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Spitz, Jacques

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1896-1963) French author, perhaps the central French sf author of the 1930s/1940s, whose Scientific Romances tended to the apocalyptic, and whose occasional uplift endings were riddled with doubt. His first sf novel, L'agonie du globe (1935; trans Margaret Mitchiner as Sever the Earth 1936), describes the consequences attendant upon a geological Disaster which splits the planet into two halves 50 miles (80km) apart, the portion containing America soon colliding with the Moon; there are no survivors. In Les Évadés de l'an 4000 ["The Escapees from the Year 4000"] (1936) the world's surviving population has been forced to retreat Underground after disastrous Climate Change, where a scientific Dystopia governs; a Scientist manages to launch a Rocket, which transforms society for the good. L'homme élastique (1938) is a surreal Satire – Spitz was much influenced in his earlier years by French Surrealism – in which the Invention of a Miniaturization process, which compresses atoms, is immediately used for cosmetic surgery, and to create an army of tiny soldiers, who turn out to be examples of Homo superior (see Superman); as the process can also expand atoms, ludicrous hierarchies are soon established, in particular by the Third Reich, whose Führer (alone) is allowed to become six metres tall.

La Guerre des mouches ["War of the Flies"] (1938), a nightmare of Evolution, may be Spitz's most savage tale; a culture of sentient Mutant flies declares war against Homo sapiens, defeats humanity, keeping alive in a Zoo only a few abject specimens, one of whom tells the tale. The eponymous "living metal" featured in La Parcelle "Z" ["Particle Z"] (1943), when inserted into human cell tissue, maps the passage of the soul of the injectee from one life to another; in Les Signaux du soleil ["Signals from the Sun"] (1943), an Extraterrestrial exploitation of Earth's atmosphere almost suffocates the planet. L'Expérience du Dr Mops (1939) and L'Oeil du purgatoire (1945; trans together by Brian Stableford as The Eye of Purgatory; And, Dr Mops' Experiment omni 2010) are Time Viewer tales. In the first, Dr Mops accelerates cell growth in his subject, who is able only to see the future (see Perception), though not beyond the point of his own death. In the second, another Mad Scientist develops a bacillus which, when injected into the artist protagonist of the tale, allows (or forces) him to see in all manifestations of reality nothing but the dissolution of the world – in a parody of Decadence – into fixities of ageing and death, with skeletons piercing through the skin of the living like stigmata; in the end, he can see nothing but Hell. Also written around this time, the book-length "Guerre mondiale #3" (in Joyeuses apocalypses omni 2009) is a savage depiction of World War Three. Except for a few short stories, Spitz then fell silent. [JC]

see also: France.

Jacques Spitz

born Nemours [now Ghazaouet], Algeria: 1896

died Paris: 1963



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