The Strange Paradise of Paul Scheerbart

ScheerbartAdam Kirsch at The New York Review of Books:

Scheerbart often reads like an apocalyptic mystic out of the Middle Ages who was somehow transported to the age of railroads and telegraphs. He returns again and again to the idea that existence—our own, or those of aliens on other planets—can be transformed into a paradise inhabited by beings who are like gods. In the introduction to a small new Wakefield Press volume, Rakkóx the Billionaire & The Great Race, the translator W.C. Bamberger recommends Scheerbart to the reader with the imprimatur of Gershom Scholem and Walter Benjamin, both of whom liked his work. And it was surely this oddball utopianism that so appealed to Scholem and Benjamin, each of whom was in his own way obsessed by the messianic. Scheerbart, Benjamin wrote, seemed “never to forget that the Earth is a heavenly body”; science fiction was a way of forcing the reader to see humanity in a cosmic, celestial perspective.

Yet the agency of earthly renewal, in Scheerbart’s work, is not divine—at least, not directly. It is, rather, the power of human ingenuity, operating with hitherto unimaginable tools and techniques, that will literally remake the face of the earth. Scheerbart is a mellow Marinetti; his faith in modern technology is not suffused with Futurist aggression, but with a dreamy aestheticism.

more here.