Sunday, April 27, 2014

Franz Werfel: Star of the Unborn, Pt. 2

What will humans and civilization be 100,000 years from now?

The planet is unrecognizable to someone from the 21st century.  For the most part, the mountains have disappeared and the world is uniformly flat.  The ground is covered by something that sounds like artificial turf, grey and flexible.  It is also the main means of transportation.  The people have a device that they can enter in the coordinates of any spot on the planet and they will be transported there.  Actually, according to F. W., their destination is brought to them!  Just how this was done and just  what would happen if two people in opposite directions both wanted the same destination at the same time was never explained.

Most people now live underground.  It's seems as though this happened centuries ago before the present time of peace and prosperity was established.  Constant warfare made it necessary to build homes underground, rather than build above ground with some sort of underground shelter.  It just seemed more practical to go underground at that time.  Today there really is no need, but habits and traditions are hard to overcome, especially, it seems, when there's no real need for them.

The people are uniformly beautiful, if small statured and slight of build, reminiscent of the Eloi, one of the two human races found in H. G. Wells' The Time Traveler.  Most seem to have little to do except enjoy themselves, as most of their needs are free.  The human race at this time seems fragmented. and while F.W. spends time visiting the other groups, he spends most of his time with those whose life is spent in leisure. 

Various groups have their own domiciles, separate from each other and the general population:  the Roman Catholic hierarchy, Scientists and Scholars, Workers,  Jews, all live in their own ghettos, separate from the population.  There are rebels also.  Parts of the transformed earth seem to be reverting back to its wild state, and there are those who have abandoned contemporary civilization and moved into these jungles, as they are called by the rest of the population. 

Most animals and insects have disappeared, except for some that have been modified to form dwarf versions.   The many varieties of dogs have disappeared, and those that are left are physically similar, as well as being able to use a limited form of speech.  They seem to be obsessed with acting like humans.  However, there is one species that hasn't changed.  They are still the same size, still come in a variety of colors, and still act as they always have--the cat.  For some inexplicable reason, humans have been unable to modify the cat.  And, more and more cats are disappearing into the "jungles."  As usual, the cat goes its own way.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, this is one of the most unique SF novels I have ever read.  It is not an easy read, but it's well worth the effort.  It is on my reread list.


  1. Your posting reminds me that it is good to have a limited life span. I am comfortable with not being around to experience Werfel's vision of the world. However, your posting provokes me to take a look at the book. I hope I will not be too overwhelmed by the vision.

  2. RT,

    FW, our time-traveling travel writer disagrees with you. He is quite happy with the world as it is, for the most part anyway. Let me know what you think of it. It's a book crying out to be discussed and I know of no one else who has read it or heard of it. I guess I should do a Net search one of these days.

  3. Fred,

    Well now I am curious about this book. My library system has it via interlibrary loan, so it will take a week or so to get here. Where did you get your copy? Amazon has it used for $35, since it is out of print. I'll let you know what I think of it when I've read it.

  4. Cheryl,

    I have two copies; one is falling apart, so I purchased another one from

    I just checked, and has 29 copies for under $35.00 and 10 for less than $10.00. is my first choice for books on the Net. I only go to amazon for books if I can't find it on, which is rare.

    I've gotten many more DVDs from amazon than I've bought books.

    I also just ordered a Blue-Ray DVD from amazon of Museum Hours (per your suggestion).