“I cannot see any point of comparison between his work and mine. The way we are doing things are completely different. It appears to me that his stories aren’t supported by real science. No, there are no link between his work and mine. Me, I use physics. Him, he invents. I go to the Moon with a bullet shot from a canon. There’s no invention in this. Him, he goes to Mars thank to an airplane made from a material which counters gravity. It’s pretty, really but show me this damn metal. Bring it to me!”
This quote, it’s Jules Vernes talking about HG Wells. You’ll stumble upon it frequently since it was cited in the Omnibus dedicated to HG Wells, here in France. Lorris Murail cites it in his 1993 book Les Maitres de la Science-Fiction.
If I’m posting this quote today, it’s mainly because I’ve just discovered that Adolfo Bioy Casares’ last book De un munda a otro is dedicated to the memory of the late HG Wells. Casares is mainly known for his — fake — first novel The Invention of Morel, upon which Last Year at Marienbad was based. Casares is an Argentinian writer, friend to Jorge Luis Borges — although their style differ — and Ernesto Sabato.
At least to me, this last book resembles more a chapter of Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. Still, I find it interesting that an auteur so beloved by the French intelligentsia dedicated his very last book, in 1998 nonetheless, to another writer that’s considered minor according to France’s standards.
To H. G. Wells:
I beg you, Sir, to accept this book.
Of all the pleasures that its writing gave me, that of dedicating it to you is assuredly not the least.
I conceived it under the inspiration of ideas that you cherish, and I could have wished that it had come nearer to your own works than it does, not in merit — that would be an absurd pretension — but, at any rate, in that pleasant quality shown in all your books, which allows the chastest minds, as well as those that exact the greatest realism, to have communion with your genius — a communion which the ablest people of our time can acknowledge without feeling its charm lessened by such considerations.
But when Fortune for good or ill allowed me to discover the subject of this allegorical novel, I felt bound not to set it aside because of a few audacities which a faithful rendering involved and which an arrest of development alone — that is, a crime against the literary conscience — could avoid.
[vi]You now know — you could have guessed as much — what I should like people to think of my work, if by chance any one did it the unexpected honor of thinking about it at all. Far from desiring to arouse the creature of instinct in my reader and amuse him with scandalous descriptions, my work is addressed to the philosopher anxious for Truth amid the marvels of Fiction and for Orderliness amid the tumult of imaginary Adventures.
That, Sir, is why I beg you to accept it.
It’s with those words that Maurice Renard, in 1908–ninety whole years BEFORE Casares — opens his very first book Doctor Lerne, Subgod partly inspired by Well’s Island of Dr Moreau according to Wikipedia.
Nowadays, Maurice Renard, considered as the inventor of fantasy movement called merveilleux scientifique, although he gave credits to Vernes for it, might be forgotten but Casares and Borges are very much alive. What with Borges having entered the legendary collection La Pléiade even before Jules. That’s makes two Omnibus for Wells and, well, three books in La Pléiade for Vernes.
Still, the influence of Wells cannot be ignored, for he was important enough to have been photographed alongside Karel Čapek. Čapek was a Czech science-fiction writer — Science-fiction writer? All the French intelligentsia his yelling at this point! — credited to have invented the term robot.
Whatever French critics think, Wells was important, at least in Great Britain and the United States and Argentinia and France and Czechoslovakia. Which is more than enough.
This is how I began writing through this precise Facebook post. Yesterday I turned 32 and I just wanted to post something personnal. One day, I’ll do HG Wells justice. I mean, just typing this I learned he once met Einstein and Orson Welles.
Hope you dig the inexperienced me. Next week we’ll talk about Bertrand Mandico’s The Wild Boys.