Title: A Warning against the Effects of the Anthropocene? The Vision of the End of the Earth in Mieczysław Smolarski’s The City of Light
Abstract: It is generally pointed out that Mieczysław Smolarski’s The City of Light primarily warns against imperialism and expresses social concerns about the future of the world. The action of the aforementioned work takes place at the foot of the Tatra massif, on the ruins of the old world, which was reborn after the total annihilation caused by the war. The inhabitants of the City of Light move using electric walkways, use robots to work, and thanks to breakthrough discoveries in the field of natural and medical sciences, they have gained immortality and the ability to regulate the climate. This carefree vision of happiness, stimulated by technical progress, turned out to have another, completely different face. Andrzej Wola, the hero of the literary work, trying to save the city from the barbarian invasion, activated the Nell’s towers. The rays produced by this construction destroyed the hordes of invaders, but the mechanism could not be stopped. As a result, the enormous amounts of heat released caused the environmental balance to be disturbed and, moreover, unleashed volcanic forces, which in turn led to the eruption of the earth’s globe. Paweł Nell’s construction, i.e. the Tower of Silence, although it appeared to be the most important human achievement – conditioning technical progress – nevertheless heralded the imminent destruction of the world. As Antoni Smuszkiewicz, a Polish science fiction researcher, points out:
“the cause of the cataclysm, one could say, the internal cause appearing in the future world of catastrophic works is the unpredictable behavior of the man himself, who consciously or unconsciously releases powers that destroy all manifestations of life on the planet” (Smuszkiewicz 1982: 196).
The Anthropocene is inextricably linked with human activity and technological progress, which, although to some extent improved human living conditions, also showed its destructive face. These include, for example, nuclear radiation, destruction of the ozone layer or the greenhouse effect. It should be noted that the Anthropocene is not only a time of climate crisis, but also – as Amitav Ghosh emphasizes – “a crisis of culture, and thus of the imagination” (Ghosh 2016: 9), which makes it impossible to imagine a non-dystopian future (Więckowska 2022: 346). International science fiction makes extensive use of the tools and tropes of dystopian imagery to describe the Anthropocene (Malvestio 2022: 25–26). Does Mieczysław Smolarski’s The City of Light contain a warning against the effects of the Anthropocene? I will answer this question during my presentation.
Ghosh, Amitav (2016) The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Malvestio, Marco (2022) Theorizing Eco-Dystopia: Science Fiction, the Anthropocene, and the Limits of Catastrophic Imagery. “European Journal of Creative Practices in Cities and Landscapes”. Vol. 5. No. 1; 24-38.
Smuszkiewicz, Antoni (1982) Zaczarowana gra. Zarys dziejów polskiej fantastyki naukowej. Poznań: Wydawnictwo Poznańskie.
Więckowska, Katarzyna (2022) Appositions: The Future in Solarpunk and Post-Apocalyptic Fiction. “Text Matters”. No. 12; 345–359.
Bio: Anna Maciejewska – PhD student at the University of Wrocław. A graduate of bachelor’s and master’s studies in the field of Polish philology. She also completed bachelor’s and master’s studies in the field of administration. The subject of her doctoral dissertation is “Niccolò Machiavelli and Machiavellianism in Polish literature of the 16th–19th centuries”. Her main interests include the history of literature, political philosophy, as well as political and legal doctrines. Dance in literature and culture is a particularly close research topic. Member of the Olga Tokarczuk Ex-Centre. Academic Research Centre.