Brian Evenson, the future of man – Liberation

Tuesday Science Fiction case

Find every Tuesday a narrative, an interview or an image linked to a science fiction text making the news. This week, two postapocalyptic texts by American authors.

Brian Evenson, born in Iowa in 1966, grew up in a Mormon family, became a priest and ended up excommunicated for his fictions, giving the first idea of ​​their fiery potential. The American writer, who runs a program of writing workshops at Brown University, has long been translated by Cherche-Midi (the Brotherhood of the Mutilated2008, or the collection of short stories Report, 2017). It was even the subject of a symposium in May 2015 titled “Brian Evenson: the empire of cruelty” (1) which is “a first attempt to approach texts of an extraordinary intensity that inaugurates a new form of violence against the body as well as meaning, at the origin of a new reading experience”, according to the intro. One can only approve after discovering his two texts published by different publishers, the cave and Immobility.

Omniscient Computers and Melted Men

The novella nest, which appears in Quidam, has a certain kinship with the novel Immobility. They take place in the same post-apocalyptic universe where life is no longer bearable in the open air unless you wear a suit. “Outside lay a devastated landscape, ruins and rubble stretched as far as the eye could see, the ground covered in dust and ash. Remnants of buildings, mostly collapsed. A cloud darkened in the sky, and the wind blew, warm and indifferent. This decoration was filled with a strange, supernatural silence. did we discover in Immobility. In the end, animals and plants almost completely disappeared. In the cave, there is no trace of insects or any of the rare stunted plants that the three characters on a mission from earlier contemplated so passionately. One has the impression, moreover, if the two books take place in the same desolate and disastrous landscape, that the first would take place at some time before the second. Immobility shows a small community of men who seem to have survived, the cave which refers to a basement protected from external harm with an omniscient computer, now containing only one person, X.

In both cases, a person is taken out of the freezer where he was “stored”: Josef Horkaï in the first case who “hibernates” for thirty years and will end up being restocked; Horak in the second, it feels like decades have passed. The Horkaï or Horak represents man as he was before the “Kollaps”, with a mercenary past, bringing the community ofImmobility to get him out of the cold, even though he’s amnesic, quadriplegic and can’t use his legs. In nest, realizing that he himself is the last link in a chain of individuals regenerated from each other in order to survive and that he no longer has the “materials” to ensure his succession, X decides to awaken Horak in desperation.

A body destined to suffer

The cruelty of the treatment meted out to Horkaï, the cruel fate reserved for a sniper by his two strange companions Qatik and Qanik, who were exclusively trained to carry him, the evils inflicted on X by the hands of Horak placed to him: the body is bound to suffer and the individual to lose. “You are the reason we are”said Qatik and Qanik to Horkaï, who acted as his mule knowing they were walking towards death. “All of us are bound to die one day. You might die from what you’re doing.”, said Qatik. One cannot help but think of the silence between Vladimir and Estragon Waiting for Godot. In this universe of hopeless destruction, Evenson uses the absurd and questions what a person is: through the dialogue that Horkaï tries to establish with his two mules in Immobility; by questioning X, a sort of schizophrenic who has some of the personalities of the beings before him. X asked the computer: “What do you mean nobody?” His answer: “The biped is endowed with an individual mind housed in a body resulting from the fertilization of an ovum by a spermatozoon, then formed in a uterus.”» But X is not a person, Horak is. Brian Evenson plunges us into an inner and philosophical nightmare, minimalist, without the familiar comforts of our world but incredibly tangible, cruel and emotionless. Dizzy and unforgettable.

(1) The proceedings were published in October 2021 by the Presses Universitaire de Rennes.

The Den, translated from English (United States) by Stéphane Vanderhaeghe, Quidam publisher, 120 pp., €14.
Immobilitytranslated from English (United States) by Jonathan Baillehache, Rivages “Imaginaire”, 269 pp., €22 (ebook: €16.99).

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