New LibriVox recording: Underground Man

Underground Man by Gabriel Tarde (1843 – 1904), translated from the French Fragment d’histoire future, 1904, by Cloudesley Brereton (1863 – 1937).

It is the end of the 20th century; the sun suddenly starts to die and it’s… well, it’s a little chilly! In fact, earth is plunged overnight into an ice age, and life, including most of mankind, is virtually wiped out. A tiny number of the young, strong and intelligent find a way to survive – beneath the surface of the earth (or young and beautiful, in the case of women – the criteria for survival are hilarious).

In this new and strange world, where there are no countries, no nature, no sea and no sky, they must build a new civilisation. With commendable foresight, they have managed to preserve masterpieces from the major libraries, museums and galleries and transport them to their new home. Far-fetched, of course, but bear with me.

This is the story of how they build their new civilisation based on love and beauty, the fine arts and pure science. Tarde was a sociologist, criminologist and social psychologist, and this novella, his only venture into fiction, is replete with philosophical, scientific, sociological and political concepts, including a method of restricting population which has echoes of eugenics.

At one point Tarde refers to the sun being seen as blue in 1883 – this is based on fact, and happened after the eruption of Krakatoa.

Interestingly, shortly after I started recording this, I read an article on the BBC Science website about the sun’s current state of inactivity: “The drop off in activity is happening surprisingly quickly, and scientists are now watching closely to see if it will continue to plummet.” It sent rather a chill down the spine.

Nevertheless, I loved this little book – I hope you do too.

Here it is:

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6 Comments on “New LibriVox recording: Underground Man”

  1. Is your last reading–about ‘blottentots’–written in the British English manner? I haven’t found specific Btitish spellings such as ‘colour’, ‘centre’, etc.

    Second question: is there a good synonym for the word ‘blottentot’? There is no such entry in my English dictionaries and very few search results on the Internet.

    Thank you for answering, Ruthie!

  2. RuthieG Says:

    It was written, I believe, by an American, but very much read in the British English manner. Blottentot is a made-up word – a combination of ‘blot’ and ‘Hottentot’, I imagine. Hottentot was originally a Dutch word meaning a member of a South African people now called the Khoekhoe people, but the word Hottentot rapidly gained a rather derogatory meaning in English as an uncivilized or ignorant person. I shouldn’t think the author thought too much about the meaning, however. He probably just liked the sound of the word :).

  3. globularity Says:

    This sounds very interesting; I love early dystopian fiction. I look forward to your reading, which is always enjoyable.

  4. Hi Ruth, I just wanted to tell you have much I love your work. I am currently listening to all your E Nesbit readings once after the other. I have listened to many LibriVox recordings and they are all good but in my opinion you are the most outstanding reader. You have an amazing knack of changing your voice to perfectly suit the characters, so that it seems to the listener as if the whole cast of characters has come alive. You voice and accent are also beautiful and a joy to listen to. So thank you, thank you for freely giving your time and exceptional skills to make these recordings. Blessings upon you! :)

    • RuthieG Says:

      I’m so glad you have enjoyed the Nesbit books – they were such fun to record. I’d really love to do some more, but there are so many things that I want to record and most of the other Nesbit books already have very good solo versions. One day, perhaps… but my languishing solos must be done first. Let’s hope I have done them before H. G. Wells comes out of copyright (for me) in 2017, because I really want to have a go at some of his.

  5. It’s so lovely to get a reply from you, Ruth, when I half feel as if I know you, from listening to your voice so often! I will make sure I follow all your readings on LibriVox. Thank you – again – for giving so many people around the world so much joy with your readings!

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