’s popularity was at its apex around 1984, ‘The Year of Orwell’, and this coincided with a flurry of translation activity which led to Wells being retranslated into Catalan. As a result, he recovered a certain amount of prominence. The Invisible Man translated by Cabot was republished in 1980, Josep Miquel Sobré translated The Island of Doctor Moreau (1982), Joan Ayala The War of the Worlds (1986), M. Antònia Oliver The First Men in the Moon (1987), and Albert Folch The Time Machine (1988). Three different issues arise in relation to these translations. Firstly, some of these titles were periodically reprinted, attesting to the positive reception of Wells among Catalan readers (which was especially notable in the case of The Invisible Man). Secondly, some of the translations were published in series aimed at younger readers (a tendency that continues to this day). Lastly, many editions included a brief introduction to the author and his science fiction, serving a manifestly educational agenda. In fact, Wells’s influence was more and more restricted to that of a mere indispensable reference point in the history of the science-fiction genre. This was the case with Antoni Munné-Jordà’ s preface to the first Catalan anthology of science fiction, published in 1985 (this was yet another consequence of the ‘Orwell effect’). In his historical overview, this scholar presented Wells as the pioneer of the genre. Munné-Jordà, one of the major Catalan specialists on this topic and author of various articles, has been one of Wells’s most enthusiastic promoters. The prefaces he wrote to the new anthologies that appeared in the 1990s, some of which were obviously didactic, continued this trend. Catalan science fiction proliferated throughout the 1980s, together with academic studies tracing Wells’s influence on important Catalan writers. As well as acknowledging the prolific Pedrolo’s debt to Wells in later novels such as Successimultani (Simultaneous event) (1981), the critics saw many points in common between La gosseta de Sírius (The Sirius puppy) (1986) by Pere Verdaguer and The War of the Worlds, and between the work of one of the most important twentieth-century short-story writers, Pere Calders, and Wells’s fiction (Bath 1987). One of the most prestigious Catalan publishing houses, Quaderns Crema, produced two new translations of Wells in the 1990s: ‘The Door in the Wall’ (1997) by Joan Sellent and a new version of The War of the Worlds (1998) by Josep M. Fulquet. Their aim was to reinstate the author’s literary prestige

29 30

‘fet forat’, ‘contradictor fenomenal’, ‘raó ’ . ‘terrible faula moral’.

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beyond the science-fiction genre and its limited readership. Jordi Llavina’s reviews of these translations in the newspaper Avui also sought to reclassify Wells as a high-literary author. Llavina explained, on the one hand, why C. S. Lewis had considered ‘The Door in the Wall’ mystical and, on the other hand, he pointed to the similarities between Wells’s story and T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets (1998a). When discussing The War of the Worlds, the critic maintained that no one had contributed as much as Wells to the ‘creation of a very precise image of Martians in the popular imagination’. He asserted that the novel should be considered ‘a literary work of the highest quality’31 (Llavina 1998b, 11). At the same time, more specialized voices came forth in response to Wells’s science-fiction works, such as Jordi Solé i Camardons, Miquel Barceló, Xavier Duran, Montse Cerdà, Marta Puig, Pere Gallardo and Lluís Reales. Solé (1995), in one of the most interesting studies on Wells to date, presented the writer as the most brilliant figure of science-fiction narrative. He made a close analysis of the ideas and predictions about linguistics in Anticipations, a book he regarded as a first-class document of socio-linguistics that was unjustly forgotten. On the other hand, Wells did not manage to have his name placed on the Catalan prize for the best science-fiction novel which was founded during those years (the honour went to Jules Verne instead). However, he did continue to appear in various publications related to the genre, ranging from magazines and fanzines to conference proceedings, some of which appeared under the imprint of the Societat Catalana de Ciència-Ficció i Fantasia (Catalan Society for Science Fiction and Fantasy). Shortly before the end of the decade, Onofre Parés’s debt to Wells was recognized in a new edition of L’illa del gran experiment. (Reportatges de l’any 2000) (Riba i Munné-Jordà 1999; Cuberes 2000). Also, Jaume Huch produced a new version of ‘The Country of the Blind’, published in Tres contes fantàstics (Three fantastical tales) (2000). In the preface to this volume, Lluís Calderer labelled Wells as a writer of fantasy in the same line as Robert Louis Stevenson and Lord Dunsany, the authors of the other two stories. Pere Gallardo gave a lecture on Wells in June 2000 entitled ‘H. G. Wells: La nova fantasia’ (H. G. Wells: the new fantasy) at the Ateneu Barcelonès (the Barcelona Athenaeum), one of the oldest cultural centres in the city. Wells’s presence has been rarer in the opening years of the twenty-first century. His intellectual influence on pre-war Catalonia was acknowledged in a conference that took place at the Universitat Catalana d’Estiu (Gandesa, July 2002).32 Wells was also acknowledged, even if in a fairly tangential way, at Barcelona’s Centre de Cultura Contemporània (Centre for Contemporary Culture) exhibition on Orson Welles (opened in March 2001), which included coverage of the 1938 radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds. The première of

31

32

‘a fornir una imatge tan precisa dels marcians a l’imaginari popular’, ‘com una aportació literària de primer ordre’. I was the organizer of the conference. It should be pointed out that a similar theme has also been studied by Sílvia Coll-Vinent (1996a, 1996b).

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Simon Wells’s film of The Time Machine in March 2002 led to the publication of several film reviews, including an unenthusiastic piece by Esteve Riambau comparing the different film adaptations of the novel. But it also caused the book to be reprinted. Once again, cinema had brought new readers to Wells’s works in Catalonia.

15

H. G. Wells and the Discourse of Censorship in Franco’s Spain Alberto Lázaro

For many Europeans who came to maturity during the first quarter of the twentieth century, H. G. Wells was a powerful intellectual influence who popularized progressive thought. He saw his work as a vehicle for the diffusion of his advanced ideas and sometimes as a way of showing the follies of society. He has often been portrayed as a provocative writer, an iconoclast or, as he wrote in his Experiment in Autobiography, ‘an uninvited adventurer who has felt himself free to criticize established things without restraint’ (1984, 823). Some of Wells’s scientific romances read like extended treatises on socialism and Darwinism; other books encouraged revolt against Christian tenets and accepted codes of behaviour. He defended equality between the sexes, birth control, divorce, freedom of speech and human rights in general. It comes as no surprise that he often found himself at the centre of controversies and even scandals. Ann Veronica was harshly treated in Great Britain because of the supposedly immoral behaviour of its sex-conscious protagonist; the book was not only attacked by critics, but also ‘banned by libraries and preached against by earnest clergymen’ (Wells 1984, 470). Similarly, The New Machiavelli was turned down by the publisher Frederick Macmillan because of its ‘strong sexual element’ (Hammond 1979, 162). Wells also had censorship troubles in other countries, such as Ireland and Nazi Germany.1 In early twentieth-century Spain Wells was a renowned figure – with over forty different works translated into Spanish and Catalan – who was highly admired for his fantastic romances, but who also had a reputation for his social criticism. In a review of The Food of the Gods published in the Madrid journal El Sol (The Sun), Wells is called ‘the merciless anathematizer of the false hypocrisies of modern life’ (‘M’ 1931, 2).2 A few years later, during the Spanish

1

2

For a discussion of the banning of Wells’s books in Ireland and Germany, see the chapters by Ashworth and Nate in this volume. ‘el anatematizador despiadado de las falsas hipocresías de la vida moderna’. Unless otherwise stated, all translations are mine.

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Civil War, Wells’s controversial spirit was displayed again in Spanish newspapers, this time when raising his voice against Franco’s coup and supporting the legitimately elected Republican government. Although Hugh Thomas’s famous history of the Spanish Civil War included Wells among those writers who ‘declared themselves neutral’ at the beginning of the war (1977, 347) and the 1937 survey Authors Take Sides on the Spanish War also labelled Wells ‘Neutral?’ (Cunningham 1986, 57), his position on the conflict was clearly defined and publicly stated in the Spanish press. First, his name appeared, with those of other British intellectuals including Virginia Woolf, in a pro-democracy manifesto published in El Sol on 26 August 1936.3 Two years later, in the Barcelona journal La Vanguardia (The Vanguard), his personal opinions about this war were quoted, with references to Franco as a ‘military adventurer’ who had committed an act of treason and was responsible for atrocious killings (‘Un valeroso’ 1938, 1).4 However, as we all know, Franco emerged victorious from the conflict and led a regime that was to last for nearly forty years. With all these antecedents, one wonders how Wells’s writings were received in Spain during this period. Taking into account the severity of the censorship policy established by Franco’s regime – one that supported the political right and the traditional values of the Catholic Church – it would not be difficult to imagine a grim fate for the writings of a left-wing, freethinking atheist who criticized Franco from the very start. This essay sets out to explore the files from the censorship office in order to provide a survey of the Spanish censors’ attitudes towards Wells’s works in the Franco era. Although not all the documents have survived, these files provide a wealth of valuable data about the interest of publishers and booksellers in Wells, the editions printed or imported at that time and, most importantly, the censors’ critical views of Wells’s writings. In order to assess the real impact that this censorship had on the reception of his oeuvre in Spain, the next section will sketch the position that Wells occupied among Spanish readers during the first decades of the twentieth century. The early reception of Wells’s works in Spain Wells’s scientific romances arrived in Spain with the new century. A Spanish translation of The War of the Worlds appeared in 1902 in El Imparcial (The Impartial), a Madrid journal that apparently enjoyed the largest circulation in Spain at that time. The translator was Ramiro de Maeztu, a well-known journalist, literary critic and socio-political theorist who was a distinguished member of the so-called Generation of ’98, a literary and cultural movement that

3

4

The article is entitled ‘Un mensaje de los intelectuales británicos en que se expresa la simpatía por el pueblo español y su Gobierno’ (A message of sympathy from British intellectuals for the Spanish people and their Government). The previous day a Catalan version of the text had been published in a left-wing journal from Barcelona, La Humanitat (Humanity): ‘Els intel·lectuals anglesos davant la guerra civil espanyola’ (English intellectuals on the Spanish Civil War). ‘Las matanzas realizadas en ciudades abiertas por los bombardeos aéreos añaden un nuevo capítulo a la historia de los horrores que la humanidad ha conocido.’

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proclaimed a moral and cultural rebirth for Spain. The Spanish version of The War of the Worlds appeared first in serial form and then, later that year, in book form under the same imprint. In response to the publication of the first instalment, the cultural supplement of El Imparcial included an article by E. Gómez de Baquero which highlighted the novelty of this imaginative narrative by an ‘already celebrated English novelist’. This early piece of criticism on Wells introduced a theme that would become common in later studies: Gómez de Baquero (1902) compared Wells’s work with that of Jules Verne, placing Wells on a much higher plane because he ‘speaks the language of the theosophist’ and from his works ‘the splendid and perfumed flower of poetry may also come out’.5 This enthusiastic commentary set the tone of much of the early criticism of Wells’s romances. When El Imparcial serialized When the Sleeper Wakes in 1904, an editorial devoted to ‘Nuestro folletín de los domingos’ (Our Sunday newspaper serial) stressed the speculative element of Wells’s story and stated that its philosophical and ethical depth was unrivalled (1904, 2). In the 1920s El Sol also published some other works by Wells in serial form. Among these was Russia in the Shadows, which appeared in five instalments in November 1920, just a few weeks after Wells had returned from Russia and written his articles about the trip. The translator was Ricardo Baeza, a correspondent for El Sol in London who had met Wells in person6 and thought it important to make known the impressions of one of the first Western writers to have visited post-revolutionary Russia and spoken to Lenin. The following year the same journal published a Spanish translation, also by Ricardo Baeza, of The Salvaging of Civilization. As announced in the first instalment of the text, this Spanish version appeared before the English edition, reflecting the Spanish media’s interest in the work of Wells at that time.7 Although some of his romances were published in popular periodicals,8 most of Wells’s Spanish translations were brought out by prominent publishing houses. Three publishers contributed significantly to the diffusion of Wells’s oeuvre in Spain. Two of them were from Barcelona – Toribio Taberner and B. Bauzá – and the third, Manuel Aguilar, was from Madrid. Sometimes it is not easy to know the exact date of the first editions, since the books themselves are undated and the information found in library catalogues and bibliographies is often contradictory. Nevertheless, Tables 1 and 2 give an idea of the extent to which Wells’s works were known in pre-war Spain.

5

6

7

8

‘Wells está en un “plano” superior, hablando el lenguaje de los teósofos. [. . .] Wells es uno de los precursores que empiezan a explorar ese terreno virgen en que puede brotar también la flor espléndida y perfumada de la poesía.’ Baeza visited Wells at his country house of Easton Glebe just before Wells went to Russia; see Baeza’s article and interview ‘Una visita a Mr Wells’ (1920). That year, 1921, the publishing house Calpe in Madrid issued the text in book format, as they had done with RS in 1920. WW, IM and SL appeared in the Madrid weekly review Revista Literaria: Novelas y Cuentos (Literary Review: Novels and Short Stories), each one in a single issue, and ‘The Crystal Egg’ was published in one of the first volumes of the popular periodical La Novela Chica (The Short Novel), also in Madrid.

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Table 1 Wells’s books published by Toribio Taberner Romances

Novels

Non-Fiction

La visita maravillosa (WV) [1904] El hombre invisible (IM) [1905] Cuando el dormido despierte (WSW) (1905) Los primeros hombres en la Luna (FMM) [1905] El alimento de los dioses (FOTG) (1905) La isla del Doctor Moreau (IDM) [c. 1906] En los días del cometa (IDC) [c. 1908] La guerra en el aire (WA) [c. 1910]

Ruedas de fortuna (WC) Anticipaciones (A) [1905] [1905] La humanidad tal cual es (MM) [c. 1905] El amor y el señor Lewisham El porvenir de América (FA) (LML) (1905) [c. 1908] Kipps (K) [c. 1908] Tono-Bungay (TB) [c. 1910]

As we should expect, Table 1 shows the predominance of the scientific romances over Wells’s novels and didactic prose in the first decade of the twentieth century. However, when Bauzá published ‘Obras Completas de H. J. Wells’ (Complete works of H. G. Wells) around 1921, they included exactly the same titles printed by Taberner, with the addition of Una utopía moderna (MU). Two other texts were published by Bauzá a few years later in the collection ‘Biblioteca de Autores Contemporáneos’ (Library of contemporary authors): La guerra de los mundos (WW) in 1925 and La máquina exploradora del tiempo (TM) in 1926. Once more, Bauzá seemed to be inclined towards fantasy. On the other hand, the Madrid publisher Aguilar showed a marked preference for Wells’s social novels, as can be seen in Table 2; Aguilar published a number of titles that had not been previously issued by Taberner or Bauzá in Barcelona. A look at the dates of publication reveals that some of the texts may have appeared in Spanish in the year of their English edition. All in all, Wells was mainly known for his fantasy novels and stories. Of all his romances published before 1936 (the year the Spanish Civil War broke out) there is only one which I have not found in Spanish: The Shape of Things to Come. The rest circulated, sometimes in different editions and translations, among a general Spanish readership that appreciated Wells’s fertile imagination. The fantastic worlds of his short stories were equally admired. In a review of The Country of the Blind and Other Stories, a critic thinks highly of Wells’s use of fantasy to construct an acute and transcendent view of reality, with an important psychological component (Alomar 1919). Wells’s social novels also had a wide reception in Spain, although there are several significant absences such as Ann Veronica and The History of Mr Polly. Spanish critics tended to treat these novels favourably. For example, Angel Guerra (pseudonym of José Betancort) wrote a comparative article entitled ‘El movimiento de las ideas: de Kipling a Wells’ (The movement of ideas: from Kipling to Wells) (1916), praising the

Table 2 Wells’s books published by Manuel Aguilar Romances

Novels

Short stories

La dama del mar (SL) [1926] Los hombres dioses (MLG) [1926] El mundo se liberta (WSF) [1927] La dictadura de Mr Parham (AMP) (1931)

La llama inmortal (UF) Doce historias y un sueño [1925] (TSD) [1927] Juana y Pedro (JP)[1926] La esposa de Sir Isaac Harman (WIH) [1927] Los rincones secretos del corazón (SPH) [1927] El alma de un obispo (SOB) [c. 1927] El mundo de William Clissold (WWC) [c. 1927] El nuevo Maquiavelo (NM) [c. 1928] El padre de Cristina Alberta (CAF) [c. 1928] La investigación sublime (RM) [c. 1928] Mientras tanto (MW) [c. 1929] Mr Blettsworthy en la isla de Rampole (MBRI) [c. 1929]

Film scripts

Non-fiction

El rey que supo ser rey (KK) (1929)

Breve historia del mundo (SHW) [1926] La conspiración franca (OC) [c. 1929] Cómo marcha el mundo (WWG) [c. 1929] La ciencia de la vida (SOL) [1930]

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satiric spirit of Wells’s ironic novels at the expense of the conservative tone of Kipling’s fiction. Wells’s non-fiction attracted much less attention, but aroused more controversy. Although many essays were never translated, Spanish readers had access to Wells’s views on socialism and international politics, his anticipations of the future of mankind, his basic theories of sociology and his work as an historian. It is worth noting that the Spanish version of A Short History of the World, first published in 1926, went through several editions in the 1930s, one of which appeared in 1937, right in the middle of the war. However, not all of Wells’s arguments received a favourable response. The philosopher and humanist José Ortega y Gasset, in an article published in El Espectador (The Spectator) in 1916, criticized the warmongering attitude of The War That Will End War, together with some of Wells’s judgements regarding the causes of the war (1983, 192– 223). Similarly, in 1925 there was some controversy over the Spanish version of The Outline of History, although it was not as heated as Wells’s arguments with Hilaire Belloc in Britain. In an article published in El Sol under the pseudonym ‘Sancho Quijano’, the historian and diplomat Salvador de Madariaga questioned the objectivity of Wells’s history, calling it ‘a failure, a noble failure’ because it offered an ‘essentially Protestant and Anglo-Saxon’ account (1925, 1). One of the book’s translators, Ricardo Baeza, came out in Wells’s defence and described the book as a complete and impartial history, a great historical and literary achievement (1925, 1).9 E. Gómez de Baquero, the critic who had introduced Wells’s fiction to Spanish readers in El Imparcial in 1902, occupied the middle ground. He praised Wells’s pedagogic approach but warned that his history should not be taken as gospel, since Wells was not a professional historian (1926, 1). Finally, Spanish Communist critics disapproved of Wells’s attitude towards Stalin and the Soviet Union in Stalin-Wells Talk. Among those who wrote against Wells was Julián Alvarez del Vayo, who in a prologue to a Spanish edition of the pamphlet applauded Stalin’s solid argumentation and stated that not only the theory, but also the facts, proved Wells wrong (c. 1936, 5). The date of this publication is not mentioned, but it must be before 28 March 1939, the day Franco’s national troops took Madrid. One cannot imagine this kind of book being published during the Franco era. Romances: the all-but-invisible censor The devastating effects of the Spanish Civil War were felt in the literary scene of 1940s’ Spain. Neither economic depression nor the political and cultural isolation that the country endured facilitated access to the works of Wells or other foreign writers. In addition, state intervention in publishing became quite intrusive. Following the press laws of 23 and 29 April 1938, the Spanish censorship bureau exercised tight control over the publishing and importation of books in

9

Baeza’s defence of OH can also be found in an essay published in Revista de Occidente (Review of the West) (1926a) and in an article in El Sol (1926b).

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order to determine what was morally or politically correct. No book could be printed or sold without permission from the board of censorship. For every book, the censorship office opened a file which generally contained the application form signed by the publisher or bookseller, a copy of the text (usually the galley proof of the book or the original version of the text that was to be translated) and one or more reports written by the censors. These reports included a questionnaire and a description of the book in which the censors justified their decision as to whether the text should be banned, published as it stood or published with alterations. It was usually an efficient system which suppressed or changed a large number of publications that were thought to be immoral or subversive, or that included ‘improper’ comments about the Roman Catholic Church or Franco’s regime.10 Official censorship was relaxed somewhat in 1966 with a new press law, ‘Ley de Prensa e Imprenta’, but it did not really disappear until the Constitution of 1978 which introduced full freedom of expression. Despite economic problems, shortage of paper and strict censorship, some of Wells’s romances did find their way to Spanish readers during the post-Civil War decade. The First Men in the Moon appeared in a 1941 issue of a popular publication entitled Novela Quincenal (Fortnightly Novel). The censor did not raise any objection to Bedford’s and Cavor’s journey to the moon or to the soulless society of the Selenites. On the contrary, the report was rather positive, stating, after a short summary of the plot, that the novel was ‘original and interesting’.11 The Island of Doctor Moreau also saw the green light and was published in 1943 in the weekly periodical Revista Literaria: Novelas y Cuentos. However, the report was not as favourable as the previous one. In the questionnaire, the censor stated that the book was not offensive to morality or to the regime, but that its literary value could be ‘improved’. He added the following comment: ‘Fantasy novel beyond belief in which fantasy is so far-fetched that it attacks nothing. It inspired the film Island of Lost Souls, that was so hilarious.’12 Like many critics before him, this censor did not understand the allegorical import of the story (see Parrinder 1972, 43–56) and focused only on its fantasy elements. What is more intriguing is his reference to the film. I have translated his words ‘hacía reir’ as ‘hilarious’, though it could also mean ‘ridiculous’ or ‘laughable’. Whatever the case, it is a pity he did not supply any further explanation of his comment. In the following decades several other requests for permission to import and edit The First Men in the Moon and The Island of Doctor

10

11

12

On censorship in post-war Spain, see Beneyto 1977 and Abellán 1980. Most censorship files of this period are found in the ‘Fondo de Cultura’ at the Archivo General de la Administración (Alcalá de Henares, Madrid). I am indebted to the archive staff for their unstinting help and friendly guidance on how to find my way through the complexities of these files. ‘La novela resulta original e interesante. Autorizable.’ See File Y-460–41, Box 6695, N° IDD 50.01. ‘Novela fantástica hasta lo inverosímil en la que es tanta la fantasía que no ataca a nada. En ella se inspiró la película La isla de las almas perdidas que tanto hacía reír.’ See File 6738–43, Box 7272, N° IDD 50.01.

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Moreau got past the censors without any problem. Similarly, The Croquet Player was authorized in 1945 and published under the title Los hijos de Caín the following year. Once more, the report was not very favourable in literary terms. The censor believed that the book had only a ‘certain’ literary value and added that it was a critical fantasy intended to advance a thesis, but that came out as a mere ‘pastime or sign of the stupidity of the author, the protagonist and humanity’.13 If censors did not raise serious objections to the publication of these romances in the 1940s, they also adopted a largely permissive attitude towards an increasing number of Wells’s fantasy stories in the following years. In 1953 and 1954, José Janés, a publisher who made a great contribution to bringing British authors to Spanish readers,14 produced what he called Wells’s Obras completas (Complete works) in two volumes. The first volume includes eight romances: The Time Machine, The Island of Doctor Moreau, The Invisible Man, The War of the Worlds, When the Sleeper Wakes, The First Men in the Moon, The Food of the Gods and The Wonderful Visit. Unfortunately the censor’s report is missing. The Archive only has a card in the catalogue with the information that on 17 November 1952 an application was submitted asking for permission to publish these volumes, but the box where the files should be kept is empty.15 Were they accidentally mislaid or intentionally destroyed? I cannot tell. But we know that the volume was published, apparently unexpurgated, in 1953. Three of the romances had already been authorized in the 1940s – The First Men in the Moon, The Island of Doctor Moreau and The Invisible Man16 – and the publication or importation of the other romances was also permitted without any difficulty some time later. In the files of these later applications there are references to the 1952 precedents indicating that they had the approval of the censors.17 The only exception is The Wonderful Visit, which did not visit the censorship office again. But I have seen a Dent edition of the book included in a later file of Obras completas18 and there are no marks of censored passages, such as one might expect if the book had been thought to contain subversive episodes.

13

14

15 16

17

18

‘Fantasía crítica de la forma de la humanidad. Pretende ser de tesis, pero es solo un pasatiempo o muestra de estupidez del autor, protagonista y humanidad.’ See File 1965–45, Box 7635, N° IDD 50.01. He published novels by D. H. Lawrence, Aldous Huxley, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Graham Greene and many more; for an enlightening study of Janés’s work as an editor, see Hurtley 1992. See Files 5548–52 and 5549–52, Box ‘empty’, N° IDD 50.02. 600 copies of an Argentine edition of IM came to Spain in 1940; see File 3061–45, Box 7681, N° IDD 50.01. In most censorship reports there was a section dedicated to the precedents of each particular book in which the censors wrote down whether previous files had been banned, published or published with some alterations. To see the references to the 1952 file of the first volume of Obras completas, see File 5198–53, Box 10440, N° IDD 50.02; File 1549–54, Box 10674, N° IDD 50.03; File 5837–58, Box 12241, N° IDD 50.04; File 7399–66, Box 17691, N° IDD 50.06; File 224–62, Box 77351, N° IDD (03)52.117. See File 7517–53, Box 10572, N° IDD 50.02.

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In the second volume of Obras completas two other romances were included: In the Days of the Comet and Men Like Gods. In the former case, it is interesting to note that the censors found no fault with William Leadford’s enthusiasm for socialism or with the ménage à quatre depicted in the story, which could be interpreted as advocating free love. On the contrary, the censor’s report describes the book as an ‘imaginative novel, narrated with grace and interest, as well as in a good literary style’.19 Men Like Gods did not fare so well. A first attempt by the publisher Manuel Aguilar had already been thwarted by the board of censors in 1946.20 When José Janés tried to include it in his Obras completas, it again met with some opposition on religious grounds. A censor expressed his misgivings about this ‘materialist and corrosive’ book which made fun of moral and spiritual values in general, and of Father Amerton in particular.21 Nevertheless, the outcome was not as bad as might have been expected. The publisher was told to make deletions on three pages. They correspond with allegedly irreverent remarks about Father Amerton and his ridiculous condemnation of the Utopians in Book I, Chapter 7, and Book III, Chapter 3. The publisher consented to the cuts and the expurgated romance was published in 1954.22 I have not seen a later complete version of Men Like Gods published in Spain, although one can always turn to the 1926 Aguilar edition or to the various South American editions which did not suffer the rigours of Spanish censorship.23 After this minor setback, there was only one other occasion on which the censors imposed any restriction on Wells’s romances. This was in 1967, when they considered a request to import copies of the Corgi edition of The Shape of Things to Come and decided that the story had an ‘irreligious social concept’.24 Certainly, Wells envisions a utopian future society led by a minority of technical revolutionaries who have given up all religious practices. But it is surprising how severe censorship could still be with respect to religious issues in the late 1960s, especially when we realize that the ban was imposed not on an ordinary

19

20

21

22

23

24

‘Se trata de una novela imaginativa, narrada con amenidad e interés y bien [sic] estilo literario.’ See File 7517–53, Box 10572, N° IDD 50.02. No censorship report has survived, only the application form in which Aguilar requested permission to print 6,000 copies of the edition he had already issued twenty years before. On this form a censor wrote with a red pencil the word ‘Suspendido’ (‘Suspended’), a usual term meaning ‘banned,’ and the date 23 October 1946; see File 4652–46, Box 7895, N° IDD 50.02. ‘es una obra de tinte materialista y corrosivo que amparándose en un argumento imaginativo y deslumbrante intenta ridiculizar los valores morales y espirituales y especialmente ridiculiza la persona del sacerdote llamado Padre Amerton.’ See File 4882–53, Box, 10425, N° IDD 50.02. The deleted passages can be found on pages 99, 101, 219 and 220 of this 1954 edition of Obras completas. A request to import 100 copies of the 1955 Argentine edition published by Guillermo Kraft was rejected in that very same year of 1955; see File 3539–55, Box 11140, N° IDD 50.03. See File 884–67, Box 77378, N° IDD (03)52.117.

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printing of the book, but on the importation of a mere fifty copies. It is perhaps even more surprising that this novel had been authorized by the censorship board on three previous occasions, in 1954, 1964 and 1966.25 The three cases were importation requests for a total of 350 copies of the 1953 Argentine edition, Una historia de los tiempos venideros. These contradictory decisions are difficult to explain. Maybe the English version sounded more irreverent. Or maybe the censorship laws were so open to interpretation that everything depended on the subjective criteria of a particular censor. Short stories The publication of a Spanish edition of The Country of the Blind and Other Stories is also shrouded in mystery and contradiction. In 1940 Editorial ‘La Nave’ wanted to publish 3,500 copies of El país de los ciegos y otras narraciones (CB), a collection that had already appeared in 1919 and that contained only five stories: ‘The Country of the Blind’, ‘The Door in the Wall’, ‘The Crystal Egg’, ‘The Empire of the Ants’ and ‘A Dream of Armageddon’. Apparently the censor raised no objection whatsoever. First, in the questionnaire he stated that the book had literary value; then he added that the tales, written in Wells’s characteristically mysterious and humorous style, were ‘interesting and curious’.26 However, it seems that the story of this censorship file had no happy ending. Although the word ‘authorized’ appeared on the application form, on the catalogue card there are two enigmatic letters that stand for the final outcome: ‘S. T., 5 April 1940’. What is the meaning of ‘S. T.’? It is not a common abbreviation in censorship files.27 Perhaps, it means ‘Suspendido Trámite’ (‘Proceedings Suspended’), since there is no sign of the book in catalogues, bibliographies or second-hand bookshops. Moreover, the publisher tried to issue the book again two years later and this time the censors’ response was clearer. The book was banned mainly because ‘A Dream of Armageddon’ was viewed as a ‘raging pacifist’ tale and, together with ‘The Country of the Blind’, it needed a few cuts recommended by the ecclesiastical censor.28 It seems that expressing

25

26

27

28

See File 2276–54, Box 10771, N° IDD 50.03; File 786–64, Box 77364, N° IDD (03)52.117; and File 1129–66, Box 77373, N° IDD (03)52.117. ‘En este libro se han reunido 5 narraciones fantásticas del interesante escritor inglés. Todas ellas están escritas con el peculiar estilo entre misterioso y humorista que le caracteriza, y son interesantes y curiosas.’ See File N-173–40, Box 6513, N° IDD 50.01. I have only seen this abbreviation in another 1940 file of SHW (File T-106–40, Box 6578, N° IDD 50.01). See File 1–406–42, Box 6776, N° IDD 50.01. There is no book or galley proof in the file, but after checking the 1919 Spanish edition of CB I found some ‘reprehensible’ passages on the pages the censor pointed out; they refer to the tyranny of the Spanish conquistadors and traditional Christian rites in ‘The Country of the Blind’, as well as a couple of sensual scenes in ‘A Dream of Armageddon’. The prologue, in which Wells is called ‘a socialist enthusiast’, was also banned.

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anti-war attitudes in a country whose recent civil war was being presented as a crusade was unacceptable.29 Somebody had written at the top of the application form: ‘The author is an undesirable alien.’ Was Wells’s criticism of Franco during the Spanish Civil War still remembered? If so, other censors must have forgotten it, since ‘A Dream of Armageddon’ was published in the collection Doce historias y un sueño (TSD) the following year and 2,000 copies were imported from Argentina in 1944.30 Wells’s censorship problems disappeared in an amazing way with Doce historias y un sueño in 1943. Manuel Aguilar succeeded in getting his collection of stories published without problems. The censor even praised its literary quality and engaging style.31 The publication is a curious book of 481 pages in miniature format (12 × 8.5 cm), India paper and red leather binding. It belongs to a collection called ‘Crisol’ (‘Crucible’), much prized by bibliophiles and book collectors. In any case, these stories must have been very popular among Spanish readers because not only were there several editions of Aguilar’s volume during the next three decades, but they were also published in the periodical Revista Literaria: Novelas y Cuentos in 1944 and included in the second volume of Obras completas in 1954. The publication of a Spanish version of ‘Pollock and the Porroh Man’ also deserves attention. Once again it is a very small book (9 × 6 cm) of only sixtyfive pages, published by Grano de Arena in Barcelona. The initiative came from the publisher José Janés, who submitted an application form to the censorship bureau on 7 July 1941. He wanted to bring out 2,000 copies of Pollock’s story in miniature format. The following day a censor signed a rather negative report. Perhaps he had never heard the old adage ‘good things come in small packages’. He stated that the book had no literary value at all and then wrote the following: ‘Absurd novel of superstitions and hallucinations. It may be published, although given the shortage of paper, it might just as well not be published.’32 Nevertheless, the book was authorized on 14 July 1941, only seven days after the publisher had signed the application form. This efficiency and swiftness on the part of the censorship office was not unusual. Many of the censorship files I have seen on Wells’s works reveal that decisions were taken within two or three weeks. In this case, Pollock y el indígena de Porroh (‘Pollock and the Porroh Man’) was published in 1941. Several other short stories by Wells were authorized too,

29

30

31 32

This could also have been one of the reasons why a Spanish translation of KK was banned in November 1939, although it is no more than a conjecture, since the censor’s report is missing; see File J-458–39, Box 6458, N° IDD 50.01. See File 4005–44, Box 7438, N° IDD 50.01. CB was not included in the second volume of Janés’s Obras completas, although the publisher originally requested it in 1952. However, the importation of 25 copies of an Argentine edition of this collection of stories was also allowed in 1962; see File 1160–62, Box 77353, N° IDD (03)52.117. See File 3773–43, Box 7183, N° IDD 50.01. ‘Novela absurda de supersticiones y alucinaciones. Puede publicarse, aunque dada la escasez de papel, tal vez convendría su no publicación.’ See File X-928–41, Box 6680, N° IDD 50.01.

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either in new or imported editions, including ‘The Cone’, ‘The Crystal Egg’, ‘The Man Who Could Work Miracles’, ‘A Deal in Ostriches’, ‘The Land Ironclads’, ‘The Empire of the Ants’ and ‘The Man of the Year Million’.

Novels suppressed on moral and religious grounds Only five novels by Wells passed through the filter of Spanish censorship without serious problems during the 1940s and 1950s. The lucky cases were the 1947 edition of The Wife of Sir Isaac Harman, the importation from Buenos Aires of Apropos of Dolores and Love and Mr Lewisham in 1948, and the publication of Kipps and Ann Veronica in the second volume of Obras completas in 1954. It is interesting to see that Ann Veronica, which had once had a scandalous reputation in Britain, was considered innocuous by the Spanish censors. The reader found no moral harm in the behaviour of its heroine, who, it is true, was ‘bordering on licentiousness’, but ended up ‘redeeming her errors’.33 On the other hand, in the Argentine edition of Love and Mr Lewisham enclosed with the import application, the censor has noted irreverent comments on bishops in a dialogue between Lewisham and Chaffery in Chapter 23, and again in a dialogue between Lewisham and Ethel in Chapter 25. However, these were considered simply as ‘improper remarks’ which did not affect the whole content of the book.34 Bealby poses a mystery that is not easy to resolve. In 1942, José Janés applied for permission to publish 3,500 copies of Arturo Bealby (B), of which there was already a 1919 Spanish edition. The file contains a report affirming that there is nothing in the story to prevent publication.35 The word ‘authorized’ was written in pencil on the application form. However, this was crossed out and somebody wrote ‘Suspended’ on top. And that was the verdict Janés saw in the official note he received from the censorship office. Was there a second negative report, now missing, in the file? Did a censor put Wells’s name on a blacklist in 1942? As mentioned above, that was also the year in which The Country of the Blind was banned with the stern admonition that Wells was ‘an undesirable alien’. If that is the case, the blacklist must have been modified shortly afterwards, because in 1944 Janés tried to publish Bealby again, this time under the title Un criado que promete, and the ban was lifted. The censor stated that it was a very interesting novel with great literary value and that there was no reason to stop its publication.36 Four other novels were banned mainly on religious and moral grounds: The

33

34

35 36

‘bordea el libertinaje y acaba redimiendo sus errores.’ See File 2579–54, Box 10725, N° IDD 50.03. See File 5055–48, Box 8477, N° IDD 50.02. LML was later included in the second volume of Obras completas. See File 5–180–42, Box 6967, N° IDD 50.01. See File 936–44, Box 7347, N° IDD 50.01. A printing of 10,000 copies of this novel was authorized again in 1956; see File 6234–56, Box 11596, N° IDD 50.03.

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Undying Fire, The Secret Places of the Heart, Christina Alberta’s Father and You Can’t Be Too Careful. The first two were to be published by Aguilar in 1943,37 but they were flatly rejected. Job Huss’s story contained sceptical views and atheistic propositions and, what is more, it was seen as a closely argued defence of Anglican Puritanism. As late as 1966, an import request for The Undying Fire was authorized only because a mere five copies were applied for; its theological dissertations were still considered unorthodox.38 What sounded like irreverent religious comments were also noticed in The Secret Places of the Heart. At the back of a Spanish edition of the latter novel, the censor noted down several page numbers, one of which referred to a passage at the end of Chapter 4 where the protagonist confesses that he does not believe in God. Nevertheless, the main obstacle was that Sir Richmond Hardy’s discussion of his emotional life and of his craving for sexual fulfilment was judged immoral. On the other hand, Christina Alberta’s behaviour did not seem to be morally wrong, but her lack of religious belief caused uneasiness among the censors, who did not like her contempt for the cross, theology and religious rites, particularly in Book III, Chapters 3 and 4.39 Many pages were also marked in an Argentine edition of You Can’t Be Too Careful. They include devastating criticisms of the Bible, God and the Catholic Church, together with passages recounting the protagonist’s sexual encounters with Molly Brown and Evangeline Birkenhead. To make matters worse, in Book V, Chapter 2, there is a reference to the German bombing of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War. Apart from this political element, the censor banned the novel specifically for its dangerous ‘atheistic programme for the future’.40 The adventures and poses of Theodore Bulpington were not given the goahead either. On 18 December 1947, the Spanish publisher and distributor named EDHASA requested permission to import fifty copies of El gran Bulpington (BB), which had just been published in Buenos Aires. Eleven days later, the censor responded with the now usual ‘Suspended’ on the application form.41 Unfortunately there is no report in the file, so we cannot know the precise reasons for the ban. However, it is not too fanciful to imagine the frown on the censor’s face when he read of Bulpington’s speculations about religion, his first experience of sexual love or his rendezvous with a prostitute in Paris. After all, the novel had also been banned in Ireland. Finally, to this list of banned novels I should add Tono-Bungay and The History of Mr Polly. They were included in the 1952 petition submitted on behalf of José Janés in relation to the second volume of Obras completas, but were never published. Although the file has not survived, one might assume that these novels encountered some sort of objection that forced the publisher to choose other stories. This represents a serious setback for the diffusion of Wells’s social novels.

37 38 39

40 41

See Files 3776–43 and 3777–43, Box 7183, N° IDD 50.01. See File 165–66, Box 77371, N° IDD (03)52.117. See File 755–45, Box 7586, N° IDD 50.01. CAF was excluded from the second volume of Obras completas in 1952. See File 1081–50, Box 9027, N° IDD 50.02. See File 5580–47, Box 8121, N° IDD 50.02.

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In fact, it frustrated the only attempt, as far as I know, to publish a Spanish translation of The History of Mr Polly. I have not found any edition of this novel in Latin America either. The Spanish reader could only learn about Alfred Polly’s eccentricities through the importation of some 655 copies of various English editions during the 1960s and 1970s.42 Non-fiction: a short history of banned historical and social writings Given the large number of political and sociological books, prophecies, journalistic articles, histories, autobiographical writings and pamphlets in which Wells expressed his progressive ideas, one would expect to find a lot of interesting files full of hostile reports on Wells’s left-wing beliefs and his highly critical comments on the Catholic Church. Moreover, the fact that only five Spanish editions of his non-fiction works were authorized, some of them after several attempts and with restrictions, could be seen as symptomatic of the rigid censorship in Franco’s Spain. But these assumptions are called into question when one considers the low number of applications that the censorship bureau examined. I found only a few files on the publication or importation of nine different non-fiction books by Wells. Was it because books of this kind did not attract the interest of Spanish publishers and booksellers? Perhaps it was simply a question of self-censorship. Knowing the censorship criteria and the content of Wells’s books, why waste time and effort on them? Strange though it may seem, one of the first books to come under the scrutiny of the censors and to receive a favourable report was Experiment in Autobiography. The publishing house Espasa-Calpe applied for permission to publish 3,000 copies of Wells’s autobiography on 22 November 1939. Three months later, the censor signed a report describing the book as an interesting and detailed account of Wells’s life.43 Other requests to import 10,000 copies from Argentina were also approved between 1944 and 1950.44 It seems that this frank and vivid chronicle of Wells’s career, with minute particulars of his thoughts, opinions, sympathies and antipathies, posed no ideological threat. Similarly, in 1940 censors accepted unreservedly a new Spanish edition of Geoffrey West’s H. G. Wells: A Sketch for a Portrait.45 The above-mentioned blacklist of the 1940s with Wells’s name on it, if it ever existed at all, must have

42

43 44

45

See File 1464–63, Box 77360, N° IDD (03)52.117; File 1025–65, Box 77369, N° IDD (03)52.117; File 379–71, Box 77400, N° IDD (03)52.117; File 974–76, Box 77433, N° IDD (03)52.117. In 1978, fifty copies of the French translation of the novel published by Gallimard were also imported; see File 171–78, Box 84351, N° IDD (03)52.117. See File J-787–39, Box 6465, N° IDD 50.01. See File 4917–44, Box 7469, N° IDD 50.01 and File 489–50; Box 8988, N° IDD 50.02. See File O-927–40, Box 6549, N° IDD 50.01; a first edition of West’s biography of Wells was published in 1936 under the title H. G. Wells: bosquejo para un retrato.

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circulated briefly and within small circles. Generally speaking, the figure of Wells was viewed without suspicion and distrust in post-war Spain. A brief look at the obituaries of Wells that appeared in the Spanish press in 1946 confirms this. In these articles he is portrayed with respect and affection, with epithets such as ‘master of fiction’, ‘genial author’, ‘giant of universal literature’, ‘prophet of our time’ and ‘man of powerful intellect’ (see Estelrich 1946; Barin 1946; EFE 1946; Santamaría Ansa 1946; and ‘La muerte de H. G. Wells’ [The death of H. G. Wells] 1946). The controversy over The Outline of History among Spanish critics in the 1920s was not echoed in Franco’s censorship office. The censors cannot have found the book too Protestant, as Salvador de Madariaga had said (1925, 1), since in August 1939 they allowed a reprint of 5,000 copies requested by Fernando Calleja, manager of Publicaciones Atenea.46 Likewise, there was very little debate over The Work, Wealth and Happiness of Mankind. A 1950 report describes it as an ambitious and materialist essay, indicating a couple of pages that should be seen by an ecclesiastical censor because they support birth control (Ch. 13, Part 1) and criticize religions (Ch. 15, Part 3). But the ecclesiastical censor said that, although those references do indeed go against Catholic morality, the book could be approved, taking into account the type of readership that would be interested in it and the low number of copies involved (it was an import request for merely a hundred copies).47 It is also somewhat surprising that Spanish readers could get hold of several reprints of Miseria de los zapatos (TMB) which appeared in the 1960s and 1970s. After all, this is a Fabian tract advocating socialism and criticizing the inefficiencies of the capitalist system. Less remarkable is the consent given to the importation of The Science of Life48 in 1962 and of fifty copies of Russia in the Shadows49 in 1974, at the very end of Franco’s regime. Among the works that did not win the censors’ approval were Washington and the Hope of Peace, The Fate of Homo Sapiens, The New World Order and A Short History of the World. The first displays many improper ideas, according to a censor’s testimony in 1940. He rejects Wells’s arguments for the establishment of worldwide organizations which, the censor believes, would only safeguard the material interests of the strongest nations. Wells’s defence of Malthusianism and socialism is also denounced. Therefore, the new Spanish edition of Wells’s 46

47

48

49

See File I-168–39, Box 6440, N° IDD 50.01. An import request for 100 copies was also authorized for research purposes in 1956; see File 3562–56, Box 11494, N° IDD 50.03. However, another import request was rejected in 1964 because it was an edition which contained an anti-Spanish appendix by José Salas Subirat. See File 1247–64, Box 77366, N° IDD (03)52.117. See File 379–50, Box 8981, N° IDD 50.02. More volumes of the Argentine edition of this book were imported in 1966 and 1971; see File 66–66, Box 77371, N° IDD (03)52.117 and File 34–71, Box 77399, N° IDD (03)52.117. See File 2094–62, Box 77356, N° IDD (03)52.117. In 1963 Aguilar requested permission to publish a new edition of this book in Spain and, although the file is missing, it is logical to think that the censorship office renewed the authorization granted the year before (File 6937–63, Box 14891, N° IDD 50.05). See File 1507–74, Box 77422, N° IDD (03)52.117.

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articles on the Washington Disarmament Conference did not come out.50 The same can be said of The Fate of Homo Sapiens, where Chapter 6 on the liberties of democratic nations was one of the main obstacles to the book being read in Spain.51 The importation of The New World Order from Argentina was also ‘suspended’ in 1950 because the censor found several unacceptable references to the Catholic Church and Franco’s regime.52 The case of A Short History of the World was similar, though more complex. Although an Aguilar edition of 5,000 copies was authorized in 1939,53 four different attempts to publish and import the book were blocked between 1940 and 1955. The reasons given in two 1948 reports were that the book shows socialist inclinations, attacks the Catholic Church, gives a twisted interpretation of the Spanish Civil War and the Spanish National Movement, and contains ‘tortuous concepts’.54 A couple of passages were marked in a 1948 Spanish translation published by Aguilar in Mexico: one comes in Chapter 68, which describes the terrible consequences of Franco’s military rebellion in 1936, and the other refers to the Catholic Church’s attitude towards the institution of the family (Ch. 71). The ban was eventually lifted in the 1960s. It is interesting that the censor who authorized a 1963 Aguilar edition of the Short History saw some problems, such as Wells’s denial of the divinity of Jesus Christ and his ‘disoriented’ view of history. However, he thought the book could be published because it would be ‘subjected to the discernment of a learned readership’.55 Some concluding remarks Despite the gaps in some of the files I have discussed, the surviving data lead to certain conclusions about the effects of censorship on Wells’s reception in Spain. Firstly, Franco’s censorship bureau did not represent a serious threat to the diffusion of Wells’s science fiction and fantasy. Most of the romances and short stories that came under the censors’ scrutiny were authorized. Only Men Like Gods, fifty copies of The Shape of Things to Come and two tales in The Country of the Blind and Other Stories ran into difficulties. However, the same cannot be said of the realistic novels. Although many of them were allowed in the later stages of the regime, up to eight novels were banned, at least for some time during the 1940s and 1950s. Four non-fiction books also suffered from the censors’ strictures. It would appear that Wells’s fantasy stories were allowed to express the progressive political and social views that could not be tolerated in other literary forms. Utopian worlds and science-fiction scenarios are more successful in concealing controversial issues than realistic stories and expository prose, where the author’s points are made more simply and directly.

50 51 52 53 54 55

See File N-175–40, Box 6513, N° IDD 50.01. See File 4539–45, Box 7702, N° IDD 50.01. See File 1246–50, Box 9040, N° IDD 50.02. See File C979–39bis, Box 6392, N° IDD 50.01. See File 4535–48, Box 8441, N° IDD 50.02. See File 6555–63, Box 14857, N° IDD 50.05.

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Another conclusion from this research is that Spanish censors opposed Wells’s books mainly on religious grounds. They intervened to forbid irreligious ideas, atheistic propositions and any criticism of the clergy or the Catholic Church. There were some moral issues (mainly sexual scenes) in a couple of novels and a few politically incorrect comments mainly in his nonfiction books, but religion was the censors’ prime concern in most of Wells’s books. This concern was at its height in the 1940s and early 1950s. After the apparent problems with the second volume of Obras completas in 1952, the pressure of censorship was substantially relaxed. In the 1960s only A Short History of the World and The Shape of Things to Come had trouble in getting past the censors, whereas the importation of several works that had been banned in the post-Civil War period – The Country of the Blind, The Bulpington of Blup, Tono-Bungay and The History of Mr Polly – was allowed after 1960. All in all, Franco’s censorship system had a considerable negative impact on the reception of Wells in Spain. It is not simply a question of figures. Although the number of banned works is important, it is also necessary to underline the fact that in some cases the censorship bureau thwarted the only occasions on which a publisher or bookseller tried to introduce a particular book into Spain. That is what happened to The Secret Places of the Heart, You Can’t Be Too Careful, Christina Alberta’s Father, Washington and the Hope of Peace, The Fate of Homo Sapiens and The New World Order. In addition, it is likely that many more publishing initiatives would have been taken had it not been for the strict censorship. We should take this into account when we compare the interest taken by publishers in Wells’s books before and after the Civil War. In this context it is interesting to note that among the many books absent from the censorship archive are The Sea Lady, A Modern Utopia, The Autocracy of Mr Parham, Marriage, The Passionate Friends, The Research Magnificent, The Soul of a Bishop, Joan and Peter, The Dream, The World of William Clissold, Meanwhile and most of his later fiction. The list of non-fiction books that never visited the censorship office is also very long. Nevertheless, Wells’s declining appeal to Spanish publishers after 1939 cannot only be attributed to censorship. During the last few decades, when freedom of speech has returned to democratic Spain, very few Spanish editions of his novels and essays have been published, and his reputation as a novelist among Spanish readers has been eclipsed by new generations of writers.56 Similarly, his standing as an essayist and historian has diminished significantly. But the reputation of his early scientific romances still lives on. New versions of Wells’s most famous romances have recently appeared in Spanish, Catalan, Galician and Basque. The fantasy worlds of time travellers, invisible men, ambitious vivisectors and alien invaders captivated an early Spanish audience, avoided the limitations imposed by the censors and continue to fuel the enthusiasm and imagination of twenty-first century Spanish readers.

56

I have only seen new editions of two novels – TB and AV – and a Spanish translation of HGWL.

16

News from Nowhere: Portuguese Dialogues with H. G. Wells José Manuel Mota

Wet or fine, the air of Portugal has a natural happiness in it, and the people of the country should be as happy and prosperous as any people in the world. (Wells 1924, 128) As a matter of fact, often despised (as the scarce number of critical works about him shows) and identified almost exclusively as the creator of science-fiction universes of dubious aesthetic quality, Wells’s name is connected in Portugal essentially to the writing of history.1 (Fernandes 1993, 3)

H. G. Wells – in Portugal? Who is this H. G. Wells? What do I as a Portuguese have to say about him? Should I say anything? Is he worth the trouble? The history (my history) of Wellsian reception in Portugal may well begin with a personal story. During the Leipzig meeting of contributors to this volume from 12 to 14 July 2002, I heard mention of a commentary made by Wells on Portugal.2 I subsequently looked up the reference and read it. The text is a short chapter from A Year of Prophesying (1924), called ‘Portugal and Prosperity. The Blessedness of Being a Little Nation’. Wells’s impressions of Portugal met my

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‘De facto, frequentemente menosprezado (o escasso número de obras críticas sobre ele para isso aponta) e quase apenas identificado como o criador de universos de ficção científica de qualidade estética discutível, o nome de Wells está ligado, em Portugal, essencialmente à escrita da história’ (all translations from Portuguese to English in this chapter are mine). The paper was the introductory address to the ‘Reception of H. G. Wells in Europe’ conference, presented by John S. Partington on 12 July 2002 and entitled ‘Europe in the Writings of H.G. Wells’.

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frustrations; for the difficulty with researching this chapter has to do with my sense that Wells has had too little significance in Portuguese cultural life in the twentieth century. In ‘Portugal and Prosperity’, Wells praised Portugal’s climate – and regretted its evident underdevelopment. The country had potentialities – natural riches (radioactive ore), a good port, a not despicable colonial empire; it was terribly mismanaged, and terribly impractical. The blame, for Wells, lay in the fact that Portugal clings to old-fashioned notions of full sovereignty. For the staunch prophet of the world state, the solution for Portuguese backwardness would be integration into ‘a combine of States, acting together politically, financially, and economically’ (1924, 130). It is not exactly the present European Union, but it is not far off. After all, Wells’s solution had been tried once, during the union with Spain between 1580 and 1640. Since then patriotic Portuguese have been celebrating the Restoration. Nonetheless, from the mid-nineteenth century the discussion has sometimes surfaced on whether the loss of independence and absorption into an ‘Iberian Union’ would not have been better for the Portuguese and all other peninsular peoples. But that was of no concern to Wells. Much more relevant for my personal anxieties is the following judgement: ‘a little country like this, with an unstable currency, cannot keep its popular education up to date; there is not a sufficient reading public therefore to sustain an authoritative Press and literature of political criticism’ (Wells 1924, 130). A culturally underdeveloped country is also politically incompetent, lacking a democratic and civic education. Or an education tout court, for that matter. Not just the education Wells had in mind, but also plain literacy. This is no great surprise for a country in which, between 1911 and 1940, with a population below six million, the illiteracy rate fell from 70 per cent to 50 per cent. And in such a country, where only a small minority could have read Wells’s scientific romances, let alone his mainstream novels or his non-fiction, who would have read him? Who would have published him? Translations: 1 In 1899 the Brazilian branch of the well-known Librairie Garnier (established in Rio de Janeiro in 1846) published The Time Machine (A Machina de Explorar o Tempo) by H. G. Wells. No indication of the translator is given; the Portuguese title, which follows the over-explanatory option of the French version, suggests that the translation was made not from the original, but from Henry-D. Davray’s French version (Wells 1906). In fact, the Portuguese text follows Davray’s version literally, even subserviently. From 1899 onwards the same publisher issued Twelve Stories and a Dream (Doze Historias e Um Sonho), The War of the Worlds (A Guerra dos Mundos), The Island of Doctor Moreau (A Ilha do Doutor Moreau), The First Men in the Moon (Os Primeiros Homens na Lua), The Invisible Man (O Homem Invisível) and the two long stories, ‘A Story of the Stone Age’ and ‘A Story of the Days To Come’ (printed together as Uma Historia dos Tempos Futuros e Narrações da Idade da

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Pedra).3 Some of these editions may have found their way into Portugal, and most were still being issued in Brazil until the 1920s.4 But it was more common for a Portuguese interested in such works, and unable to read English, to get them in French translation. (When I wanted to compare the French and Brazilian texts of The Time Machine (La Machine à explorer le temps and A Machina de Explorar o Tempo, respectively) I used a turn-of-the-twentieth-century French edition which had belonged to the Portuguese man of letters, Fialho de Almeida.) Nevertheless, other versions of some texts were being produced in Portugal; namely The First Men in the Moon (Os Exploradores da Lua) and ‘A Story of the Stone Age’ (Narrativas do Tempo Primitivo), published in 1902, ‘A Story of the Days to Come’ (Uma História dos Tempos Futuros) in 1903, The Invisible Man in 1905 and The Food of the Gods (O Alimento dos Deuses) in 1908. Nothing more was published in Portugal until 1934, when there appeared original translations of The War of the Worlds and The Invisible Man. Then, in 1936, The Time Machine was published in a popular edition under the inventive title Viagem à Esfinge Branca (which translates as ‘Journey to the White Sphinx’).5 Apart from the science-fiction translations in the early 1900s, the only piece by Wells to be translated in Portugal before the 1930s was What is Coming? (1916), under the title A Nova Europa, a collection of journalistic essays on the politics of the day published in Portuguese in 1919. It was a book about the Great War, and the Portuguese participation in that conflict had been very much debated. Nostalgic and still rebellious monarchists supported Germany; republicans supported France, the only respected republic in a Europe dominated by monarchies and in which the young Portuguese republic (founded in 1910) was still trying to assert itself. At the same time, many people in both camps resented the ruthless way the British had handled Portuguese colonial

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According to the blurb of an early 1920s edition of TM, among the list of works by H. G. Wells apparently published by Librairie Garnier, WA (A Guerra nos Ares) is mentioned; but the book does not appear in any catalogue of any library. Was it just a project of publication at the time, which was eventually abandoned, or is there just a blank in cataloguing? It should be noted that these translations were not great achievements: perfunctory (and this is unfortunately the case with most of Wells’s science fiction in Portuguese) and even bowdlerized. To cite some random examples, the Brazilian version of IDM (1910) begins the first chapter with Prendick alone in the dinghy, the cannibalistic episode cut out and Charles Prendick’s introduction omitted. In two Portuguese translations of WW (1968 and 1992), the exterminated Tasmanians of Chapter 1 become ‘dasyures’, or Tasmanian devils, and the whole argument is lost. Only much later, from the late 1980s, in the wake of interest in science fiction in Portugal, did new translations come out. The standard science-fiction series in Portugal from the mid-1950s never published any work by Wells. The single exception is ‘The Star’, included in the special anthology edited as Number 100 of the Argonauta Collection (1965), a monumental pocket book of 14 cm by 10 cm which ˇ apek’s R. in its 400 pages includes such jewels as Jules Verne’s ‘Eternal Adam’, Karel C U. R., and Keyes’s ‘Flowers for Algernon’ (as well as Arthur C. Clarke’s homonymous ‘The Star’). The book was issued in the mid-1960s with no precise date given.

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interests in the 1890s. Britain was not very interested in the prospect of Portuguese assistance either, as it would have meant paying (colonial) compensation to her at the end of the war (see Oliveira Marques 1972 and 1976, 2: Ch. 12). The fact that What is Coming? was published in a series called ‘Bibliotheca de Educação Intellectual’ (Library for Intellectual Education) is significant as it brings us back to the more authentic relationship between Wells and the Portuguese-speaking world, and to what he was saying about Portugal and her prosperity: the question of education. A dialogue on education In countries like Portugal – and Brazil – with endemic cultural underdevelopment, it was Wells the educationalist, the pedagogue, who most caught the attention of the intelligentsia, and it is here, even if his presence is still meagre, that we find some explicit responses by Portuguese intellectuals to his ideas. In 1922, the Portuguese essayist, polemicist and philosopher, António Sérgio, wrote what is apparently the first instance of Wells’s critical reception in Portugal. Sérgio’s text, a sort of extended review, is a discussion of the pedagogical issues of The Undying Fire (1919). Sérgio says he has used the French version, La Flamme immortelle, lent to him by a friend, and he proceeds with the analysis of the ‘three ideals of pedagogy: Director Huss’s (the same, or very close, to Wells’s own, as he had presented it in The Outline of History); Dr Barrack’s, a naturalist and a Spencerian; and Teacher Farr’s, a technician’6 (1974, 167). Sérgio had in common with Wells a passion for education, and a passion for socialism (even if for him ‘socialism’ meant primarily the cooperative movement, ‘the fraternal society of cooperation’7 [1974, 169]). Sérgio can be considered a rationalist, a heterodox sort of neo-Kantian; in his writings he polemicized in the name of reason, against sentimentalist and other conservative currents in Portuguese culture; against Bergson’s intuitionism; against ‘uncritical propagation of logical positivism’8 (Lopes and Saraiva 1996, 969); and against Marxism. He has also been described as a promoter of ‘a pedagogy of self-government, a civic education for a democratic conscience, an economic solution based on cooperativism, a universalist culture’9 (Salgado Júnior 1973, 1016). It has been argued (e.g. by Lourenço 1978, 175–91) that he was more of a polemicist than an original thinker: he reacted to other people’s texts and ideas rather than philosophizing about his own. That is perhaps why in this essay he attacks both sides: Huss is often ‘rhetorical’, and Dr Barrack, whose

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‘três ideais de pedagogia: o do Director Huss (igual, ou muito semelhante, ao do próprio Wells, tal como ele o sustentara na OH); o do Doutor Barrack, naturalista e spenceriano; e o do professor Farr, tecnicista’. ‘a Sociedade fraterna da cooperação’. ‘a divulgação incrítica do positivismo lógico’. But in 1939 Sérgio translated Bertrand Russell’s earlier The Problems of Philosophy (Os Problemas da Filosofia). ‘pedagogia de self-government, duma educação cívica de consciência democrática, duma solução económica de base cooperativista, duma cultura de base universalista’.

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objections ‘the author too hurriedly supposes to have been wholly refuted’10 (Sérgio 1974, 167–68), is also not bold enough. Then Sérgio, in a rather pragmatic and anti-utopian way, disagrees strongly with Wells in his defence of Job Huss’s educational model; he does not trust history with the mind-forming virtues Huss proclaims; he does ‘not understand this adoration of historical narrative as a means of unifying the human species in the creation of a common ideal. Is the proposed ideal desirable? If so, what does history matter? Who seeks good because of history, and who has stopped seeking it, because of history?’11 (1974, 175). Huss has a ‘vague, arbitrary, subjective notion of a future society’; and so he ‘despise[s] technical courses, everything that allows us to earn our living in the society of our time and to be efficient revolutionaries within the society of our time (as the Rochdale Pioneers were)’ (Sérgio 1974, 176).12 Although he is fully acquainted with F. W. Sanderson’s pedagogy (he mentions him more than once), Sérgio does not appear to recognize the Oundle headmaster’s relevance for the Huss character created by Wells.13 In this line of thought, he basically supports Dr Barrack’s ideas. Expatiating on the theme, he imagines a ‘more broad-minded (or more daring)’14 (1974, 185) Barrack amending Huss’s idealistic curriculum: and finally he dismisses Hussian idealism on the grounds that to prepare the mind of the pupil for an imaginary social system that may never come into being is to run the risk of sacrificing the real individual and society to a chimera, overdoing the teacher’s role, having him take responsibilities that are not his own. It will seem that I am deviating from the rightful Kantian precept, ‘one shall not educate for the society of today, but for a better society in the future.’ But this means to arouse in the pupils’ souls the desire to ascend to a better society [. . .] not to begin by detailing an imaginary and abstract social construction and, starting from the outside, mould the pupils’ souls for such an end.15 (Sérgio 1974, 187–88)

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‘O ideal do Doutor Huss [. . .] cai frequentes vezes na retórica’; ‘as ideias do Doutor Barrack, que o autor supõe com demasiada pressa ter refutado completamente.’ ‘Não compreendo esta adoração da narrativa histórica como unificadora da espécie humana, criadora dum ideal comum. O ideal que nos propõem é desejável? Se o é, que importa a História? Quem busca o bem por causa da História, e quem, por causa da História, deixou um dia de o desejar?’ ‘[Uma] noção vaga, arbitrária, subjectiva, de uma certa Sociedade futura’ [. . .] ‘[O Sr Huss] deu ao desprezo as disciplinas técnicas, tudo o que nos habilita a ganhar a vida na Sociedade do nosso tempo e a sermos revolucionários eficientes dentro da Sociedade do nosso tempo (como o foram os pioneiros de Rochdale).’ I follow here David C. Smith’s assertion that Huss is ‘based loosely on F. W. Sanderson’, headmaster of Oundle School, where boys were encouraged to do arts and crafts, not just intellectual pursuits (1986, 248). ‘um Barrack de mais amplo espírito (ou mais atrevido)’. ‘especializar o espírito do educando para um esquema imaginário da Sociedade, que talvez não venha a realizar-se nunca, é correr o risco de sacrificar à quimera o indivíduo real e a Sociedade, e exorbitar portanto do professorado, tomando responsabilidades que não lhe competem. Parecerá que me desvio, ao falar assim, do preceito justíssimo do magno Kant: ‘não se deve educar para a Sociedade de hoje, mas

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Sérgio’s essay is the first instance of an extended Portuguese commentary on Wells’s ideas and ideals. It appears in this offhand way, even if the Portuguese educator shares many preoccupations with the English one. Sérgio is, in spite of my earlier comments, ‘an exemplary case of the echo of Wellsian ideas in our country. He reveals moments of confluence with the English writer, which show, e.g. in his readings of H. G. Wells’s works and in the identical political beliefs he adopted from them’16 (Fernandes 1993, 4). The fact remains that Sérgio’s ‘pedagogical digressions’ (as he called his essay) were made not on a Portuguese translation of a book by Wells, but on the personal knowledge a Portuguese intellectual had of the author. To this day no non-fiction text by Wells has ever been translated and published in Portugal with the single exception of What is Coming?17 This being so, it was through Brazil that the largest quantity of Wells’s writings entered Portuguese and, to some extent, Portugal. As well as Wells’s science fiction, his three encyclopaedic works, The Outline of History, The Science of Life (A Ciência da Vida) and The Work, Wealth and Happiness of Mankind (A Construçã o do Mundo) were published there, with the former having some lasting impact on the Portuguese public. Translations 2: with a little help from Brazil Long after the days of the Garnier translations from French of the scientific romances, the Companhia Editora Nacional of São Paulo was the second Brazilian publishing house to publish Wells’s work. This occurred in the late 1930s and early 1940s, during Getúlio Vargas’s dictatorship. Monteiro Lobato, a cofounder of the publishing house, was an energetic and active personality: a lawyer, a farmer, a businessman, a writer of fiction, a journalist, a translator. He was behind the project of producing The Outline of History in Portuguese. The book, with the original Horrabin illustrations, was published in three volumes in 1939. It appears to have been extremely popular, and it went on being reissued. It was published in Portugal in 1956, and its latest reprint to my knowledge was in 1974–76 in Lisbon (the last Brazilian edition having been published in São Paulo in 1968). The same publisher also brought to the Brazilian public (in Lobato’s translation) The Shape of Things to Come (História do

cont. para uma sociedade melhor, possível no futuro’. Mas isto significa suscitar nas almas o desejo de se elevarem a uma Sociedade melhor, [. . .] não significa pormenorizar um edifício social imaginário e abstracto, e – de fora para dentro – talhar as almas para tal fim.’ 16 ‘um caso exemplar da repercussão das ideias wellsianas no nosso país. Evidencia momentos de confluência com o escritor inglês, patentes, por exemplo nas leituras que fez de obras de Wells e na identidade de convicções políticas e educativas delas extraída’. 17 However, OH (História Universal) was reprinted in Portugal (1956), following its original translation and publication in Brazil (1939–43).

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Futuro) (1940) and The Fate of Homo Sapiens (O Destino da Espécie Humana) (1945). Over the same period of time The Science of Life was published in Rio de Janeiro; a second printing appeared in 1943, but the book is not to be found anywhere in Portugal today. Nor is, strangely, The Work, Wealth and Happiness of Mankind, though it appears to have been published in Brazil.18 However, as mentioned above, only The Outline of History seems to have had any impact in Portugal. Why were none of Wells’s educational works translated in Portugal, and why was he translated in Brazil but not Portugal? The translations of the three bulky textbooks were made in a time of dictatorship in both countries; Brazil being under Getúlio Vargas and Portugal under Salazar. While the two authoritarian states had their differences, for Brazilian and Portuguese intellectuals conditions were more or less the same. There may of course have been economic reasons for Wells’s absence in Portugal; Brazil was after all a much larger and richer country, and thus contained a larger potential buying public for such large works. Also, Portuguese society was necessarily more closed: Salazar’s proclaimed Catholic and antidemocratic principles were a far cry from Vargas’s populism (which earned him a comeback in 1950). Despite the mechanisms of repression and propaganda, Vargas did advance a degree of progressive modernization. Almir de Andrade, a professor of science deeply involved in the Getulista Ministry of Propaganda, was the translator of The Science of Life; while the translator of The Outline of History was Anísio Teixeira, a distinguished educationalist who suffered under Vargas and kept a low profile during the dictator’s ‘New State’ from 1937 to 1945, after which he was invited by Julian Huxley to become an adviser for higher education at Unesco. I would risk another reason for the absence of Wells-the-educator (and the thinker) in Portugal: the Wellsian cosmopolitan ideal of scientific education for a socialist world state did not find an echo in the conservative intelligentsia, while the progressive opposition was divided between liberal-republicans and Marxists. Both were obviously silenced, but the Communists, much better organized, were severely persecuted. And since Lenin, official Marxism had passed its judgement on Wells.19 Lively intellectual discussions were reserved for the happy few and musings on a dire present were more relevant to them than prospects of a world state. Sérgio was rather the exception than the rule,

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SOL was published in ten volumes in Rio de Janeiro by Livraria José Olympio (no date). The book (in either of its two printings) is rarely to be found today; the Brazilian Biblioteca Nacional has the whole set of the first edition, and I found Volume 7 of the series – Como Vivem e Sentem os Animais (How Animals Behave) – in Coimbra, in the library of the Institute of Brazilian Studies. I mean of course the mention, by Trotsky, of Lenin’s comment on Wells after their meeting (‘What a bourgeois he is! [. . .] Ah, what a Philistine!’ [in Dickson 1971, 285]; or ‘an unreconstructed bourgeois’ [in Smith 1986, 271]).

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and even so we have noted his reserve towards the Wellsian society of the future.20 A dialogue on politics The Portuguese edition of The Outline of History was the occasion for a very short but all-in-all judicious appreciation of Wells by a Portuguese intellectual. Óscar Lopes, a historian of literature and a literary critic, was charged with revising the text for the Portuguese public. This meant not only putting into ‘straight Portuguese’ some syntactical and lexical Brazilian idioms deemed unacceptable (or not understandable) to the average Portuguese reader; it also meant rethinking for the 1956 edition a book updated to 1930.21 The Anísio Teixeira version was confronted with the original; the material later added by

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There was one exception to the Portuguese silence about Wells as a progressive thinker in his later years and that was a pamphlet published by a certain João V. Claro in 1944 in response to Wells’s Crux Ansata: An Indictment of the Roman Catholic Church (1943b) and entitled Uma Acusaçã o contra a Igreja Católica: Réplica ao livro com o mesmo título do escritor inglês H. G. Wells (An indictment of the Catholic Church: a reply to the book with the same title by H. G. Wells). The insignificance of the pamphlet to Wells’s Portuguese reception in the 1940s can be gauged by the fact that it was most probably privately printed. The conservative Catholic tone of the pamphlet, while being consistent with that of mainstream intellectual opinion under the Salazar regime, is crudely raucous and mud-slinging, labelling Wells as both a Communist and a Freemason. Its ridiculousness can be demonstrated through the quotation of one representative passage. After quoting Wells in Crux Anstata (and the pamphlet is one-third quotation from Wells) as stating ‘the Pope sets himself to hold back and frustrate the secular modernisation of the world’ (Wells 1943b, 67) (‘É com isto que o Papa se propõe obstar e frustrar a modernização secular da Humanidade’ [1944, 12] – notice how Claro translates ‘world’ as ‘Humanity’ to better fit his arguement), Claro responds by writing, Notice the expressions – modernism, secular, Humanity! They are once more expressions of Masonic vocabulary. They are well-known weapons against the Church! (Repare-se nas expressões – modernismo, secular, Humanidade! São ainda expressões do vocabulário maçónico. São conhecidíssimas armas contra a Igreja!) (Claro 1944, 12)

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I mention the pamphlet here as a curiosity, but its relevance to Wells’s reception in Portugal is nil. The Anísio Teixeira translation, published in Brazil in 1939, was based on Wells’s 1930 edition (the fifth revision); this was the text Óscar Lopes reworked for the Portuguese readership. Concerning dates of the publications of Wells’s works in English, I have followed David C. Smith’s H. G. Wells: Desperately Mortal, as well as the H. G. Wells Society’s H. G. Wells: A Comprehensive Bibliography.

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Raymond Postgate for the posthumous edition was disregarded, and only the chronological table was updated to 1956. Óscar Lopes’s foreword to the first volume, entitled ‘Introdução à Edição Portuguesa’ (Introduction to the Portuguese edition), presents the author as a disciple of T. H. Huxley, and contextualizes him in the Britain and Europe of his era, primarily as a progressive bourgeois. Lopes points out that the work started as a personal response, or meditation, on human history after the momentous Great War. Although Lopes evaluates and criticizes Wells from a Marxist point of view, it is the vantage point of 1956 and what had happened since the publication of the 1932 edition and since Wells’s death in 1946 that marks his appreciation. H. G. Wells died in the aftermath of the Second World War, i.e., in an historical moment analogous to the one when he undertook his Outline of History. He could no longer gather the knowledge that would have helped him amend some conclusions he had arrived at, namely through the First World War and the 1929 economic crisis. Nevertheless, it benefits us to meditate on his predictions and estimates from 1932. We will see how his internationalism, willing to sacrifice the British Empire, but conceived as a sort of worldwide expansion of the American Confederation, is no longer feasible on his proposed terms; [. . .] while his modest ‘socialism’ [. . .] has [in part] been overtaken by the Welfare State now endorsed even by the conservative government.22 (1956a, 1: 8–9)

The foreword to the third volume, however, bears the title ‘Observações necessárias’ (Necessary remarks) and presents the editor’s reservations about Wells’s conclusions and predictions whilst at the same time justifying those conclusions within their historical epoch. Here, the rejection of the Postgate revisions is justified, paradoxically, on historical grounds since they ‘omit important reflections of the author concerning the 1929 crisis and the prospects of preserving the international peace’23 (Lopes 1956b, 3: 6). Lopes wants first of all to justify or explain Wells’s ideological options (as a bourgeois living through the crisis of a bourgeois world) and then to reinstate him in some measure from a left-wing view of the world. (Because of censorship he could not dare to be

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‘H. G. Wells faleceu no início do rescaldo da Segunda Guerra Mundial, isto é, num momento histórico análogo àquele em que empreendeu a elaboração da sua História Universal. Não chegou por isso a colher os ensinamentos que lhe permitiriam rectificar algumas conclusões a que chegara, nomeadamente através da Primeira Grande Guerra e da crise económica posterior a 1929, e corrigir certos juízos que formulou noutras obras. No entanto, há só vantagem em meditarmos as suas previsões e estimativas feitas em 1932. Assim, verificaremos que o seu internacionalismo, disposto a sacrificar o Império Britânico, mas concebido como uma espécie de extensão a todo o Globo da confederação dos Estados Unidos da América do Norte, deixou de ser um ideal exequível nos termos em que o formulava; [. . .] mas, por outro lado, vemos que o seu modesto ‘socialismo’ [. . .] veio a ser a ser ultrapassado pelo Welfare State que o próprio partido conservador inglês aceitou e mantém.’ ‘omit[e] certas importantes reflexões do autor que dizem respeito à crise desencadeada em 1929 e às perspectivas de preservação da paz internacional’.

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explicit; his message was intended for the initiated.) The fierce competition of the various national protectionisms and colonial rivalries of the time, Lopes argues, will help the reader understand Wells’s somewhat idealistic and abstract internationalism, and some of his more debatable opinions. Precisely because he could not see men being able to avoid the oncoming (1939–1945) great Catastrophe, his idealism could only appeal to utopian remedies. [. . .] So Wells demanded a World Federal State, sacrificing all national sovereignties, when [. . .] the problem for human nature has lain for many peoples of the world in the conquest of national political sovereignty, and for most of the others in the conquest of full economic and cultural sovereignty.24 (1956b, 3: 6)

This is the point of view of the 1950s, after the Chinese Revolution and at the beginning of the liberation wars in the Third World, from French IndoChina to colonial Africa, where ‘nationalism’ had a meaning diametrically opposed to Wells’s understanding of the term. In his concluding peroration Lopes again apparently realigns Wells and his idea of ‘Progress’ with the progressivism of the Communist left, with left-wing ‘popular frontism’ and its brand of nationalism: Today it is easy to criticize many of his naïve hopes: the hope that an irresistible world federalist movement would appear; that the Second World War could be conjured away just by mutual fear of the new destructive powers; that the international economic crisis could be halted by international monetary agreements [. . .]. Nonetheless, the highest of the great Wellsian ideals flowers today more vigorously than ever: for the first time in history, and as statesmen of all sides have declared, whole nations, not isolated idealists, effectively say no to war. Progress no longer seems a product of isolated minds or unconscious forces; it depends, more and more, on what H. G. Wells calls the authentically national ‘community of will’.25 (1956b, 3: 9; final emphasis mine)

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‘o internacionalismo, na verdade um tanto idealista e abstracto, de Wells e algumas das suas opiniões mais discutíveis. Precisamente porque ainda não via nos homens uma capacidade eficaz de evitar a grande Catástrofe próxima (a de 1939–1945), o idealismo wellsiano só sabia apelar para remédios utópicos. [. . .] Pretendia então Wells um Estado Federal Mundial, com sacrifício de todas as soberanias nacionais, quando [. . .] o problema exigido pela natureza humana [. . .] tem consistido na conquista da soberania política nacional por grande parte dos povos do Mundo, e na conquista da plenitude económica e cultural dessa soberania para quase todos os outros.’ ‘Hoje é fácil criticar várias das suas ingénuas esperanças: a de que surgisse um irresistível movimento federalista mundial; a de que a Segunda Guerra Mundial pudesse ser conjurada pelos simples terror recíproco dos novos poderes destrutivos; a de que a crítica e a luta económica internacional pudesse ser detida por simples acordos monetários internacionais; [. . .] No entanto, o mais fundo dos grandes ideais wellsianos está hoje mais vigoroso que nunca: pela primeira vez na História, e como o declaram estadistas responsáveis de todas as tendências, são os povos inteiros, e não simples idealistas isolados, que eficazmente não querem a guerra. O Progresso

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Here and now, from the vantage point of the beginning of the twenty-first century, in the aftermath of some recent wars, it is easy for us to look critically and bleakly at Óscar Lopes’s mid-1950s optimism; it appears that the wellintended Wellsian plea for sanity is still not working. Lopes concludes by offering especial praise for the last two sections of the book, as ‘a hymn of hope’, in a sense ‘the author’s testament as an historian’26 and cites in full the final paragraph of The Outline of History. Translations 3 Following the publication of Wells’s educational texts, Wells’s Portuguese fate was largely confined to the translation of some of his fiction. In 1945 Kipps (Alma Simples) was published in a good translation by the poet Cabral do Nascimento, a unique and solitary example; nothing else appeared except for the science-fiction classics. A couple of short stories were included in anthologies with titles like Contos Fantásticos (Fantastic tales) (1943) and Contos Ingleses Modernos (Modern English Short Stories) (1945); in 1947 an anthology of short stories appeared in Lisbon from an obscure publisher (now existing only as a reference in the National Library of Lisbon); in 1956, another small anthology was published in Coimbra, by a now defunct house; the book had a late reprint in 1975 and is now long out of print. And, if The Shape of Things To Come was published in Brazil (as mentioned above), in Portugal it was only Wells’s script for the Alexander Korda film, Things to Come, that managed to get through, published as Coisas Que Hão-de Vir . . .: a Vida Futura (1936). Since these publishing events of the 1940s and 1950s, the Portuguese presence of Wells concerns new, or renewed, editions of his science fiction. In the 1960s new translations came out of The Invisible Man (1966) and The War of the Worlds (1968); these were isolated publications, not a part of the classic sciencefiction series that came into existence in the early 1950s. In 1979, a new paperback science-fiction series was started by Publicações Europa América, where eventually new versions of four of the five early Wells classics were published. As a result we could now count three translations of The Time Machine between 1936 and 1992, four of The War of the Worlds and six of The Invisible Man between 1934 and 2000, and two of The Island of Doctor Moreau, in 1988 and 1989. This is fine but ‘passive’: it means that the Portuguese have indeed been

cont. deixou de parecer um produto de espíritos isolados ou de forças inconscientes, para depender, cada vez mais, daquilo que Wells designa como a ‘comunidade voluntária’, autenticamente nacional.’ 26 The text just quoted goes on: ‘As duas últimas alíneas deste volume, alíneas que constituem uma espécie de testamento de Wells como historiador, são sem dúvida belas, e um hino de esperança. Repitamos os períodos finais.’ (‘The last two sections of this book, which are in a way the author’s testament as an historian, are doubtless beautiful, and a hymn of hope. Let us repeat his final sentences.’)

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reading Wells’s science fiction, but not necessarily that there has been any interaction, as there was never a Portuguese literary tradition of fantastic or science-fiction literature (no Portuguese Verne or Cˇapek), and the small group of contemporary Portuguese science-fiction practitioners of the Simetria F. C. & F. association, who occasionally meet at Cascais and have organized international fantasy and science-fiction meetings since 1996, are more in the broad ‘sci-fi’ line of current trends. I find no significant echoes of Wellsian themes in their fiction.27 For a Wellsian – whatever that may be – this is a poor performance indeed. In the wider ‘Lusofonia’, the linguistic commonwealth of Portuguese-speaking peoples from Brazil to East Timor, where is the Wells, the author we celebrate in his limitations as well as in his universal relevance? Even today, a book as seminal as A Modern Utopia has never been translated into Portuguese – nor, that I know of, has it been discussed or influential in Portuguese intellectual circles. Also, and to the distress of science-fiction lovers, The Food of the Gods has never been reprinted, and other less famous science-fiction texts have found no favour with Portuguese publishers either; In the Days of the Comet, which was translated in Brazil in the 1980s, has not been made available to Portuguese readers. Modern times: Wells in Academe I began this chapter with two epigraphs: the first by Wells, which may stand as the motto for my treatment of the matter: Portugal is a nice hospitable country; long before the national tourist board invented the slogan ‘the sun of our kindness’, Wells had discovered the pleasures of our climate (which is why the quotation above has migrated to the Condé Nast Traveler); yet the land kept lagging behind infrastructurally and, alas, superstructurally. Portuguese underdevelopment, which Wells in the early 1920s indirectly ascribed to a lack of education, left cultural activity in the hands of a narrow elite; and the good intentions of many leaders in the first republic (1910–26) were thwarted by the slowing down of the educational policy under Salazar.28 One might say that

27

28

A most recent exception is João Barreiros’s A Verdadeira Invasão dos Marcianos (The True Martian Invasion), published 2004, where Wells, Jules Verne, Edgar Rice Burroughs, ‘Doctor Moreau’ and John Carter travel to Mars on an expedition paid for mainly by Verne’s editor, Pierre-Jules Hetzel, and have some strange adventures there. Very postmodern, fairly readable. Barreiros claims that his interest in science fiction began with the reading of The Time Machine when he was eight years old. In 1910 there was a single university in Portugal, in Coimbra, with about 6,000 students. The Republic started new universities in Lisbon and Oporto; the budgetcontrolling obsessions of the dictatorial regime soon closed down several faculties from 1928 onwards, until some recovery was visible from the 1950s. Professors and students were always under strict surveillance by the state police; several academics were forbidden to teach or simply expelled from their institutions. As for elementary teaching, only in 1960 was four years of schooling made compulsory (cf. Oliveira Marques 1976, 2: Ch. 13, 2).

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Wells was ‘conditionally’ accepted during the dictatorship: some modest response, but no real echo. Only a little fiction came through as Salazar’s regime aged, and living conditions eventually improved, if only in urban areas. In spite of censorship and repression, a new situation had developed, but by now Wellsian ideas were something of historical interest. After all, they were out of date already in the 1940s, as Orwell had pointed out (1970, 166–72). Wells could at least have become an object of study and academic discussion, but he did not. His fiction was not taught and his work was not the subject matter for Master’s or doctoral dissertations.29 My second epigraph to this chapter comes from a Master’s thesis on Wells written in Portugal in 1993. It is an honest and competent work, even if in her text Maria Leonor Fernandes’s30 critical judgement on Wells’s science fiction is obviously biased, or plainly wrong. Perhaps she was decrying science fiction in order to ‘aggrandize’ her chosen subject. Notwithstanding, her study is a notable effort and a late example of Wells’s reception in Portugal; it is unique, the first ever in its genre. It is a pity – and a symptom of Portuguese conditions after so many years – that she could not find a publisher. The quotation reveals the image Wells has left behind him in Portugal: the author of science fiction; and the author of The Outline of History. Fernandes sedulously comments on and discusses a large number of Wells’s texts; in her last chapter, ‘Education, History and Prophecy’,31 she presents a synthesis of all aspects of Wells’s personality, emphasizing ‘the link between political indoctrination and educational activity’32 (Fernandes 1993, 199). Fernandes’s contribution has in my view a double significance: by insisting on the idea that ‘Wells in Portugal is sci-fi plus the Outline’, she reveals unsuspected prejudice against a branch of literature (something she would probably have omitted in a printed version), but in fact she is only voicing a feeling still common with the public; by its uniqueness in the Portuguese academic landscape her dissertation shows the relative insignificance of her subject matter in Portugal – and at the same time a will to change matters as far as Wellsian Studies in Portugal are concerned.

29

30

31 32

As far as I know, my courses in English Literature in Coimbra, starting in 1984, along the lines of ‘H. G. Wells and the Wellsian tradition in English Literature’ were the first to take Wells as an object of study – as precursor of science fiction, and as a utopian and speculative writer. Fernandes eventually earned a PhD with a thesis on Bertrand Russell, and is now a Professor at the University of the Azores, in Ponta Delgada. ‘Educação, História e Profecia’. ‘A ponte entre a doutrinação política e a actividade docente encontra-se, aliás, registada em vários momentos da produção ensaística de Wells, de que salientamos o seguinte excerto: (‘Unless you can change men’s minds you cannot effect Socialism [. . .]. [U]ltimately the Socialist movement is teaching, and the most important people in the world are those who teach (NWFO, 282)’ (Fernandes 1993, 199–200).

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Da capo: H. G. Wells – in Portugal? Some conclusions So, the main problem with any commentary on ‘H. G. Wells and/in Portugal’ has to do with the very meagreness of the subject matter. His presence on Portuguese bookshelves has been, to say the least, erratic; Wells’s cultural presence in Portugal must be understood in the light of Portuguese political and cultural history in the twentieth century. This is why I have started my text the way I have, and why I must now return to my provocative questioning: ‘What do I as a Portuguese have to say about H. G. Wells? Why? Is it worth the trouble?’ All this begs a further question, addressed to myself: am I a Wellsian? The answer must be, humbly, yes, I try to be one; and a Portuguese Wellsian at that. By which I understand my coming to terms with our author in a Portuguese light, in a cultural dialogue between Wells and Portugal. Throughout this text I have been trying to write my own Anatomy of Frustration (Wells 1936, title); to exorcise my condition as a Portuguese Wellsian. We find little in Wells about this westernmost corner of Europe, or of the ‘nova Europa’; Portugal, no longer what Camões proudly proclaimed, ‘up at the head of the whole of Europe’ (III: xxi), remains, modestly (contentedly?) marginal, ‘on [sic] the edge of the Empire’ (the ironical title of the First International Meeting of Science Fiction and Fantasy at Cascais, 1996). While Wells’s words concerning better management of human and natural resources remain topical, I would nevertheless risk saying that the Portuguese have made some small improvement in the fields of political and civic education (after all, eighty years have passed). I think we all (Portuguese or not) still owe something to Wells’s proposals on how to organize the future. His Open Conspiracy must now face new forms of imperialism which may bring about a non-Wellsian world state. The hegemonic power of the USA in all its manifestations makes the naïve arrogance of the ‘Wings over the World’ despots of Things to Come somewhat risible in comparison. Let us recall Wells’s role in elaborating the Declaration of Human Rights;33 let us recall his pleas for peace; and, in dialogue with him, let us recall Oscar Lopes’s support, almost fifty years ago, of his most generous ideas. I recall the quotation above, which regards internationalism ‘conceived as a sort of worldwide expansion of the American Confederation [as] no longer feasible on his proposed terms’; Lopes’s pro-Russian internationalism then justified his reservations. Russia is now, once more, and for different reasons, in the shadows; the outcome of the Cold War did not bring after all the victory of The War That Will End War (Wells 1914, title); so we are once more as Wells was in 1921 and in 1946, a Mind at the End of Its Tether (Wells 1945, title). In his own words, ‘God damn you all: I told you so’ (quoted in McConnell 1981, 8). Who is this H. G. Wells, anyway? You have seen what I as a Portuguese have to say about that, and why. And I think, in spite of everything (of everything Wellsian in Portugal being so little) that it still is worth the trouble.

33

On Wells’s contribution to human-rights propaganda, see his ROM ([1940]).

17

Clashing Utopias: H. G. Wells and Catholic Ireland Lucian M. Ashworth

Two points have to be borne in mind that make H. G. Wells’s Irish reception qualitatively different from other European countries. The first is the existence of a common language and a largely common culture between Britain and Ireland. As a result of this there is no sharp distinction between the Irish and British media. The circulation of British newspapers and periodicals has always been high in Ireland, while British radio and (later) television have always had a significant share of the Irish audience (see Coakley 1992b, 27–28). As a result of this there is a strong tendency within the Irish media to find a niche for itself by concentrating on Irish-specific issues. This is particularly true of the literary and scholarly periodicals. As a consequence, Ireland’s acquaintance with H. G. Wells came mainly from British periodicals, books and films, while specifically Irish responses tended to stress his writing on Ireland and Irish issues. The other point is that, while Ireland has always possessed a British-based window on the world, much of the Irish political and social landscape has been shaped by what could broadly be called the national question. The very closeness of Britain and Ireland, coupled with the irritant of the issue of sovereignty over Northern Ireland, has made it important for Irish people to point out the differences between themselves and the British, which contributes to a national sensitivity about British attitudes towards Ireland. This has not always been helped by the British media’s occasionally insensitive stereotyping of Irish society. What this has generally meant is that the reception of British writers in Irish media has usually given undue attention to the writer’s attitudes towards Ireland and Irish society. In November and December 1939 Picture Post serialized Wells’s latest book, The Fate of Homo Sapiens. At the time Picture Post had the largest circulation of any illustrated general interest weekly periodical in Ireland (O Drisceoil 1996, 189).1 The Irish Catholic called for the banning of Picture Post, while a letter to the editor of the Irish Times heartily concurred:

1

Much confusion exists over the correct name of the twenty-six-county sovereign state on the island of Ireland. Since 1947 it has been known, in English, as the Republic of Ireland, although its stamps, coins and official seals still used the Irish

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Sir – at the meeting of the Committee of the Catholic Association for International Relations held on Friday, 3rd inst., it was decided to protest against the publication in a popular picture paper of the scandalous attack by H. G. Wells on the Catholic Church in general and on the Catholic people of Ireland in particular. As the Constitution of Eire gives a special place of public honour to the Catholic Church, we consider the publication and circulation of this article from overseas for popular consumption particularly offensive – Yours, etc. (Ryan 1939, 2)

While Wells’s work has been popular in Ireland, with his fiction being translated into Irish Gaelic (WW, Wells 1934; FMM Wells 1938), it was his statements in 1939 on the nature and role of the Catholic Church in Ireland that had the widest and the most vocal reception. On 22 December 1939, Picture Post was banned by the Irish Censorship Board for a period of three months, allegedly because of Wells’s articles. In this chapter I intend to explore this dispute between Wells and his Irish Catholic detractors, using it to highlight Wells’s views on Catholicism and Ireland, and the relationship between those views and the wider context of Wells’s political thought. A second theme uses Wells’s attack as a means to analyse the nature of conservative Catholicism at the time, with particular reference to Wells’s strongest critic, Alfred O’Rahilly of University College Cork. O’Rahilly’s response to the Picture Post articles represents the most coherent, if somewhat polemic, response to Wells, and reveals the intellectual foundations of the conservative Catholicism that dominated Irish politics at the time. This Irish Catholic vision of Wells has tended to colour the view of him amongst Irish nationalists more generally. Irish Catholicism between the wars There have always been many different, and often contradictory, currents within Irish nationalism. In the decades that led up to the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty, that ended the war of independence and established the Free State, many different shades of nationalist opinion competed for leadership of the independence movement. Before the First World War Redmond’s moderate and constitutionalist Irish Party dominated nationalist politics. The Irish Party’s finest hour was the passing of the Home Rule Bill in 1914, although the Party’s support for the British war effort during the First World War, coupled with its failure to respond to the growing militancy of nationalism after the Easter Rising, led to its electoral rout in 1918. Yet, even amongst those who chose to turn to violence there was no ideological consensus. The Irish Labour Party, and other left-leaning groups, remained committed to the establishment of a

cont. Gaelic name ‘Eire’, the Irish name for the state adopted in 1937. Between 1921 and 1937 it was known as the Irish Free State (a name still used for it by many Unionists in Northern Ireland). Throughout this paper I will use the phrase ‘Ireland’ to refer exclusively to the twenty-six-county state. ‘Ireland’ was the official Englishlanguage name for the state between 1937 and 1947, when most of the events discussed in this chapter took place.

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secular socialist republic, while the more conservative and Catholic nationalists were to be split into factions by the Treaty itself. Although the nationalist cause did include some high profile Protestants such as the novelist Erskine Childers and the writer Douglas Hyde, Catholicism still played a major role in Irish nationalism. Even amongst socialists a Catholic upbringing left a legacy of custom and outlook that was hard to shake off. During the Limerick Soviet of 1919, when trades unionists in Limerick went on strike and organized a worker’s government, a conscious radical socialism rubbed uncomfortably against a predominantly conservative Catholicism. The hold of Catholicism on the population was a product of many factors, and certainly not least amongst these was the role of the Church in education. ‘Irish education is not merely denominationally controlled: it is clerically controlled’ (Whyte 1980, 17). In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, while Ireland was still part of the United Kingdom, successive British governments had facilitated the Church’s control of education, with most dramatically the establishment of the formally nondenominational, but effectively Catholic, National University of Ireland (NUI). The governing bodies of the NUI were ‘designed to ensure a considerable influence for the Catholic hierarchy’, while Irish Catholics were exhorted by the Bishops to stay out of the Protestant colleges, such as Trinity Dublin or Queen’s Belfast (Whyte 1980, 18). Thus, despite a wide spectrum of nationalist thinking, adherence to a strongly Catholic culture and outlook came closest to a common denominator. Yet, when we speak of Catholicism in the context of Ireland we are talking of a particular kind of outlook and set of values which are not necessarily shared by other Catholics outside Ireland. The fear of sensual pleasures – whether in the form of new dances, late-night revelry, foreign novels or English newspapers – seemed to owe more to a Presbyterian sense of self-control. Catholicism even took on, de facto, the air of a state church. Article 44.1.2 of the 1937 Constitution declared that ‘The State recognizes the special position of the Holy Catholic Apostolic and Roman Church as the guardian of the Faith professed by the great majority of the citizens.’ Although repealed in 1972, this, and other laws, such as the ban on Catholic government ministers from entering Protestant churches, gave the Catholic Church a power within the state that was unrivalled within democracies between the two world wars. Only Catholic dictatorships, like Franco’s Spain, gave the Church more power than it enjoyed in Ireland. Here lies the important point about Irish Catholicism before the 1960s. Certainly it was strongly puritan, largely unaccountable to its congregations, and often caused the state authorities problems when social legislation was believed to contradict Catholic mores. Yet, the Church continued to garner strong support from both the governing political parties and from the country at large. During the first three decades of the state’s existence, therefore, the power of the Church, derived from wide-ranging popular support, meant that the Church’s definitions of proper conduct and social priorities became the state’s definitions too. It is equally important to realize that the Church, while certainly conservative, was not merely reactive. The Church’s strong opinions on secular matters were part of a utopian dream: a vision of what Ireland could

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and should be. In this sense the conservative Catholics had something in common with Wells. Both were disgusted with the way the world was and both wanted to push through changes that would lead to a happier and more peaceful world. The problem was, of course, that their analyses of the ills of society, and their prescriptions, were seriously at odds with each other. Wells and Irish nationalism The story of the relation of Ireland and Britain for the last half-century is one that reflects the utmost discredit upon the governing class of the British Empire, but it is not one of which the English commons need be ashamed. (Wells 1920, 1018)

In the recriminations that followed Wells’s Fate of Homo Sapiens it is often forgotten that Wells had shared the British liberal sympathy with the Irish nationalist cause. Ireland and the Irish question did not receive Wells’s full attention until the war of independence in Ireland was in full swing. Wells’s definitive statement on the roots and rights of this conflict formed an important part of the conclusion to his Outline of History.2 This section on Ireland remained unchanged throughout all the editions of Outline from 1920 onwards. Yet, it is also clear that Wells’s interest in Ireland had deeper roots. Before the Great War he had visited Horace Plunkett – the moderate Unionist, pacifist and agricultural reformer – at Plunkett’s home outside Dublin. While Plunkett never quoted Wells, his writings on government and the potential for a vibrant cooperative movement in Ireland are certainly compatible with Wells’s thought.3 Similarly, although Wells does not quote Plunkett, Plunkett’s moderate Unionism comes close to Wells’s own position. Indeed, Plunkett’s willingness to work with the new nationalist Free State government (he was a Senator in the new Free State Senate, or upper house) mirrors Wells’s view of the political legitimacy of the nationalist cause. Having said this, though, Wells’s references to Ireland prior to 1918 are sketchy, despite the importance of the Home Rule crisis prior to 1914. Irish Party politicians are included in the political background that Wells paints in The New Machiavelli (1911), while references to Ireland appear in Mr Britling Sees it Through (1916) and Joan and Peter (1918). In The War in the Air (1908) Wells makes reference to ‘insurrectionary movements in Ireland’ in a story which is set in the near future (1941b, 72). In his non-fiction Wells is equally cursory. When discussing the future for Russia in Anticipations Wells makes an unfavourable comparison to Ireland:

2

3

Although Wells’s attitudes towards Irish nationalism during this period may not be as clear cut as his position in OH suggests. When Leonard Woolf, during the Irish war of independence, tried to elicit Wells’s support for a society dedicated to peace in Ireland, Wells responded with a letter that called the Irish ‘a set of nasty murderous thugs and they were getting all that they deserved’ (quoted in Woolf 1972, 194). See West 1986 for a discussion of Plunkett’s ideas. Horace Plunkett’s most famous book was Ireland in the New Century, published in 1904.

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To a certain extent, Russia may play the part of a vaster Ireland, in her failure to keep pace with the educational and economic progress of nations which have come into economic unity with her [. . .] an Ireland without emigration, a place of famines. (1999, 141)

Wells’s statement in The Outline of History, therefore, represents an important turn and milestone in his view of Ireland. A crucial cornerstone of Irish nationalist ideology was that Irish society was fundamentally different from Britain; and, unlike other British commentators, Wells was willing to accept a major cultural difference. What, from Wells’s point of view, Ireland and Britain did share was the same corrupt and imperialist ruling class. What was different was the form taken by the resistance to imperialism (Wells 1920, 1016–17). As a result, Wells was deeply critical of Irish Unionism, claiming that its opposition to Home Rule had undermined not only a solution to a long conflict, but also the potential good will of the Irish people towards Britain. Given the support that Redmond’s nationalists gave to the British war effort, the inclusion of Unionists in the wartime government was another slap in the face: ‘Grosser insult was never offered to a friendly people’ (Wells 1920, 1023). For Wells, Irish nationalism had a good claim against imperialist Britain. This was, however, as far as he was willing to go. Since he was deeply opposed to nationalist particularism, the replacement of a rather sordid imperial order by an equally dark and narrow-minded national order was no improvement. Given both his antipathy to organized religion and the overwhelmingly Catholic nature of Irish nationalism in the decades after independence, it is perhaps not surprising that Wells was none too impressed with the society that emerged in interwar Ireland. The Picture Post controversy I hammer at my main ideas, and this is an offence to delicate minded people. (Wells 1942, 7) But you are nothing but a scurrilous large-scale pamphleteer, trotting out other rationalists’ hypotheses and discarded scientific junk as the assured conclusions of present-day science. (O’Rahilly 1940, 282)

Comments about Catholicism in general, and Irish Catholicism in particular, overshadowed the central tenets of Wells’s political and social thinking. Yet, from the point of view of many Irish this was precisely the part of Wells’s writing that did interest them. What particularly offended many Irish Catholics was a section in Wells’s 1939 book The Fate of Homo Sapiens. Entitled ‘Christendom’, it was largely an evaluation of the origins, form and effects of the Catholic Church. It concluded with an analysis of the role of Catholicism in Ireland. Wells’s intent was to show the effects of Catholic control on a society. Wells picked Ireland because, he claimed, the Church had been in control for many years (1939, 166; 1942, 97– 98). Perhaps there would have been no controversy if Wells’s book had not been republished twice. In its editions of 4 and 11 November and 9 December 1939,

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Picture Post ran an abridged serialization of The Fate of Homo Sapiens, with the first article including the section on Catholicism and Ireland. The weekly newspaper the Irish Catholic called for Picture Post to be banned, and a similar call was made in letters and articles around the country. In 1942 Wells republished the book, along with his The New World Order, in one volume, under the title The Outlook for Homo Sapiens. The Readers’ Union, a British-based readers’ club, chose it as its book of the month. Amongst the Readers’ Union’s members were the Limerick bookseller Frank O’Mahony4 and some of his friends. They refused to accept the books, and returned them to the Union. The Union responded by threatening to cut off supplies of its books to O’Mahony, charging that this was a good example of the ‘fear of books’ that still existed in Ireland (see Gaughan 1986, 55). In both cases the Irish Catholic position was defended by the academic and publicist Alfred O’Rahilly. After the appearance of Wells’s 1939 articles, the editor of Picture Post had invited the editor of the Irish Catholic to respond, or nominate someone to respond, to Wells. Alfred O’Rahilly was duly nominated by telegram on 16 December. On 22 December, however, the Irish government banned Picture Post for a period of three months, and the editor never got back to O’Rahilly about his reply. As a result, O’Rahilly published them in the Standard instead. Wells had raised the ire of Irish Catholic writers like O’Rahilly by making a number of claims about Catholicism. In addition to this, O’Rahilly makes two further points: that Wells is biased and unscientific, and that he does not understand Ireland. Certainly, Wells’s antipathy to organized religion was a theme throughout his literary career, but it was never certain how deeply this ran. In places he is happy to use Christian imagery and moral principles (e.g. 1998, 598–602; 1945, 13ff; 1935, 71; see also Binns 1919, 78), and in others he even argues for a replacement of the current religious groupings with a secular religion based upon scientific principles (1928, chs 1–2). His views on Catholicism, although usually hostile to the Church itself, were also often equivocal. As late as 1932 Wells was praising the Catholic Church for giving ‘many signs of a lively conscience and a sense of world responsibility’ (1932a, 67). Yet by 1939 his position seemed to have hardened. In The Fate of Homo Sapiens the Jesuits are described as having ‘none of that intimate instruction of the mind from which questionings arise. They were, so to speak, the Nazis of Roman Catholicism’ (1939, 112; 1942, 67). While accepting that the Catholic Church played an important part in civilization, and that it was both tenacious and successful in assimilating ideas, Wells criticized its intellectual core as ‘the most extraordinary jumble of absurdities and incompatibilities that has ever exercised and perplexed the human intelligence’ (1939, 151; 1942, 89; see also 1931a, 28). In essence, Wells’s criticism of Catholicism focused on four main areas. First, he argued that it is an eclectic aggregation of ideas, and that much of the faith (he gives the example of the link between the Virgin Mary and the goddess Isis here) is a development of older pagan ideas. While Wells is not necessarily critical of this ability to adapt, he is critical of the way that Catholicism had

4

O’Mahony’s is still the main bookseller in Limerick.

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evolved into a jumble of incoherent and incompatible ideas, which could only survive by accepting these ideas on faith (1939, 118–21 and 151–55; 1942, 71– 72 and 89–91). This leads to the second criticism. Since its dogmas cannot be sustained intellectually, the Church relies upon a sense of comfort amongst its adherents. From this comes the third point: since this comfort could be threatened by critical reasoning, the Church actively promotes an anti-intellectual stance. This, for Wells, is its greatest crime. Catholic teaching is, in effect, crippling the minds of the young by failing to develop and satisfy a natural intellectual curiosity. ‘In this modern world it is, I hold, second only to murder to starve and cripple the mind of a child’ (1939, 9; 1942, 12). This extends to the clergy, who can have read few books, they can have had no opportunities of thinking freely [. . .] most of them are trying most earnestly to do right by the dim and dwindling oillamps inside their brains [. . .]. Mentally they live in another universe from ours, and the pity is that materially our universes intersect. (1939, 165; 1942, 97)

And here we reach Wells’s fourth point. A common theme throughout Wells’s writings had been the need for education as a means to overcome the irrational beliefs that force the human race into needless wars and conflicts. With technological developments, these wars now threatened the very existence of the human species itself. This was a central theme within The Fate of Homo Sapiens too. Thus, anti-intellectualism in the Catholic Church was not just a crime against its adherents, it was a threat to the rest of the world. In connection with this Wells quotes a recent book by William Teeling (1937). Teeling, for Wells, typifies the Catholic world outlook: ‘He has met and discussed matters [. . .] with the present Pope’, and the book ‘completely ignores the existence of any modern, scientific picture of the world’ (1939, 161; 1942, 94–95). Teeling admires Franco’s Spain, and praises the way that the Nazis have instilled a new sense of communal morality. In addition, he declares that, while he is in favour of a free democracy, if democracy does not lead to a Christian life he would prefer ‘a disciplined body that at least is practising some of the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount’ (quoted in Wells 1939, 162; and 1942, 95). Thus, for Wells, the end point of Catholic anti-intellectualism is the kind of mentality that supports Fascism and war. It is perhaps not surprising that a devout Catholic like O’Rahilly would react strongly to such a view of his faith. To a certain extent, and neither man would have been willing to admit this connection, O’Rahilly shared with Wells a conviction that there was a need for a spiritual selflessness underpinning human society. For O’Rahilly, Catholicism provided this (1940, 236; 267). Given his knowledge of Catholic theology O’Rahilly gives a spirited and informed defence of Catholicism, which is heightened by the fact that (unlike many critics) he had actually bothered to read Wells. O’Rahilly’s responses, published in the Standard between 12 January and 1 March 1940, are full of references not only to the offending Fate of Homo Sapiens, but also to at least twelve other works by Wells that O’Rahilly had read. That aside, however, O’Rahilly’s thunderous literary grandstanding sometimes misses the point, and leaves him open to the same charge of a priori pronouncements that he levels at Wells.

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As a Catholic academic, O’Rahilly is on the firmest ground when he attacks Wells’s view of Catholicism as anti-intellectual. Wells’s claim that Catholics are unaware of the pagan origins of the Mass is refuted by a footnote, in which O’Rahilly mentions five Catholic texts in which this is discussed (1940, 228). O’Rahilly spends much more time exploring Wells’s use of the argument that Catholic views of the Virgin Mary are based on the worship of Isis. Here he also addresses Wells’s point that this accretion of diverse pagan ideas led to an intellectual incoherence in Catholic teaching. While not denying a link, O’Rahilly sharply condemns Wells for being incapable of understanding its nature. Where Wells saw this link as a direct borrowing, O’Rahilly saw it as a mere artistic borrowing in order to better understand a coherent part of Christian teaching. Christian art, in order to get its message across, borrowed from pagan art, so that representations of the Virgin were interpreted through a tradition that owed its origins to the cult of Isis (O’Rahilly 1940, 248). The aggregation of pagan ideas concerned the artistic delivery of Christian ideas, and did not affect the core values of the faith. Turning to the claim of anti-intellectualism, O’Rahilly points out the vast number of Catholic intellectuals, many of whom are themselves priests. As a mathematical physicist himself, O’Rahilly was taken aback by Wells’s placing of science and Catholicism at opposite ends of a spectrum. He highlighted the contributions of Catholic clergymen to the study of anthropology and archaeology (1940, 237–39; 273–74). In all, O’Rahilly makes a good case for science flourishing under Catholicism. His argument is only let down by his own creationism. Unable to accept the concept of biological evolution, he attacked Wells’s science by referring to the ideas of Darwin as ‘discredited’ (1940, 271–72). Although, in this case it was Wells who turned out to be right and O’Rahilly who was wrong, this does not necessarily undermine the force of O’Rahilly’s argument. Indeed, a Catholic priest-anthropologist, the Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin, was in the forefront of the development of Darwinian ideas about human evolution from apes. O’Rahilly’s point stands, that Catholics could be, and indeed were, competent scientists. Turning to Wells’s final point about the negative effect that Catholicism has on world politics, O’Rahilly points out that, far from giving ‘the present Catholic outlook’ (Wells 1939, 160; Wells 1942, 94), William Teeling’s book had been severely criticized in the Catholic press. ‘Does Mr Wells seriously hold,’ he writes, ‘that because an author happens to be a Catholic [. . .] the rest of us are bound to agree with his book?’ (1940, 231). O’Rahilly’s position here is weakened by his support for Franco – an association that demonstrates the weaknesses of his brand of Catholic conservatism – but his general point is a good one. Catholics did not necessarily act in unison, and certainly not all of them were cheerleaders for Fascism. It should be pointed out, however, that Teeling’s travel to promote his ideas was funded by a Catholic newspaper (Wells 1940, 23). Perhaps what might have cut Wells to the quick (although there is no evidence that he ever saw O’Rahilly’s articles in the Standard) is the claim that he was unscientific. Here O’Rahilly makes three related points: that Wells assumes that agreeing with his ideas is the same as being impartial and unbiased; that Wells’s attacks are themselves based on uncritical bias and a priori reasoning;

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and that Wells is trying to re-establish a Christian morality upon the flimsy basis of materialist science: Having ridiculed historical Christianity with coarse buffoonery, he thinks it is the easiest thing in the world to keep the virtues of Christianity without Christ. [. . .] To offer this tenuous concoction [Christian morals without Christianity] as the pseudo-intellectual’s substitute for Christianity is like fobbing off a tiger with a tomato-sandwich. (1940, 281)

Wells’s claim to impartiality is, to a large degree, a feature of late nineteenth and early twentieth-century British liberal writing. The concept of a knowable and rational reality is equally a feature of the writings of Wells’s contemporaries such as Norman Angell, L. T. Hobhouse and H. N. Brailsford. O’Rahilly is not wrong, therefore, in seeing in Wells a strong belief that the facts of an objective science can provide unbiased answers that all can agree on in a rational world. The next claim by O’Rahilly, that Wells’s ideas are based on uncritical bias and a priori reasoning, is unfair for two reasons. First, O’Rahilly is unwilling, or unable, to disentangle two different goals of Wells’s writing. Wells was simultaneously a man of science and a publicist. As a scientist he produced coherent a posteriori arguments (his arguments about the links between modern warfare and the state, for example). As a publicist he was also capable of provoking argument by shooting from the hip. The Fate of Homo Sapiens certainly comes closer to the latter Wells than the former; the book was meant less as a coherently structured argument than as a summary of conclusions that Wells had come to during his career as a writer. Thus, for example, O’Rahilly criticizes Wells in The Fate of Homo Sapiens, for an a priori assumption that support for Franco’s government was bad (1940, 232–33). While Wells gave no reason in Fate why Franco was bad, he had written amply on why Fascism, and extreme forms of nationalism, were wrong. One of these works was available to O’Rahilly in his own library (Wells 1932a). Secondly, O’Rahilly’s criticism of Wells is unfair because O’Rahilly’s own argument is riddled with uncritical bias. He assumes that Wells’s criticism of faith was never based on anything more than his opinion at the age of 22 when he lost his faith (1940, 234); he dismisses the idea that doubt can precede enquiry (1940, 235); and he assumes that Wells rejects as nonsense anything he cannot understand (1940, 245). O’Rahilly criticizes Wells’s ‘Christianity without Christ’ on the grounds that, though Wells has abandoned God, he still behaves as though the morality conditional on a belief in God is valid. Here, perhaps, O’Rahilly underestimates how much Wells had moved away from the contemporary standard view of Christian morality. What Wells wished to stress was the sacrificial element of Christianity, but reformulated in the form of self-sacrifice for the good of the community: ‘The first sentence in the modern creed must be, not “I believe,” but “I give myself”’ (1931a, 33). Rather than being a watered-down form of Christian morality, Wells’s ethics (perhaps unconsciously) contain elements of Christian, Machiavellian and Nietzschean ideas. Although Wells’s comments about Ireland and Irish Catholicism take up no more than two and a quarter pages in The Fate of Homo Sapiens, they raised as much ire in O’Rahilly and other Irish Catholics as the much longer criticism of

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Catholicism itself. While O’Rahilly’s reply to Wells’s view of Catholicism spoke with some authority, his defence of Irish Catholicism is (quite frankly) rude, superficial and unsatisfying. By the 1930s, Wells had become critical of the policies of the new Free State. The continued violence after the 1921 Treaty, and the influence of the Church on state policies, led him to write in 1932 that liberalism in Ireland ‘sits between the priest and the gangster, awaiting its quietus’ (1932a, 22). In The Fate of Homo Sapiens he was more specific. For Wells, Ireland was a good test case of the effects of modern Catholicism because in no other country was the Church as influential and as revered. Perhaps not surprisingly, given his views on education, his biggest criticism of Ireland centres on the censorship regime and the control of education by a conservative Church: A stringent censorship of books and publications and a fairly complete control of education have produced a first crop of young men, as blankly ignorant of the modern world as though they had been born in the thirteenth century, mentally concentrated upon the idea of bringing the Protestant North under Catholic control in the sacred name of national unity. (1939, 166–67; 1942, 98)

This ignorance of the nature of the modern world leads directly to the violence associated with the ‘Irish question’: ‘A people which learns little forgets nothing [. . .] the young men of Ireland learn little and so sustain their tradition that inveterate animosities are dignified and desirable’ (1939, 167; 1942, 98). Thus we return to a central theme in much of Wells’s writings: that the failure of education is at the heart of the problem of modern war and conflict. By its restrictions on learning, the Irish Catholic Church was, from Wells’s point of view, perpetuating violence. O’Rahilly’s response came in two forms. First, he defended censorship, and secondly he criticizes Wells for being British. Irish censorship laws were based on the existing British laws that were still in place at independence in 1921. After the passing of the (largely secular) 1922 constitution, the new government, ‘in deference to Catholic moral values’, prohibited divorce, restricted the sale of alcohol and tightened up the censorship laws (Coakley 1992a, 13). In theory at least, this was not a political censorship. The criterion for banning written material was its immoral character, which meant mostly material of a sexually immoral nature, although works that criticized the clergy could be banned. A board of censors was consulted regularly, and asked to make judgements on extracts of works (which they rarely read within the context of the whole publication) to decide whether or not there was a case for censorship. If there was found to be one it would be made illegal to sell or distribute the banned works, although it was not illegal to own a censored book or periodical, and libraries frequently stocked banned books. The censorship board was not required to explain why a work was banned, and while there was an appeals procedure, it was up to the author, publisher or distributor to make a case for lifting the ban. In practice very few did successfully challenge the ban. O’Rahilly’s defence of censorship rests on his argument that the banned material was ‘a collection of salacious tripe disguised as fiction plus a few items of the Marie Stopes brand [i.e., to do with birth control]’ (1940, 258), and that a

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democratic society did need to limit some of its citizens’ freedoms in order to exist (1940, 259). For O’Rahilly, censorship in Ireland amounted to a ‘tiny segregation of a little pornography’, which he contrasted with the wider wartime censorship in Britain (1940, 262). It was also a matter solely for the civil authority and nothing to do with the Church. Here O’Rahilly is guilty of lying by omission. Irish censorship had already claimed two of Wells’s books,5 as well as works by such great Irish writers as James Joyce and Sean O’Casey. It was not a case of a ‘little pornography’, but many works that are now considered classics. The Irish novelist Francis Hackett, whose book The Green Lion was banned, pointed out how culturally subjective the definitions of indecency were (1936, 8). The civil character of the censorship board, while technically true, cannot hide the fact that the definitions of indecency were a product of the views of the Irish Catholic Church. Probably the best thing that can be said about censorship in Ireland at the time was that it was capricious rather than effective. Banned books were still available if you knew where to look for them, and there was no law against owning the books themselves. Books that were critical of Irish conservative Catholicism were available, and even O’Rahilly’s own library at University College Cork contained copies of The Fate of Homo Sapiens, The Outlook for Homo Sapiens and the equally anti-Vatican Guide to the New World, which likened organized Catholicism unfairly to the Nazi propaganda machine and the Comintern (Wells 1941a, 35). On 22 December 1939, soon after Wells’s articles had appeared, the Irish censorship board banned Picture Post for a period of three months. It was assumed by the editor that they had been banned because of Wells’s articles, when in fact it had been pictures taken inside a night club that had prompted the ban. Here the very secrecy of the Censorship Board led to a misunderstanding about its motives. Not only were Wells’s articles not the source of the ban, but both The Fate of Homo Sapiens and The Outlook for Homo Sapiens remained uncensored and on sale throughout Ireland. O’Rahilly is also guilty of glossing over an important part of Wells’s criticism. Perhaps Wells overemphasized the effect of the civil ban on the availability of printed material in Ireland, but it is certainly true that the Church’s strong control over the education of Catholics extended to keeping out ideas that were considered wrong or harmful. When Wells accused Irish education of producing people ‘as blankly ignorant of the modern world as though they had been born in the thirteenth century’ (1939, 166; 1942, 98), O’Rahilly thought Wells was claiming that young Irish thought like people of the thirteenth century (1940, 264). In fact, Wells’s point was that they knew little of the modern world. Perhaps this cuts to the core of the difference between Wells and O’Rahilly. One sees education as a response to a progressively changing world in which people need to keep up with technological developments if they are to survive. The other sees education as a refinement of eternal truths that are the tried and tested routes to happiness. Church control of education, therefore, was seen as desirable by O’Rahilly. For Irish liberals, like Sean O’Faolain, this led to

5

BB and WWHM.

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a situation in which there was not ‘a single layman’s Catholic periodical to which one could apply the adjective “enquiring” or even “intelligent” [. . .] and [. . .] with [two exceptions] the clerical papers are all trivial’ (1947, 23–24). Throughout his reply to Wells’s views on Ireland, O’Rahilly engages in antiBritish ranting, referring to Wells’s ‘compatriots’ and assuming that a list of British wrongdoing in Ireland for 800 years is a serious refutation of Wells’s views (1940, 249; 263; 265–67; 270; 281). Although he did make reference to Wells’s discussion in The Outline of History, he seems to have conveniently forgotten Wells’s largely anti-Unionist stance in order to use Unionism as a reason for discrediting Wells. O’Rahilly’s rant also conveniently ignores a chapter in The Fate of Homo Sapiens that is almost as long as Wells’s chapter on Catholicism. Chapter 17, entitled ‘The British Oligarchy’, does for the British state and imperialism what the earlier chapter did for Catholicism (1939, 197–211). For O’Rahilly to charge that Wells’s views of Ireland were coloured by his British Imperialist persuasions is unforgivable, given O’Rahilly’s academic standing and qualifications. O’Rahilly also relied on the rather spurious argument that Wells was a supporter of state domination, and therefore had much in common with Nazi thinking. He highlights this by quoting Wells’s use of the term Kulturkampf (O’Rahilly 1940, 265). In a way this could be seen as fair dues given Wells’s unfortunate turn of phrase linking Catholicism to the Nazis; otherwise, it is laughable, since Wells’s opposition to the nation state, sovereignty and totalitarianism is well documented. Even O’Rahilly’s reference to Kulturkampf is misleading. Firstly, the term refers to Bismarck’s period as German Chancellor, not to the Nazis; and secondly the quotation comes from 1929, before the Nazi seizure of power, when Wells gave an address in the Reichstag. Wells uses the term to mean a struggle for education (1932a, 63). The Wells–O’Rahilly conflict in retrospect Although the Picture Post controversy made a certain impact at the time, it would be easy to overstate its importance. Despite the call by many Catholic publications for a ban on Wells’s book, there was little coverage of the controversy in the Irish daily newspapers. Two letters in the Irish Times (one against Wells and one for him) are offset by no mention at all in the larger-distribution Irish Press. The quarterly Dublin Magazine fails to mention the controversy,6 while the more radical Bell (which did not start publication until 1940) only made four brief mentions of Wells: once in reference to his banned works, once quoting Wells’s support for small states, once over the dispute with O’Mahony in Limerick and once quoting him as an example of the kind of intellect that contemporary Ireland was unlikely to produce (see O’Faolain 1943, 182; 1944a,

6

Interestingly, the Dublin Magazine published a glowing obituary on the death of Wells’s sparring partner G. K. Chesterton, but completely ignored the death of Wells.

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473; and 1944b, 376). Irish liberals seem to have taken a neutral stance in this dispute between a foreign cosmopolitan and a conservative countryman. It seems that the whole dispute is now almost completely unknown in Ireland. While it was by far the most dramatic response in Ireland to Wells’s work, it can be likened to a flash of lightning: bright at the time, but localized and starting no permanent fires against the dark. Understandably, time and hindsight have been kinder to Wells than to O’Rahilly. The latter’s support for Franco, his creationism and his defence of the Censorship Board limit his appeal to Irish people today. He still has a building named after him at University College, Cork, and a bas-relief of his profile can be found on the wall of the library. While much of his criticism of Wells is dubious, he is on much firmer ground in defending Catholicism. It is probably fair to say that Wells’s grandstanding on Catholicism is as much a caricature as O’Rahilly’s hyperbole over Wells’s ideas on the state. In the final analysis, O’Rahilly’s responses to Wells’s views on Catholicism and Ireland share more with Wells – in terms of technique and in fears about the current world situation – than either man would probably care to admit. Both were intelligent men engaged in popular writing, and neither was shy of going beyond the bounds of logical argument. Yet, at the same time, both were driven by well-thought-out arguments and world-views. While we can stress the differences in their world-views, what they shared was a sense that there was a problem with the modern world. For O’Rahilly, the problem was that of letting faddish modern ideas undermine the traditions upon which Western civilization was based. For Wells the solution to the problems posed by the modern world was to come up with fresh ideas as the older ones failed. Both were pessimistic about the state of the world in 1939–40, but both found the answer in some form of education. Both were, in this sense, utopians. O’Rahilly’s response was seen by the more conservative Irish Catholics at the time as the definitive response to Wells; it was a defence of a conservative Catholic vision of utopia against a false materialist utopia. There are very few Irish people who would see O’Rahilly’s words that way today. The Church no longer has a special place in the constitution, the censorship legislation is all but gone, and while Church attendance is still high and Church schools still very prominent, the Church’s role in politics has been scaled back. Yet, there is an irony here. The collapse of the conservative Catholic position has not seen the victory of Wells’s notion of utopia. Conservative Catholics before the 1960s sought to justify the political role of the Church through the claim that they were creating a Christian utopia in Ireland, free from the modernist decay found elsewhere. When the last two generations of Irish people revolted against this they also rejected the millennarian utopianism associated with it. In short, Ireland has become a society that is deeply suspicious of utopian thought. Ironically, for students in universities today Wells’s ideas sound too much like the ideas of a discredited militant Catholicism.

18

A Tale of Two Science Fictions: H. G. Wells in France and the Soviet Union George Slusser and Danièle Chatelain

The two ‘fathers’ of French science fiction The problem of the ‘paternity’ of science fiction appears resolvable along national lines: the Anglo-Saxons have Wells, the French have Jules Verne. The matter is complicated, however, by the fact that, in the wake of Verne, France produced neither his literary progeny, nor a generic niche for these ‘children’ of Verne to occupy. It can be argued that Verne’s influence passed instead, through the intermediary of Hugo Gernsback, to the USA where, in 1926, he presided over the founding of Amazing Stories and ‘scientifiction’. Furthermore, though Wells was also present at this founding, it seems that Gernsback’s retrofitting of Verne’s technology-and-adventure formula led to the creation of science fiction’s ‘Golden Age’ in the work of John W. Campbell, Robert Heinlein and others.1 Verne then, not Wells, may be the father of the great mass of American science fiction. It was this same American form that, in the wake of the Second World War, was reintroduced into France as ‘science fiction’, causing French culture, which post-Verne had reformed around its own tradition of surrealism and the fantastic, to redefine its own version of the genre. This meant rejecting Verne. He was the ‘blood’ father, but his association with juvenile adventure made him unworthy of the visionary tradition of a Rimbaud, not to mention the utopian ‘anticipations’ of the French Left. Thus, for a science-fiction genre in search of a patron, if not a father, Wells was available. His scientific romances were widely known. They offered far-sighted visions as opposed to Verne’s myopic ones. They had the political seriousness of lower-middle-class recriminations of capitalist exploitation; good ‘credentials’ for theoreticians dabbling

1

See Slusser 1999 for a discussion of how Gernsback’s editorials altered the sense of the Verne stories he published in Amazing Stories from 1926 to 1930. Gernsback removed the moral governors from Verne stories like ‘Sens dessus dessous’ (‘The Purchase of the North Pole’), and in a sense made him the precursor of American Golden Age writers like Heinlein and Asimov.

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in Marx. Moreover, Wells’s turn from speculation to political and historical commentary would nicely coincide with the mood of the French entre deux guerres, or interwar period. Given this, what is the role of Wells in the post-war reformulation of a ‘new’ French science fiction? Verne or Wells? Fiction reinvents the genre The year 1953 saw the first issue of the digest-sized magazine Fiction, originally intended to be the French-language version of the American Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. The latter, despite its striking ‘space-art’ covers, was already, in its choice of authors, moving away from Campbell’s ‘golden age’ towards the New Wave. True to their source, the first French issues offered, exclusively, translations of American stories. The title Fiction, however (along with genre designations such as ‘l’étrange’2 and ‘l’insolite’3 sprinkled around the cover), reveals the French editors’ desire to create a ‘French space’ in this magazine. This was begun immediately, through the choice of cover art (Jean-Claude Forest rather than Chesley Bonestell). It was brought to term through the creation of an editorial/critical apparatus. The latter’s mission was nothing less than to define a French form of science fiction, in terms of its history, its theoretical and genre considerations, and its standards of taste – in other words, to decide which American writers were worth accepting, and which were to be filtered out.4 One sees how concerted the editors’ programme was in the first issues, where the task was given to Jean-Jacques Bridenne to establish a ‘history’ (in fact, a literary pedigree) for French science fiction. Bridenne’s first articles trace a tradition of ‘anticipation’ back to Cyrano and Voltaire. In Volumes 6 and 7, Bridenne, discussing ‘les à-côtés de l’anticipation’,5 raises the question of the paternity of the modern genre of science fiction. Part I of his article, ‘Jules Verne: Père de la Science-Fiction?’ (Jules Verne: Father of Science Fiction?), offers a tepid defence of Verne, along with some real insights into the nature and limits of his extrapolative reach (1954a). Part II, ‘De Jules Verne à Wells’ (From Jules Verne to Wells), offers a comparison that reveals much about how receptive French culture might be to Wells (1954b). Bridenne suggests Wells may be closer to certain cultural propensities than Verne, despite the latter’s ‘legitimacy’. For if, as he asserts, science fiction and anticipation are synonymous, Verne is not a great anticipator. His extrapolations are always short term, from known devices. Human invisibility as it appears in Le Secret de Wilhelm Storitz (The Secret

2 3 4

5

‘the uncanny’. ‘the bizarre’. See Slusser 1989 for a discussion of the literary and cultural politics of Fiction. The French texts used in this chapter have never been translated into English before; all translations are ours except where otherwise indicated. In the section on Soviet science fiction, below, all texts cited have been previously translated into English and their translators are cited. ‘the side-aspects of extrapolation’.

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of Wilhelm Storitz) is the one exception, but this novel, Bridenne remarks, appeared after the publication of The Invisible Man and was possibly influenced by Wells: ‘he never “anticipated” except on the basis of inventions that had already been conceived and constructed’6 (1954a, 113). For Bridenne, Wells has a much longer reach, one potentially more satisfying in terms of the literary history of anticipations, and ultimately in the history of literature itself. The conventional standards of literature must be the gold standard if Bridenne is to legitimize science fiction, and Wells is the better candidate with whom to claim respectability for the genre. Bridenne strategically sets forth the well-known attitudes of each writer toward the other: on the one hand, Wells’s regret at being seen by posterity as nothing more than the English Jules Verne; on the other, Verne’s reproach that ‘his stories do not rest on a base of true scientific fact. [. . .] I use physics, he invents’7 (1954b, 108). Bridenne’s rhetorical tactic is to invoke, in terms of the science component of ‘science fiction’, the well-respected distinction (patented by Coleridge among others) between ‘fancy’ and ‘imagination’. In the light of this, ‘invention’ is redefined as the ‘higher’ quality, like that of the imagination. Of Wells it can be said that ‘the scientific side of his novelistic work is a means and not an end’8 (Bridenne 1954b, 108; emphasis added). To use Cartesian terms, Verne works in res extensa; his inventions are machines that take people to places, but offer those who ride a narrowly extended range – often less of a range than their vehicle promises, for those in the moon rocket in Autour de la lune (Around the Moon) neither land on the Moon, nor see its dark side. Wells, on the other hand, deals with res cogitans. Not only does Wells address an adult audience, but one that is ‘particularly welleducated’, in the sense of ‘cultivated’, not merely (as with Verne) an audience proficient in technology and science (‘Hence Wells is much more audacious than his supposed French model. Moreover, he addresses grown-ups – and even grown-ups who are particularly well educated’9 [Bridenne 1954b, 108]). For such a rationally formed audience, physics alone, mechanical and material laws, need not limit the horizon. Wells’s extrapolations are especially valuable, for in them the physical world is subject to speculative, even ‘prophetic’ stretchings or extensions: ‘from the scientific point of view, he allows himself bold leaps that risk yielding enormous errors, yet at the same time let him treat as established reality the most astonishing and controversial hypotheses’10 (Bridenne 1954b, 109).

6 7

8 9

10

‘Il n’a jamais anticipé qu’à partir d’inventions déjà realisées’. ‘ses [Wells’s] histoires ne reposent pas sur une vraie base scientifique [. . .] J’utilise la physique, lui, il l’invente’. ‘le côté scientifique de son œuvre romanesque est un moyen et pas une fin’. ‘Aussi Wells est-il autrement audacieux que son prétendu modèle français. Du reste il s’adresse aux grandes personnes – et même à des grandes personnes particulièrement éduquées.’ ‘Du point de vue scientifique, il se permet [. . .] des témérités susceptibles de s’accompagner d’énormes errements et se permet de traiter en réalités assises les hypothèses les plus étonnantes, mais les plus constestables.’

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In the Cartesian tradition, where being is defined by an act of thinking, and thinking is defined by a disciplined method of doubt proper only to the maturing faculty of reason, there is little place for the juvenile audience Verne is seen to address. Thus Bridenne is free to revalorize Wells’s later (‘mature’) career. While Verne ‘imagined things especially in terms of their mechanical nature’, and hence must adhere to a chronology of material and moral progress, ‘Wells rapidly moved from scientific “anticipation” to what is better termed prophecy at the sociological level’11 (1954b, 110; emphasis in the original). This is the world not as it is, but as it could, and should be. At this level, in the face of Pascal’s material ‘infinities’, world becomes an act of mind. Wells’s later career is seen as a maturing, in which he uses more conventional, established forms to lend ‘weight to’, but not displace, the scientific marvels of the earlier romances. At this point, for Wells, ‘satire and a more or less philosophical utopianism gain the upper hand over the scientific marvellous’12 (Bridenne 1954b, 110). Bridenne can thus go against those who see the later Wells as a ‘a didactic novelist and small time reformer’13 (1954b, 110), increasingly ineffectual and futile. On the contrary, this ‘rational’ adult Wells is remarkable precisely for having resisted the twentieth-century tendency, in the wake of the collapse of Vernean technological progress, to see all technology and science as the source of the horrors of war or the chaos of dreams: ‘As a general rule, one can say that Wells was more sensitive to the mysteries of Science than to what it had achieved on the technological level, but he did not use these mysteries, like so many others, simply to terrify us, or to make us engage in futile dreams’14 (Bridenne 1954b, 111). Hence, for his high seriousness, and ability to mature the genre in rational manner, Wells earns the honour of ‘the principal creator of “science fiction” as we more and more have come to understand it’15 (Bridenne 1954b, 111). Wells is seen to span the gap between technology (res extensa) and science; in terms of literature, he stands behind and gives legitimacy to a genre that, by growing to maturity, has moved away from its Vernean source in the ‘scientific marvellous’. By doing so, it becomes a serious contender for establishment approval in a 1950s climate where other movements – the ‘new wave’ cinema, the ‘nouveau roman’16 – were deploying their own theoretical apparatus, in order to fill the intellectual void left by the Second World War. Dominance is awarded to the movement most skilled in anchoring its ‘novelty’ in the cultural mainstream. For this purpose Wells’s profile, as ‘grand-master’ of science fiction, fits these

11

12

13 14

15 16

‘a imaginé surtout en matière mechanique’, ‘Wells est rapidement passé de l’anticipation scientifique à l’anticipation ou plutôt à la prophétie sociologique’. ‘satire et utopisme plus ou moins philosophique prennent le pas sur le merveilleux scientifique’. ‘romancier à thèses et reformateur en chambre’. ‘Ce que l’on peut dire en règle générale, c’est que Wells a été plus sensible aux énigmes de la Science qu’à son acquis, mais ne les a pas utilisées comme d’autres aux seules fins d’horreur ou de rêve.’ ‘principal créateur de la “science-fiction” telle qu’on la conçoit de plus en plus’. ‘New Novel’.

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cultural requirements, and the Cartesian paradigm, better than the more problematic Verne. Why they didn’t kill Wells: the French ‘New Wave’ and the paternity of science fiction Fiction, in a real sense, only redefined a new ‘French’ direction for native science-fiction writers in relation to their American counterparts. It also, from the mid-1960s to the late-1970s, spawned a generation of original and creative French science-fiction writers, who also have praise for Wells. But was Wells anything more than a counter in their game of cultural polemics? Did his work have any tangible influence on the themes and form of this ‘new’ French science fiction? Bernard Blanc, in a highly significant forum of 1978, Pourquoi j’ai tué Jules Verne (Why I killed Jules Verne), again raises the question of the paternity of science fiction. This time, however, the recriminations turn violent. Now the response of Blanc and his peers, speaking for the eco-leftist movement, is parricide, in the figurative, and even literal sense. The latter is the subject of Blanc’s short story, ‘Amiens, mars 1905’ (Amiens, March 1905), which opens the collection. The narrator, very much the rebellious Blanc, tells of travelling back in time to Amiens, to the time of Verne’s actual death, to kill him for the sins of his paternity of a genre that, in becoming juvenile adventure fantasy and nothing more, was robbed of its political potential. Following the story, Blanc calls on his ‘accomplices’ – fellow science-fiction writers of the 1970s such as Michel Jeury, Gérard Klein, Philippe Curval, Pierre Barbet, as well as Jacques Sadoul, editor of J’ai lu (My readings) and the critic Jacques Goimard (formerly of Fiction) – to explain how and why they aided in this parricide. Further panels of writers and critics are summoned to rule upon which other writers, notably Heinlein, should be ‘offed’. Wells plays a significant role in these deliberations. Just what this role is sheds more light on his continuing influence on French science fiction. Blanc’s persona, in ‘Amiens, mars 1905’, reveals that he took a Wells novel with him to the past. He never specifies which one. Indeed, as he chides Verne for launching science fiction down the path of capitalist fantasy, he remains vague: ‘If only you had been a socialist like your pal Wells!’17 (1978, 16). Most likely, however, the novel was The Time Machine. For how did this character get to Amiens in 1905? As with the strange future flowers the Time Traveller brings back to 1895, Blanc’s narrator insists in putting whiskers from Verne’s famous beard in the Wells book he brings, this time from the past, back to his punk present. Blanc’s vagueness as to the title of Wells’s book is perhaps intentional. For it is not a book, but the time machine that has escaped from its covers – the physical vehicle itself and the cross-time mobility it offers – that concerns Blanc, as it does the majority of respondents in his book. In comparison, the vehicles Verne ‘invented’ – balloon, submarine, moon rocket, Robur’s flying

17

‘Et si encore t’avais été socialiste comme ton copain Wells!’

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ship – appear petty-bourgeois to Blanc’s protagonist, who mockingly lists them, one for each spoonful of sugar he forces on the diabetic Verne in order to kill him. The time machine, on the other hand, rather than operating in Verne’s pedestrian realm of mere material extension, offers access to alternative worlds of the mind, like the parricidal fantasy that unfolds in Blanc’s story. Indeed, even though Verne is physically dead and gone, the time machine recaptures a mental space – in this case possible motives for Verne writing (or not writing) what he did – otherwise closed to human incursion. Moreover, this time machine accesses the unconscious mind of the narrator as well, allowing him to play out his own parricidal fantasy. Moving in a particularly French mind-space, Blanc shares this parricide obsession with other French adventurers of the mind, such as Roland Barthes and Jacques Derrida. This collective time machine, it seems, operates in the Eleatic realm of Zeno’s paradox, where mental structures are systematically substituted for the structures of material time, suspending the otherwise inexorable course of ‘before’ and ‘after’. Wells’s time machine bequeaths to future literature (and especially to Blanc and his French contemporaries) a device for bringing about such temporal paradoxes. An example is Ray Bradbury’s ‘A Sound of Thunder’ (1953, 88– 100), to which Blanc alludes. In this story, which concerns a ‘time travelling safari’ to prehistoric times, big game hunters go to the past with impunity, and act out fantasies of killing ‘the big ones’. The only requirement is that they stay on the time band, and do not alter the least thing in the past. The tyrannosaurus they shoot is one that was to die of natural causes; the hunters thus kill it, remove the bullets and leave the past unchanged, enacting an event that had already happened. In Bradbury’s story however, the protagonist Eckels, out of fear, steps an instant off the time band. Later, returning to his present, he discovers he has stepped on a butterfly, and brought it along. Because of this ‘butterfly effect’, the small event reverberates exponentially through aeons of time, and the present to which Eckels returns is slightly, but decisively, changed. Blanc’s narrator, however, is not only master of the Wellsian machine, which he alone controls; he appears as well to have learned from Eckel’s mistake. This time he willingly takes along Verne’s whiskers, another seemingly insignificant detail, but hoping perhaps they can effect another return to a changed present, this time, however, one changed for the better, where the ‘sale virus’18 of bourgeois science fiction is cured, where policy makers do an about-face, and pay attention to the new science fiction by such social utopists as Blanc fancies himself to be. The irony of the tale is thus subtly altered: inside the time machine that takes Blanc to Verne’s mind-space and back we have the book that first created the machine; inside the book is a piece of this same Verne that, now the ‘butterfly’ in the paradox, becomes the means of a possible shift to the opposite sense. The flight from grim reality to fantasy now becomes, thanks to Wells, the means of reversing the equation, of extending the fantasy world to the real one. The rest of Blanc’s book, however, offers no hope of any utopian outcome

18

‘nasty virus’.

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from time travel. Verne’s whiskers, like Wells’s paradoxical flowers, remain an ornament to the futility of changing time and society for the better. Blanc’s trajectory still obeys the inexorable clock set by the going and coming of Mrs Watchett in The Time Machine. She is the housekeeper who shoots across the laboratory ‘like a rocket’ as the Time Traveller sets out, only to be seen exactly retracing her steps as he returns (Wells 1895, 87). Did Wells’s Time Traveller, then, really go anywhere? Or is his tale, as he says, merely a dream conceived in the laboratory, between blinks in his gaze upon Mrs Watchett? Wells invites Blanc to deploy the time machine within such a split second of real time, to see the Time Traveller powerless to act in the physical world. The Time Traveller’s vision may sweep to the end of human time and earth itself, but only to be swept back to the exact space-time location from which it ‘departed’. Here, as with Blanc’s time excursion to Amiens, all that remains afterwards is a sense of powerlessness, for which again there is no solace but in the mind, in living ‘as though it were not so’ (Wells 1895, 152; our emphasis), life transported to the plane of sheltering fantasy. The solipsistic futility of Blanc’s killing of Verne is amplified by writer Gérard Klein’s remarks. Klein is one of a number of writers who, again following the paradigm of The Time Machine, respond to Blanc’s tale of time travel. For Klein, Wells and his time machine offer far more than a feeble socialist antidote to Verne’s poisonous libertarianism. Wells is now a capitalist Mephistopheles, and the time machine his infernal engine. Klein casts Wells in the role of tempter, who uses his machine to enlist Klein’s help in murdering his arch-rival Verne: ‘the truth obliges me to admit that with the help of my friend Herbert George Wells, it was I who killed Jules Verne’19 (Blanc 1978, 25). For Klein the killing of Verne is but another, more recent, pretext for enforcing, by means of the time machine, the terrible closure of space-time created when its author first created and launched the said machine into the world of the imagination. In Klein’s time-machine scenario, Wells comes to him in 1924 – already tying time in knots, as 1924 is ‘several years before my birth in the present universe’20 (Blanc 1978, 26) – and takes him back to 1905, in what becomes in the process, through this confusion of real and imaginary time frames, simply another alternative, possible ‘universe’. The purpose of the trip this time, however, is not to kill the author, physically or virtually. Rather it is to suppress, at an even higher degree of fictionality, Verne’s œuvre réelle.21 But, in these ever-shifting time universes, what might that be? Indeed, Klein proposes to substitute for this ‘real’ opus an alternate set of works which will be indistinguishable from those the reader of today knows as the works of Verne. It would be tempting then to see Wells, through his avatar Klein, as the ‘real’ author of Verne. But time travel solves the authorship problem – in which Blanc believes – only by opening a maze of speculative possibilities, all equally contorted and solipsistic. For if there exists an ‘Ur’-Verne somewhere, what is it like? For Klein, it seems to represent 19

20 21

‘La vérité m’oblige à dire qu’avec l’aide de mon ami Herbert George Wells, j’ai tué Jules Verne.’ ‘quelques années avant ma naissance dans le present univers’. ‘true work’.

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(much as in Blanc’s vision of a utopian present where ‘real’ science fiction displaces its debased bourgeois twin) literature before the Fall according to Marx, the division between material base and ideological superstructure. As science fiction, such an ‘Ur’-Verne is a literature that ‘used up all the themes of science fiction and put an end to the genre’22 (Blanc 1978, 26). Such a literature would be free to be a pure force for social change. Thus, in some alternative twentieth century, this Verne would lead readers to a classless society without engaging them in revolutionary struggle. Revolution, however, is the necessary stuff of dialectical materialism. Blanc had used Wells’s time machine in the hope of killing the bourgeois Verne. Was the result of this ‘killing’, then, the creation of the supposed ‘Ur’-Verne Klein discovers on his voyage to the same spacetime location? If so, then things are out of joint, utopia has come too soon, and without a struggle of the classes. Thus the necessity arises, for Klein, to re-erase the utopian Verne, to substitute in its place a work that is ‘affadie’,23 lacking ‘toute vue prophétique’.24 Wellsian time travel, then, offers these French writers the paradox of impotent omnipotence. We can kill Verne over and over, but we inevitably return to where we began: for Klein as for Blanc, Verne remains the father of bourgeois science fiction, a literature that, itself, erases with each utterance its own potential of effecting social change, systematically destroying ‘at the end of each work the scientific wonder that constituted its reason for existing’25 (Blanc 1978, 26). Klein’s scenario, however, is an analysis of the perils of the apparent freedoms of the mental time machine. The Wells he posits is a diabolical tempter, and the machine an infernal one, that traps writers of speculative fiction in endless labyrinths of the mind, thus preventing them from using ‘scientific marvels’ in an effective, materialist manner, as a means of altering the course of human history. The logic of such ‘Wellsian’ time travel for Klein is ultimately solipsistic and sophistic. Blanc kills what has already been killed. He transports Verne’s whiskers in Wells’s book, only to discover that no physical reality has been altered, the whole drama of desire and parricide remains a Cartesian fantasy, where all the mental effort in the world has little or no possibility of affecting the extended world. Klein can claim there is an ‘Ur’-Verne; but the time machine vanishes with the voyage, and we have no tangible proof in our time of such a work; all we know is the Verne we read, name and text inseparable. Compared to Blanc’s more harmless solipsism, Klein’s has ominous overtones, not only of a fall, but of an ongoing and deepening fall, one brought about by repeated acts of time travelling, the ease with which time machines can be summoned, used and misused within the space of the mind. In this mind-space, Klein invents a drama of parricide and substitution that must end, as all such ‘worlds’ do, by looping back on itself and cancelling its vision, leaving things as they were in the first place. If, for example, we imagine the world of Verne’s

22 23 24 25

‘épuisait tous les thèmes de la science-fiction et mettait un point final au genre’. ‘watered down’. ‘any prophetic vision whatsoever’. ‘à la fin de chaque œuvre la merveille scientifique qui en constituait le prétexte’.

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‘original’ work as one where society is not subordinated to ideology, then in that world ‘Verne’s’ science fiction would unleash on the twentieth century ‘a series of tyrannies, massacres, and cataclysms that any serious humanist would wish to prevent’26 (Blanc 1978, 26). But in thwarting this process, such a humanist (and who would not be one?) only ensures that we return exactly to where we began: to a world where literature is ‘more or less powerless to change society’27 (Blanc 1978, 26). Wells’s machine attempts, by offering endless freedom, to change time. To use it, however, is to affirm our absolute inability to do so. And to affirm it over and over. For Klein, in his scenario, is caught in an endless loop. The ‘original’ Verne is forever accessible by time travel, and at the same time forever incommunicable. If you go to the past you wish for, and find it to be true (the ‘Ur’-Verne), then you must change it back to what it was, or you cannot return to your present. It is Tantalus’s torture, where you constantly reach for the ideal in time, and it constantly eludes your grasp. Time travel under Wells’s patronage, as Klein sees it, is both futile and necessary, the carcereal perpetual motion of an activated sophism. Indeed, it is this vision that informs Klein’s novel of the same period, Les Seigneurs de la guerre (The Overlords of War) (1971). In this classic work of French time travel, freedom through time displacement to ‘erase’ the wars of history leads to increasing affirmation of temporal inflexibility. To play the game is to discover both the rigidity of the board and the ever-increasing contraction of possible moves. Wells as devil: the time machine and Cartesian time travel Rousseau’s famous dictum, that ‘everywhere man is born free and everywhere he is in chains’28 (1963, 50), could stand as epigraph for French science-fiction writers’ reading of Wells’s The Time Machine, the work that most struck them. Bridenne characterized Wells the anticipator as a visionary; we must see this in Rimbaud’s sense of voyant: the one who divines other, alternative worlds behind the façade of our familiar material world. Wells’s time machine both incarnates Rousseau’s sense of the human condition, and offers a means of operating within these strictures. For while Wells’s protagonist travels in time, specifically along a fourth dimension of consciousness, he does not move in space – a stationary condition measured both by calculating how far the Morlocks moved the machine, and by Mrs Watchett’s exact inversion of steps upon the Time Traveller’s return. The time machine thus becomes – in terms of Descartes’ method of locating mind (in the ontological sense) through the act of isolating it – a mind machine, a device that operates on the level of imagination, within the static confines of the human brain. Where to Hamlet the mind-matter split is a restriction – to count oneself king of infinite space while bounded in a

26

27 28

‘une succession de tyrannies, de massacres, de cataclysms qu’un humaniste convaincu ne pouvait que désirer empêcher’. ‘à peu près impuissante à changer la société’ . ‘L’homme est né libre, et partout il est dans les fers.’

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nutshell – the French tradition offers examples in which mind-space becomes a positive realm of activity in the face of material isolation. Such is Pascal’s ‘roseau pensant’,29 where humans are at once the feeblest thing in nature and the only thing that thinks. Reconceived within this tradition, the time machine offers a means of expanding this mind-space. In fact, within this mind-realm, the machine renews the possibility of a ‘pineal gland’, or interface between mind and material extension. The tendency, in French science fiction, is to interiorize science and adventure rather than project them in Verne’s material world.30 Trapped in this internal time-scape, the French time traveller seeks contact with the outside. But here Pascal’s ‘contrariété’31 seems to guard the gate. For by some odd rule of inverse proportionality, the farther the time traveller seeks to go, the more his field of activity (in terms even of the skull that bounds the brain that traps the mind) appears to contract. Wells the ‘inventor’ of the time machine appears, in this context, the servant of Pascal’s perverse God, who lowers mankind when he would raise himself, and vice versa, until he, mired in paradox, comes to understand himself as an incomprehensible monster. One striking example will demonstrate how French science fiction’s appropriation of Wells’s machine transforms time travel narratives, both in the realm of the infinitely large and the infinitely small. Kurt Steiner’s Le Disque rayé (The Scratched Record) (1970) reads as if it were The Time Machine written from the point of view not of the Time Traveller in his travels, but of a traveller trapped in the interval between 10 am on Friday morning and the 7 pm dinner that night. His physical existence, and the entire narrative that tells it, is ultimately condensed to the unmovable point inscribed by the exact reversal of Mrs Watchett’s time trajectory. Steiner’s narrative begins where the Time Traveller’s story ends, with Matt Woods, a physicist from 1970, in a world of ruined structures and entropic life forms, at the seeming end of Earth’s time. Inexplicably, he finds a revolver in his hand, with one bullet missing, and a strange object in his pocket. Assailed by creatures similar to the flopping bivalves of Wells’s entropic beach, he fires shots. The shots, somehow in conjunction with the object in his pocket, transport him through time, to an alternative universe. Here he finds a world that is repressive and totalitarian; there are skirmishes, he fires another shot, and is again dislocated in space-time. This time, however, he sustains a leg wound in the process; what is more, he loses the object. Instead, he now carries papers containing advanced scientific materials. World three is a utopia, whose every function, social and physical, is regulated by a central

29

30

31

‘thinking reed’ (‘Man is but a reed, the feeblest thing in nature; but he is a thinking reed’ [‘L’homme n’est qu’un roseau, le plus faible de la nature; mais c’est un roseau pensant’], Pascal 1926, 488). For further discussion of this French tendency to interiorize space adventure and alien encounter, see Chatelain and Slusser 2000. The modern use of this word means ‘vexation’ or ‘annoyance’ as a result of being countered or opposed. Pascal’s use is much the same: ‘All the vexations, that most seemed to move me away from knowledge of religion, are rather that which has led me to the true religion’ (‘Toutes les contrariétés, qui semblaient le plus m’éloigner de la religion, est ce qui m’a le plus tôt conduit à la veritable’) (1926, 546).

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computer – the Plani. The Plani, a ‘mathematical entity made matter’32 (Steiner 1970, 139), is an artificial intelligence become sentient, whose control of every aspect of existence is absolute, for it extends to time and space as well. Matt penetrates the Plani as part of a rebel movement. He discovers inside this Alephlike entity a row of objects exactly like the one he found in his pocket at the beginning. He snatches one, police enter, he fires his last bullet, and is transported back to 1970 to the space-time location where his travels began. The first shot propelled him to the end of Wells’s trajectory. Successive ones bring him, first to a Morlock world, then to an Eloi one; the final jump is to the point of departure. But not exactly. Like the Time Traveller, Matt bears the marks of biological time, those of the days of his inter-dimensional voyage. Returning to the departure point an ‘older’ man, exhausted and wounded (likewise, the Time Traveller contracted a limp), he encounters himself, but as a ‘younger’ version – the mirroring figure named Matthews Wood, who returns to his apartment to find Matt in his bathtub. If Wells’s Time Traveller does not meet his time double, it is easy to imagine that he could have. We need only hypothesize that, similarly to Mrs Watchett, he exactly retraces his temporal trajectory, arriving at 10 am, but not colliding with himself because he has aged biologically during his time travel. In Steiner’s novel, Matthews and Matt do, indeed must, meet. They realize their mutual quandary and discuss how to break the inevitable time loop, which if unaltered will endlessly project Matthews as Matt through the same cycle of worlds, leaving the wounded Matt to die in the present and thus fulfilling the evidence of the commemorative statue – ‘Matthews Wood, 1934– 1970. Brilliant physicist who discovered the law of interaction of Space-TimeGravitation’33 (Steiner 1970, 100) – that Matt found in the world of the Plani. Matt reasons correctly that ‘the Plani only exists if I divulge its existence, or at the least, the knowledge that underlies its existence’34 (Steiner 1970, 147). By this he means the knowledge contained in the scientific papers that he picked up in world two, brought back to 1970, and must now bring to light as this will lead to breakthroughs in science which must result in the creation of the Plani in world three, a neat Cartesian circle. Matthews then takes this reasoning further: ‘we are the victim of a sophism made reality’35 (Steiner 1970, 147). A sophism is a circular argument from a foregone conclusion. In its circularity, it is no longer what Robert Crossley calls the ‘beautiful lie’ of Wells’s Time Traveller, a narrative that (like the time machine itself) is ‘beautifully made’, a story the reader can stand back from and, despite its grim implications, enjoy as a construct in and for itself (Crossley 2001, 15). On the contrary, Steiner’s narrator cannot detach from the story; it contains and traps his existence, the sophism

32 33

34

35

‘d’être mathématique concrétisé’ . ‘Matthews Wood, 1934–1970. Physicien genial qui découvrit la loi d’interaction EspaceTemps-Gravitation.’ ‘la Plani n’existe que si je divulge son existence, ou, du moins, les connaissances qu’il suppose’. ‘Nous sommes la victime d’un sophisme réalisé.’

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made real that becomes his existence, over and over to the end of time. It becomes clear that the Plani is a time machine that functions not on a single chronological axis of past-present-future, as in what Wells calls the ‘Universe Rigid’,36 but, rather, it forms the central locus in a vast web of multidimensional space-time, and as such is a simulacrum of Cartesian mind-space. Like the Cartesian mind, however great the Plani’s reach, it proves to be dependent on (indeed contained in) the bodily existence and destiny of Matthews Wood and Matt Woods, time twins with neatly chiastic names. Immobilized in space-time by the Plani, Wood(s)’ ‘travels’ inscribe a hellish loop, a huis clos37 from which there is no escape back into linear time – Wells’s Time Traveller doomed to repeat his terrifying journey for ever. More hellish yet, it is this endless looping through a multi-dimensionality far more complex than what Wells dreamed of, that generates and sustains the spatio-temporal structure of the Plani. The Plani is a mind universe that proves all-pervasive. At the same time, however, it remains totally dependent for its existence upon the single body of Matthews-Matt, and a small amplitude of physical time in 1970. This amplitude is the brief interval, like that between the departure and return of Wells’s Time Traveller on a single Friday afternoon, in which a single destiny, divided in time into two conscious entities, seeks to escape from the realized sophism, only to realize that escape does nothing more than confirm the absoluteness of the structure. Matthews sees that Matt must kill him to break the loop. Matt realizes that, were he to defend himself and kill Matthews, he would kill his earlier self, thus cease to exist. Yet to stay in 1970 with his incurable wound is to die as well, to meet the rendezvous with the dated statue. Matthews, who is ‘younger’ and as yet unwounded, surmises that he need only avoid being killed in order to defeat destiny. So when the wounded Matt finally falls asleep, he removes the strange object from his pocket, as well as the empty gun. He mails the scientific papers to the Institute of Physics, then loads the gun to keep Matt at bay. Yet these are all steps the Plani has planned as well: there is a scuffle, Matt turns the gun on Matthews, a stray shot wounds him, and with object in pocket he is propelled, as younger self who has now reinvested the eternal instant of departure, on the same journey that we have already read. Matt remains to die in 1970. One might say that Wells’s Time Traveller also lives a sophism. For he has seen the end, and his telling the story of that end obliges all who hear to live ‘as though it were not so’ (Wells 1895, 152; our emphasis). But the knowledge is not circular. The Time Traveller may know he cannot change time, future or past. Yet there remains the stretch of time, and with it the power and pleasure of travel itself. The Time Traveller becomes a tourist as he leaves the second time, not to return, with camera and knapsack. This is an act of existential defiance, beyond futility. For Steiner’s protagonist, however, travel in time proves a mind-forged prison, a hellish reworking of the implications of the

36

37

Wells’s version of the Block Universe concept is expounded in a paper he wrote in 1891, ‘The Universe Rigid’. J. R. Hammond recounts that Frank Harris, editor of the Fortnightly Review ‘declined “The Universe Rigid”’ (1999, 17). ‘in camera’, ‘closed chambers’.

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Watchett loop. From the possibility that the Time Traveller could have met another version of himself around 10 am that morning, it is easy to imagine time as a mind-game, a Moebius band upon which there is no beginning or end, no cause or effect, but sheer perpetual motion that sustains the mind at a fixed point, rejecting and recuperating simultaneously its body in a manner that minimizes entropy: time travel as scratched record. The second invasion from Mars: Wellsian intertextuality in the work of the Strugatsky brothers Science fiction as genre in France is a product of the post-Second World War era, as it is in the Soviet Union. By that time, however, the strong cultural dynamic of Cartesian dualism had already operated on Wells, sifting out problems of prophecy and social activism raised by his other scientific romances, and putting the focus squarely on time travel, specifically on the internalized, solipsistic universes to which Wells’s time machine gives access. In the Soviet context, post-Stalin science fiction is dominated by the work of Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, writers who have as strong a role in defining Soviet science fiction of the ‘thaw’ as Heinlein does for post-war American science fiction. The Strugatskys’ output is large, and spans a period from the mid-1950s to the late1980s. Their span, like that of Heinlein, encompasses juvenile science fiction at one extreme and challenging adult works, with darker implications, at the other. In all of their work, however, there is an abiding fascination with a particular aspect of Wells – alien invasion – and beneath this, at various levels of reference, a single work, The War of the Worlds. Just as time, mind and location are primary concerns of Cartesian culture, alien invasion is a theme of primordial interest to Russian/Soviet writers in a culture so frequently invaded. This is especially true of the Strugatskys’ post-war generation. Indeed, their canon is rife with flashbacks to scenes of the Nazi invasion, with numerous mentions of futile cavalry charges against the iron juggernaut of German tanks, scenes reminiscent of human assaults against impregnable Martian weapons in Wells’s novel. In the eyes of the Russians, however – resigned to repeated incursions to the heart of its land and culture – is the social disruption invasion brings. Marxist doctrine promises the perfectibility of humanity through the march of dialectical materialism, and thus the possibility of a utopian future; Wells’s Martian invasion, in its impact on human beings in terms of cowardice or futile heroism, relocates the problem of human nature. Seen through Russian eyes, The War of the Worlds appears to present an anatomy of failings and (in mitigated fashion) qualities as human beings are subjected to unbearable external pressure which tests the ultimate limits of their capacity to resist, and finally endure, until bare survival becomes the sole hope for any future. Wells’s novel shows the responses of a cross-section of ‘average’ humans to Martian invasion. In doing so, it exposes the institutional and cultural complacency that may, in some way, be responsible for summoning this invasion. The Strugatskys most openly engage with Wells’s novel and theme on a satirical level in their ‘rewrite’ Vtoroe nashestvie marsian (The Second Invasion from

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Mars) (1968; trans. 1974). Wells’s portrait of a smug and secure England at the turn of the century is transposed to a conventionally Russian setting, a ‘village of fools’ that Stephen Potts rightly sees as ‘an updated version of the settings of much nineteenth-century Russian literature’ (1991, 61) absurdly camouflaged with names from Greek mythology. This ‘sequel’ to Wells’s novel is also told by a narrator/witness/actor, a consummately obtuse and unobservant figure named Phoebus Apollo. Around him are other aptly named figures such as the septic tank cleaner, Minotaur, and a policeman named Polyphemus (a reference to Wells’s ‘The Country of the Blind’?). Wells’s narrator, in retrospect, has learned enough to chide his readers for not seeing signs of impending invasion: ‘Men like Schiaparelli watched the red planet [. . .] but failed to interpret the fluctuating appearances of the markings they mapped so well’ (1898, 13). Apollo, however, like the majority of his peers, never realizes there has been an invasion, for throughout the story the Martians encourage them to go about their business as usual – the petty routine of petty lives. The Strugatskys’ Martians, in their second invasion, have learned, then, from past mistakes. And what they have learned is human nature – the fact that humans, when nudged in the right direction, will defeat and enslave themselves without external coercion. Their method here is covert, a thoroughly modern form of co-option through misinformation and propaganda. Apollo, a pensioner and stamp collector, goes blindly about his business, mechanically recording facts. In these, the reader gradually sees the nature and extent of the takeover. Articles appear in the newspaper contradicting scientific evidence that there is no life on Mars. Patriotic calls are issued, inciting all citizens to keep their gastric juices healthy for the greater good. Local wheat crops are mysteriously replaced by a blue variety, touted as excellent for digestion. Then strange men in tightfitting suits appear in the streets. They quietly ‘eliminate’ corrupt local officials, and set up stations where citizens can sell healthy stomach juices for hard currency. Wells’s vampire-Martians, who injected themselves with human blood, have become profiteers who, to the profit of some humans, farm others for a needed product: human stomach juice. The narrator Apollo is so busy milking the system for his own benefit that he never realizes that the Martians are literally milking him and his fellow citizens. In a sense this new regime, with its polite but efficient secret police, has replaced the old Soviet black market with a free market, which boosts the economy as farmers begin to make profits from blue wheat. In the name of stability (and increased personal gain) Apollo accepts the new dispensation, and takes to drinking blue beer as if nothing has happened. In Wells’s The War of the Worlds, however, there may be a positive, progressive lesson to be learned from the invasion and the human response to it. If the humans fail the test, nevertheless the narrator in the end sees men’s views ‘broadened’. As they can no longer live in smug isolation, humans are forced to take a speculative, indeed ‘dialectical’ view of the future: ‘If the Martians can reach Venus, there is no need to suppose that the thing is impossible for men [. . .]. It may be, on the other hand, that the destruction of the Martians is only a reprieve. To them, and not to us, perhaps, is the future ordained’ (Wells 1898, 189). In the Strugatskys’ second invasion, however, there are a few humans who

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notice and learn. One of these is Apollo’s rebellious son-in-law, Charon. The story ends with a dialogue between the two. Charon sees the town’s capitulation to Martian economics as stifling what he considers the basic human need for hard work, and thus for science and progress. His description of the invaders offers, in curious fashion, a Marxist counterpart to Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters or the film Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Siegel 1951). In the latter, the ‘slugs’ or ‘pods’ are vampiric invaders from outer space. They physically take over the human host, and rob it of its individual identity; these latter become ‘units’, easily shaped into a collective entity which enjoys a less stressful life (there is no competition), but at the expense of the creative drive that defines the human. To Heinlein, this ‘classless society’ by duress is the clear mirror of Soviet socialist designs on free enterprise. The Strugatskys see just the opposite. In their scenario, the Martians impose the free market by duress, and in doing so create freemarket inequalities. Now it is rampant individualism, not collectivism, that leads society to satiety and inertia. It is the opiate of material plenty that suppresses the need to struggle for a more ideal human world, attacking at the core the idea of useful work – work not as a mere means to comfort, but rather as an end in itself, the defining element in human existence. Wells’s The War of the Worlds is, like the Strugatskys’ novel, a world of small shopkeepers who will make any compromise necessary to maintain the ‘stability’ Apollo and his comrades crave. But it is also the world of the Artilleryman, the self-proclaimed leader and ‘revolutionary’ whose imagined rise to power is driven by class hatred, and, as such, offers little more than a new redistribution of haves and have-nots. Between these extremes, and in dialectical relation to them, the Strugatskys place Charon’s counter-vision of meaningful labour toward universal human progress. This idea, thoroughly Marxist, informs the Russian work as early as the story cycle Polden’ XXII vek (Noon: Twenty-Second Century) (1962), where the prime value remains productive work, even in the comfort and ease of a classless twenty-second century. When work no longer has such value, we have the world of the ‘land of boobs’ in the novel Khishchnye veshchi veka (The Final Circle of Paradise) (1965), where a ‘utopian’ future of unbridled search for private pleasures yields a world (like that the capitalist Martian invaders bring) of gangsterism, deep social inequalities and terminal ennui. Later Strugatsky novels do not, like The Second Invasion from Mars, make overt mention of Wells or of The War of the Worlds. There remains, however, a strong current of intertextual reference to Wells’s novel and its alien invasion theme in which both novel and theme become pretexts for in-depth analysis of the human potential for moral progress. We remember the survivor-narrator at the end of Wells’s novel, as he ponders the possible benefits of a Martian invasion that only our ecosystem could defeat when human actions could not. In the light of the human failings he has just witnessed, his new utopian vision of a ‘commonweal of mankind’ (Wells 1898, 188) that will take these ‘gifts’ to human science and use them to carry that vision to other worlds, is tinged with irony, as but one more example of blindness to the problem of human nature. The Strugatskys, again with bitter irony, put the narrator’s program into action in the novel Trudno byt’ bogom (Hard to Be a God) (1964). As it plays out, we see they have not forgotten the deeper Wellsian sense of unregenerate human nature that underlies this wishful vision of high moral progress. Anton, a

Wells in France and the Soviet Union

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scientist from the Institute of Experimental History, is part of a team sent to the planet Arkanar, on which a human society has reached the stage of our late Middle Ages. In this case, the invaders are no longer bellicose Martians, but the progressive humans envisaged by Wells’s narrator, armed with their utopian ideology and superior science, who come with the ‘good’ intention of helping Arkanarian society to leapfrog the bloody period of capitalist class struggle and pass directly to a state of socialist equality. In an ironic parallel, however, just as Martian ‘intentions’ were not known to humanity, so those of these ‘peaceful’ future humans are misunderstood and unwelcome on Arkanar. In Wells, Earth greets the Martian ships with cordons, cannons and soldiers. Anton’s intentions on Arkanar (closer to those of Klaatu in The Day the Earth Stood Still (Wise 1951), yet still well within the Wellsian trope of the invader as mirror of the invaded) also encounter misunderstanding and defensive hostility. This provokes Anton until, finally, the Martian emerges from beneath the veneer of super-civilized human and he explodes in deadly violence. Wells’s invaders may be violent. Their acts, however, summon in turn the violence innate in ‘human nature’ that lies beneath the manners of the average Englishman – a destructiveness the Martians themselves only raise to a higher power. Indeed, the optimism of Wells’s narrator is short-lived. Likewise, following Anton’s optimistic arrival and subsequent alienation from this world he has come to ‘better’, he returns to revisit the idyllic moment of the prologue, a stroll that he and other young future invaders of Arkanar took in an Earth forest before leaving for space. At that time, he ignored the implications of his discovery of the skeleton of a German machine gunner, chained at the end of a forest road. After Arkanar, Anton again goes up the same road, but this time alone. He now sees this road as ‘anisotropic’, the one-way road of history, whose end like its beginning is marked by human violence. It is a path from which no one returns, except like Anton as a shade, powerless to change the terrors that lurk behind all promises of technological progress. Wells’s narrator has a similar final vision: ‘I sit in my study writing by lamplight [. . .] and feel the house behind and about me empty and desolate. I go out into the Byfleet Road [. . .] and I hurry again with the artilleryman through the hot, brooding silence. Of a night I see the black powder darkening the silent streets, and the contorted bodies shrouded in that layer’ (1898, 189). This dark vision of the work of unregenerate human nature, which serves as a strong counter-current to his, and to Anton’s, hopes for a utopian future, becomes openly pervasive in the Strugatskys’ 1971 novel Obitaemyi ostrov38 (Prisoners of Power). Here, in a work that conflates Robinson Crusoe with a vision as bleak as Wells’s The Island of Doctor Moreau, ‘advanced’ socialist humans once again invade a less advanced world in order to change the course of its history, only to discover that humans are already there, and destroying the place in a manner that brings our supposedly rational and moral future to rediscover its barbaric past (and beyond that, the endless present of

38

Although published as Prisoners of Power, the literal translation of the title of this novel is ‘Inhabited Island’; it is important to know this if one is to understand the Crusoe subtext.

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unredeemed human nature). Once again, extraordinary circumstances – future beings with superhuman powers locked in struggle with an entire planet at war – yield the endless banality of self-destructive human nature. The deeply Wellsian vision of this powerful novel is strongly at odds with Soviet ideology. In two other mature novels, the alien-invasion theme is skewed away from scenes of destruction towards what is the underlying emphasis of Wells’s The War of the Worlds: human bumbling and venality in the face of incomprehensible actions and motives. In Gadkie lebedi (Ugly Swans) (1972), endless rain descends on a provincial (obviously Russian) town; strange leper-like ‘rain men’ suddenly appear and engage in philosophical discussions with decadent townsmen, further depressed by the dreary weather. Their ‘dialectic’ seduces the town children and, like the Pied Piper, they lead the children away from their parents towards a new utopian dawning. This latter appears in Tolstoyan fashion at the end of the novel, as bright sunshine bursts through the clouds, and the children appear all clad in white. The real focus of the narrative, however, is Victor Banev, a writer and war hero with a record of futile cavalry charges against German tanks, who seeks with all his clearly human failings to negotiate this new ideological invasion, against which his writings and example prove equally ineffectual. The Strugatskys have superimposed over Wells’s narrator the classic ‘unruly’ Russian hero, struggling with the contradictory aspects of his nature. As Wells’s novel places the emphasis on the human middle, not on the extremes of microbes or Martians, so here, where neither the rain men nor the children of the new utopian dispensation attract the readers’ interest, Victor’s all-toohuman blustering and altruistic folly gain our sympathy. Children and rain men are ‘ugly swans’, compounds of paradoxical extremes; Victor is the ugly duckling who holds the centre. Another novel of 1972, Piknik na obochine (Roadside Picnic), offers an alien invasion so elusive in nature that it places the entire burden of what is happening on the human inability to understand or utilize the ‘gifts’ the invasion supposedly brings. A ‘zone’ suddenly appears in the midst of an unidentified (but quite clearly Russian) place on Earth. The zone harbours a series of inexplicable, and generally dangerous objects. A cynical scientist, Vladimir Pilman, offers a tongue-in-cheek surmise: that indifferent aliens, passing through on the way somewhere else, stopped for a picnic and left litter behind. To Pilman, any ‘hostile Martians’ theory is merely the stuff of bad science fiction. The Strugatskys tweak Wells here. But the action of their novel clearly focuses, as with Wells, on the inadequacy of human reactions to the alien event. Pilman, in a parody of Wells’s narrator’s list of ‘benefits’ from the alien visitation, rattles off a list of ‘leaps forward’ in science: ‘At least we’re using some things – the “so-sos” and the bracelets to stimulate life processes. And the various types of quasibiological masses, which have created a revolution in medicine’ (1977, 111). But, because we do not understand the function of these objects, we invariably misuse them: ‘I am positive that in the vast majori