Hungarian journalist, dramatist, poet, novelist, satirist, humorist. A very fine writer whose work is apparently still regarded highly in Hungary and also translates well. Apparently wrote a fair amount of material that is properly classified as science-fiction, though not translated.
1207. VOYAGE TO FAREMIDO. CAPILLARIA. Corvina; Budapest. +Living Books, Inc.; New York, 1966. Trans. from Hungarian with intro. by Paul Tabori. Frontispiece portrait of Karinthy by Antal Fery.
A nouvelle and a short novel, both using as departure points Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels.
[a] Voyage to Faremido. Gulliver’s Fifth Voyage. (Utazas Faremidoba, 1916) Karinthy makes much the same point as Samuel Butler did in Erewhon, that machines will evolve faster than humanity, although Karinthy sees in this a perfection not granted to mankind and attacks mankind via such machine superiority. * In 1914 Gulliver succumbs again to his Wanderlust and leaves his family, signing on as a ship’s surgeon on the H.M.S. Bulwark on Baltic Duty. (Karinthy, as a pacifist, is very bitter about the war.) Gulliver’s ship is torpedoed. The captain and he leave the ship on a small hydroplane. The captain dies in mid air, and Gulliver seems lost. But then he spies a strange-looking machine hovering above him, and before he loses consciousness feels himself drawn from the plane. * Gulliver awakens on a strange world that the author does not identify and is not in our solar system. All around are evidences of a high civilization, and along with him is the machine that saved him. Gulliver soon recognizes that the machine is not inanimate metal, but is a sensitive, highly intelligent living being. The machine and its fellows teach Gulliver their language (which consists of musical tones), and after a time Gulliver is able to communicate with them. He learns that the machines, who are utterly benevolent, regard organic life as a particularly loathsome disease of matter. On their planet are bestial tree men, with whom they classify Gulliver. * The machines, who have supertelescopes, have long observed earth and have been dismayed at the disease that has befallen the planet. They have observed a few machines, around which are clustered parasitic human beings, like maggots, and see that the planet itself is suffering from the corruption of organic life. In the past they communicated with the earth, which complained of illness. The machines tried to remove organic life by ray bombardments, but without too much success. On watching human history, notably World War I, which is currently active, the machines draw some satisfaction from the thought that the corruption will eventually exterminate itself. * Although Gulliver is at first incredulous, he is soon forced to admit that the machines are right; they are superior to humans. He asks the machines to make him more perfect, too, but although the machines give him a cranial shot of mineral matter to improve his understanding, they can do no more for him at present. Eventually, when he is ready, they will fetch him back from earth and work on him. * The machines now render Gulliver unconscious, and he awakens on a small island in the North Sea, whence he is taken back to Britain. He cannot help but regard his family and the world about him, however, as loathsome and corrupted. * Miscellaneous points: The machines manufacture new members of their society in factories. * Karinthy says nothing about the ultimate origin of the machines. * In asides Karinthy expresses horror at the war, damning both Central Powers and Allies.
[b] Capillaria. Gulliver’s Sixth Voyage. (Capillaria, 1922) Just as Faremido satirized humanity in general, Capillaria attacks women in what must be one of the most ferocious onslaughts in literature. * At the nagging insistence of his wife Gulliver returns to the wars and once again signs as a ship’s surgeon. When his ship is sunk in the North Atlantic, he seems lost, but he awakens at the bottom of the sea. Observing that he is breathing water, which circulates through his ears, he attributes this to two metal disks that are fastened to his temples. Not too far away he sees a huge tower-like building, toward which he makes his way, then is captured by beautiful six-foot tall women clad in filmy garments, who take him into the tower. He observes that the tower, although architecturally magnificent, is furnished with trivial rubbish. As food the women offer him a living creature, some swarms of which he had seen outside. It is small, sausage-shaped, and seems to have a humanoid face. The women eat these creatures (which the translator calls bullpops) alive, sucking out their brains, but Gulliver feels repugnance at doing this. * Gulliver learns the language of the women and something of their history and culture. The ocean floor between Scandinavia and North America is inhabited by the Oihas, who developed independently from and earlier than surface life. Their language has no abstractions. Words are few, and differences in meaning are conveyed by variation in mode of pronunciation. * The Oihas are sensualists of the most extreme sort, and their whole life is spent in pursuit of meretricious pleasure. Indeed, Gulliver is able to converse with his friend Opula, the queen, only by offering sensory stimulation during conversation; this consists of kissing her buttocks. * The Oihas are all female, self-impregnating, self-propagating. In the remote past they were hermaphrodites, but they ripped out their male components, which assumed separate life as the bullpops. The bullpops are thus the male sea beings. * Although the Oihas regard the situation with indifference mixed with contempt, the bullpops are really the sources of undersea civilization, the creators and builders. The bullpops, impelled by idealistic motives, build the enormous towers, striving toward the sky; when the Oihas consider a tower suitable for habitation, they poison the bullpops, some of whom are killed, while others are driven into erotic frenzy that culminates in warfare among themselves. * The females exploit the bullpops in other ways. An old bullpop pupates in a cocoon, from which the female extract thread for their clothing. And the brains of very old bullpops are used as ink, other parts as paper. It was the bullpops who, pitying Gulliver, created the breathing disks that he wears. * Exactly how the Oihas breed is not entirely clear from the text, but at each birth an Oiha woman bears a single female child and a swarm of microscopic bullpops, who, if they survive, become culture bearers. * Because of his appearance, the Oihas consider Gulliver an aberrant female, until they have cause to think otherwise. Gulliver’s lusts have been mounting. On the crucial occasion, he tries to make love to the beautiful Queen Opula, but she, on seeing his erection, screams that he is a bullpop, not a woman, and commits him for trial. * Given the choice of being eaten by the women or serving as a slave, he chooses slavery. During his period of servitude he comes to know the bullpops as a civilization and as individuals, the bullpop philosopher Xa-Ra explaining much of the culture to him. They have no real understanding of what the women do to them, and when Gulliver tries to explain, it does not sink in. Instead, they have their own rationale, which is based on warfare between the various bullpop towers that have not been taken over by the women. In one such battle Gulliver escapes. After a small volcanic eruption, he finds himself on a piece of porous pumice floating on the surface of the sea, whence he is rescued. When he tells of his experiences, he is put into a lunatic asylum, but is finally released.
* Both stories are excellent. Capillaria is a particularly fine piece of work, much the best of the various Gulliveriana (included here or of later date) that I have read. Swift would have welcomed it. One wonders what other treasures are locked up in Hungarian.
SOURCE: Bleiler, Everet F. Science-fiction, the Early Years: a Full Description of More Than 3,000 Science-Fiction Stories from Earliest Times to the Appearance of the Genre Magazines in 1930, with the assistance of Richard J. Bleiler (Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1990), pp. 400-401.
Lynch, [John Gilbert] Bohun (1884-1928): Menace from the Moon
by Everet F. Bleiler
Esperanto in early science fiction to 1930 by Everet F. Bleiler
to Frigyes Karinthys Voyage to Faremido & Capillaria
by Paul Tabori
Frigyes Karinthy: philosophical fragments / filozofiaj fragmentoj
al H. G. Wells (julio 1925),
eldonita kun Kapilario, trad. Andreo Szabó
Vojaĝo al Faremido de Frigyes (Frederiko) Karinthy
Frigyes & Ferenc Karinthy in English
Frigyes (Frederiko) Karinthy (1887-1938) en Esperanto
Science Fiction, Utopia, and Alienation
in the Work of Imre Madách, György Lukács, and Other Hungarian Writers:
Science Fiction & Utopia Research Resources: A Selective Work in Progress
Frigyes Karinthy @ Ĝirafo
Frigyes Karinthy @ 50 watts
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Uploaded 26 October 2021
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