Category: Dystopia

Petra Hůlová: Stručné dějiny Hnutí (The Movement)

The latest addition to my website is Petra Hůlová‘s Stručné dějiny Hnutí (The Movement). This is a feminist dystopian novel. In this New World, men are sent to a institute – in some cases voluntarily but often at the instigation of their spouses or even simply snatched from the streets, where they are retrained – often fairly harshly – to think of women as people and not as bodies. The training includes masturbating to pictures of ugly older woman and having sex with them. The story is told by Věra, a guard at one of the institutes who seems a lot of her time looking at and handling penises. Once she gets away from the city on a tour, she finds it is women rather than men who are of the most resistant. The book seemed as much a manifesto against men’s view of women as a novel but Hůlová makes her point about the objectification of women and excess pornography.

Sheng Keyi: 死亡賦格 (Death Fugue)

The latest addition to my website is Sheng Keyi‘s 死亡賦格 (Death Fugue). The novel is set in two fictitious countries – Dayang, clearly based on modern China, and Swan Valley, a seemingly idyllic country that becomes a sort of Brave New World. Our hero Mengliu was a successful poet and got involved in demonstrations against the authorities, prompted by the mysterious appearance of a huge pile of excrement in the main square, whose source the authorities tried to conceal. Eventually, the authorities crack down. Mengliu’s girlfriend,Qizi disappears and he becomes a surgeon but continues to look for Qizi, ending up in Swan Valley and seemingly unable to escape. This is a superb dystopian novel,complex and very well thought-out.

Llorenç Villalonga: Andrea Víctrix (Andrea Víctrix)

The latest addition to my website is Llorenç Villalonga‘s Andrea Víctrix (Andrea Víctrix). This is a dystopian novel set in Palma de Mallorca but now called Turclub. Our unnamed narrator has himself frozen, aged sixty, in 1965 and wakes up in 2050, aged thirty. The first person he meets is the eponymous Andrea Victrix who, like most of the people there is androgynous. not least because, à la Brave New World, there is no more viviparous reproduction. It is all done in a laboratory. The US and Russia have destroyed one another and China is gone so the United States of Europe rules. Big business dominates and buying stuff you do not need is almost compulsory. Our hero and Andrea become close while (s)he tries to convert him to the new ways. However, our narrator and other unfrozen people and a 120 year old psychiatrist try to oppose it. When the economy really starts falling, things get problematical. While this is an excellent novel, Villalonga, through his characters, puts the various arguments for and against the new world (he is against) in a detailed but by no means off-putting manner. Another excellent book from Fum d’Estampa.

Juan Cárdenas: Ornamento (Ornamental)

The latest addition to my website is Juan CárdenasOrnamento (Ornamental). This is another dystopian novel from Latin America, this one from Colombia. Our unnamed narrator is testing a new drug on four women (it only works on women) and while three sleep through the test but later report a pleasurable sensation, one, known only as no 4, remains awake and talks throughout. Her ramblings, about her rebuilt mother, her son, her father and stepfather and others topics, will continue to interrupt throughout the book. Our narrator is married to a not very talented but highly successful cocaine-sniffing artist and No 4 is brought into the relationship. Indeed, our dilatory narrator had considered leaving his wife for her. It is all ornamentation, “good taste”, cheap thrills. This is what the world is coming to.

Sara Mesa: Cuatro por cuatro (Four by Four)

The latest addition to my website is Sara Mesa‘s Cuatro por cuatro (Four by Four). This is a somewhat chilling novel. Most of the action takes place in Wybrany College, a mixed-sex boarding school, presumably in Spain. Most of the students come from rich families, though there are some poorer students on scholarships or children of the staff. The college is geographically isolated, as the rest of region seems to be suffering from a breakdown in law and order and environmental problems. Though the school is meant to be a haven, it gradually becomes apparent that something is wrong. Celia, the narrator of the first part of the book, and the assistant headmaster disappear, no-one knows why. In the second part, narrated by a new substitute teacher, Isidro, it gets worse with more disappearances and deaths and strange goings-on and not just in the school. Mesa cleverly builds up the tension, showing a world slowly falling apart but with people unsure of the cause and unable to deal with it.

Ignácio de Loyola Brandão: Não verás país nenhum (And Still the Earth)

The latest addition to my website is Ignácio de Loyola Brandão‘s Não verás país nenhum (And Still the Earth). This is the classic Brazilian dystopian novel, published in 1981 (when the military junta was in power) and referencing both the then current situation in Brazil as well as the elements we are now more concerned about such as climate change, global warming, species extinction, desertification, drought and serious levels of pollution. Overpopulation, corruption, rich vs poor, arbitrary power, high levels of crime and lots of random violence are also an issue. We follow the story of Souza ,a former history professor who lost his job and who simply tries to survive, while wondering what is going on, with everything getting worse by the day, both in São Paulo, where this novel is set, and in his own life.

Rodrigo Márquez Tizano: Yakarta (Jakarta)

The latest addition to my website is Rodrigo Márquez Tizano‘s Yakarta (Jakarta). This is a dystopian novel from Mexico, describing a country called Atlantika, where a horrible epidemic, with the virus vector carried by rats, strikes the country regularly. The latest one – the Ź-Bug – has been brought under control but everyone knows another one will be back. The people have their bread and circuses in the form of a jai-alai type game, called Vakapý, played by robots, where statistics are very important and where a lot of people spend a lot of time and money on betting on it. Our unnamed narrator is part of a clean-up team and bets on Vakapý. He also has a girlfriend, Clara, who has found a strange stone which gives her and, later, him visions, possibly of a different future. But above all the novel is unremittingly bleak.

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