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Souvestre, Émile

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1806-1854) French teacher, journalist and author whose seeming Utopia, Le Monde Tel Qu'il Sera (1846; trans Margaret Clarke as The World as It Shall Be 2004), gives a complexly Satirical portrait of the world its protagonists have attained via a lengthy period of death-like Suspended Animation, making their Sleeper-Awakes revival in Tahiti in the year 3000. Steam-driven advances in Technology have transformed Transportation, powering everything from Balloons and locomotives to subways and power shoes. Though Souvestre has a light touch, and his illustrators have followed his example, his young protagonists gradually discover a darker side to what turns out to be a Dystopia based on a primitive (but all-controlling) understanding of Eugenics: children are raised away from their parents in greenhouses (see B F Skinner) and assigned life-roles on phrenological grounds, ensuring in the long term a class system bred for physiognomy and mental characteristics, a modest presage of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (1932). Criminals are micro-controlled, sometimes unto death; 384 types of mental illness have been indexed; the government is manipulated by giant corporations, guaranteeing a society based on consumerism; celebrities obsess the populace; the rest of the world beyond Tahiti has entered terminal decline (see Decadence). A world of seeming plenty turns out to be a world governed by artificial scarcity. [JC]

Émile Souvestre

born Morlaix, Finisterre, France: 15 April 1806

died Paris: 5 July 1854


  • Le Monde Tel Qu'il Sera (Paris: Edite par W Coquebert, 1846) [illus/hb/Bertall, O Penguilly and St-Germain]
    • The World as It Shall Be (Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 2004) [trans by Margaret Clarke of the above: illus/hb/Berall, O Penguilly and St-Germain]


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