La vuelta al mundo de Pedro Paulet es un recorrido por la fascinante vida de este genio multifacético (Arequipa, 1874 - Buenos Aires, 1945). Estadista, científico y artista, Paulet fue el sabio que descubrió los principios de la astronáutica en la Francia de Julio Verne y quien rechazó una oferta para fabricar misiles de guerra para los nazis, con el fin de poner sus estudios al servicio del país que amó e imaginó grande, el Perú.

sábado, 5 de junio de 2010

Lima from now to 100 years

When thinking about science fiction origins, it seems indisputable to admit that its pioneers were Jules Verne (1828-1905) and H.G. Wells (1866-1946), whose works of literature would also inspire the first science fiction movie A trip to the moon (1902), from George Méliès.

However, in recent years, it has been revealed that a Peruvian was ahead them, publishing between the years 1843 and 1844 a science fiction novel called Lima from now to 100 years (Lima de aquí a cien años).

In 1943, Artur and his friend Carlos del A. come back to reality, from where a genie, who paralyzed their existence, took them out for a century. Artur, in Lima; Carlos, in Cusco. Astonished, they find out that England, once a world power, has been wiped out and that Peru, country they left plunged into civil wars, is now a highly developed country. They tell each other all these events through letters, which are forwarded through airships that daily fly from Lima to Cusco (actually, since 1840, balloons could already be seen in Lima but a flight to Cusco was still impossible).

Besides, both cities have suffered from severe changes. For example, El Callao doesn’t exist anymore and the port of Lima is now at Monserrate while in Cusco they have being built a great 3 kilometer high and 225 floor pyramid and a library with 12 million books. Without mentioning the tunnel that starts from Arequipa, passes under a volcano, and gets to the pyramid inside.

That is the universe of Lima from now to 100 years. It is believed that its author, Julián Manuel de Portillo (1818-1862), was 25 years old when the newspaper El Comercio published his work in installments. Little is known about his personal life, though the most outstanding thing is that he was a congressman during the government of Castilla, between 1855 and 1857, and even more interesting, that he was a member of the Peruvian Grand Lodge.

This novel was first mentioned to us in 2006 by the writer and researcher Daniel Salvo, who had already published in 2004 a recount on science fiction in Peru in the magazine Ajos y Zafiros No 6. There, he stated that the story of Portillo was the first science fiction work in the continent. By coincidence, in that same publication, the magazine editor, Marcel Velásquez, referred to the topic because he was in charge of a story of the Peruvian narrative, bringing under discussion the fact of whether or not this was the first novel written in Peru. An extract of the novel was published in the next magazine installment.

In 2008, we were lucky to meet the architect Wiley Ludeña, who gave us a copy of the magazine Urbes, publication of the National University of Engineering (Universidad Nacional de Ingeniería) that he edits and in which the architect Carlos Bonifaz approaches in a preliminary way to our novel in terms of architectural utopia.

And perhaps Portillo’s work credits are not exactly literary. The plot of the story is weak and we could even question the fact that we were actually talking about a novel. Thus, Velásquez states that it was Portillo who called that way his “narrative compositions”. In this regard, one of his contemporaries, none other than Ricardo Palma, wrote: “Bohemianism founded a rag weekly newspaper called Devil (El Diablo), in which we nicely beat a Mr. Portillo, author of The novena of the Mercedes (La novena de las Mercedes), Husband loves (Los amores de un marido) and Lima from now to 100 years, three great sins that he named novels…”

Nevertheless, Ludeña finds out that Lima from now to 100 years “is the first work that inaugurates in Peru a tradition of utopian thinking of urban and architectural content, which was hardly considered an intermittent speech developed in the country just to start the second decade of the 20th century. This novel is the zero level of utopian imagery in terms of city and cultural landscape”.

And as a proof of what was said, he points out that after Julián M. del Portillo, “a story of approaches of a great conceptual density and figurative speculation like Pedro Paulet’s, the Pilot Project group of Lima of 1947, and even the black visions of the future like the Cultopía group from Lima" were weaved in the Peruvian architecture field.

We would add that this utopian tradition in Peru had also amazing demonstrations in other fields. For example, before the novel of Portillo, the experience of Santiago de Cárdenas, who invented a device to fly during the Colonialism. Then, the one of Pedro Ruiz Gallo, also inventor of a flying machine and later Captain Alejandro Sauri’s to use balloons in the war with Chile. Or Federico Blume's submarine project in the same war. And, why not, the appearance of many aeroplane inventors in the 20th Century's first decade, when the echoes of the feat of 1903 of the Wright Brothers still resounded.

There is a partial explanation for the non-execution of these projects according to Ludeña: “for many reasons, the future as a hope reasoning or condition has not been a daily way of living in Peru. In Peru, almost always immersed in a sort of fatalism full of repeated past actions, topics like fantasy, fiction or utopia have earned a suspicious sense of avoidance or cultural estrangement. They appear as a guilty feeling. Dreaming can be a sin as imagining fantastic cities”.

A situation that would make the Indiana Jones detractors pull their hairs.

UPDATE: The literary critic Christian Elguera is in charge of the novel as a work of literature, though a complete version of it has not been published yet. He points out some mistake of Bonifaz. However above all, he talks about the existence of a sequel, Cusco from now to 100 years.