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Scheerbart, Paul

Entry updated 28 November 2022. Tagged: Author.

(1863-1915) German author, who also wrote as by Kuno Küfer; most of his sf and fantasy remained untranslated until the twenty-first century. Lesabéndio: Ein Asteroiden-Roman Mit 14 Strichätzungen von Alfred Kubin auf Tafeln (1913; trans Christina Svendsen as Lesabéndio: An Asteroid Novel 2012) is a Utopia set far from our solar system in a planetoid called Pallas; the eponymous protagonist, a visionary architect, designs a miles-high skyscraper (see Space Elevator) designed to link the planetoid to other parts of its solar system, which Lesabéndio describes in Ecological terms. The inhabitants of Pallas do not resemble Homo sapiens, being Aliens whose appearance and behaviour are far from humanoid. Lesabéndio can be understood as cosmic sf, as a significant precursor to the cosmic histories of Olaf Stapledon.

Das graue tuch und zehn Prozent Weiß (1914; trans John A Stuart as The Grey Cloth: Paul Scheerbart's Novel on Glass Architecture 2001), is set more modestly in the Near Future and features an architect who travels the world in his Airship, creating luminescent glass constructions everywhere: concert halls, elevated trains (see Transportation), airy Keeps for retired pilots. He requires his wife to wear mostly grey clothing, in order not to compete with his polychromatic dream. The oneiric fluency of the tale, and the Expressionist yearnings Scheerbart gives habitation to in the structures he imagines for this narrative, powerfully evoke the lure of the future in the years before World War One, a period during which he was well-known for his Modernist advocacy of "glass architecture", in essays and fictions, most notably perhaps in the nonfiction Glasarchitektur (1914). The influence of this and other texts is manifest in Das Passagen-Werk (1982; trans Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin as The Arcades Project 1999) by Walter Benjamin (1892-1940). Some of Scheerbart's untranslated work is referred to in the entry on Germany. [JC]

Paul Carl Wilhelm Scheerbart

born Danzig, Prussia [now Gdansk, Poland]: 8 January 1863

died Berlin: 15 October 1915



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