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Labatut, Benjamin

Entry updated 29 October 2021. Tagged: Author.

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(1980-    ) Netherlands-born author, most of whose life has been led in Latin America, currently Chile; his work, mostly speculative texts where an interlacing of fiction and nonfiction approaches to the fate of the world, may at times rhetorically evoke Futures Studies, though for the most part his incipits are nonfantastic. Some of the stories assembled in his first book, La ­Antártica empieza aqui ["Antarctica Starts Here"] (coll 2010), treat the anguish of the search for personal/objective meaning through metafictional devices (see Absurdist SF). His second book, Después de la luz ["After the Light"] (2016), treats its narrator/protagonist's unrelenting pursuit of meaning – flickers of understandings of the world burning like phosphenes in the night – as being either absurd or, perhaps, not.

Labatut is of perhaps greatest interest for his third book, Un Verdor Terrible ["A Terrible Verdure"] (2020; trans Adrian Nathan West as When We Cease to Understand the World 2020), which traces, again combining fiction and nonfiction, the life-courses of twentieth century mathematicians and physicists (see Mathematics; Physics) down paths into the literal or allegorical Black Holes, where they are impelled to discover the true meaning of the world, but can only utter that meaning "rationally" through calculations – epiphanic prolepses of the unveiling of the shape of things entire – that have haunted the human race ever since. In short, Labatut and his semi-fictional protagonists suggest, we can neither understand nor truly benefit from raw reality, hints at the nature of which assist in driving us mad: "The first sign of a psychological disturbance is the inability to contend with the future." Thinkers beyond the fields we know whose embracings of the abyss are tracked here include Alexander Grothendieck, Alfred Einstein, Fritz Haber, Werner Heisenberg and Erwin Schrödinger. [JC]

Benjamin Labatut

born Rotterdam, Netherlands: 1980

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