I will avoid spoilers here and request that any comments remain spoiler free as well.
I watched the movie Aniara on Hulu this past week because the description about a doomed spaceship caught my eye.
After watching it and seeing it was based on a book, I requested the book from the library. I was not fully prepared for the book I received and read. The book edition I read was the out of print 1963 Hugh MacDiarmid and Elizabeth Harley Schubert translation of the poem.
Yes, you read that correctly. the Aniara story in its original form is a Swedish language, scifi, epic poem written by Harry Martinson. Epic poetry, or really any form of poetry, is a text form I’d never considered for scifi. Fantasy use of the epic poem and the poem makes sense to me because of Edmund Spencer’s The Faerie Queene, but scifi never struck me as a poetry subject prior to encountering Martinson’s epic.
The stories retain similarities in poem and movie form. There are a few gender swaps of characters; however, the way the story progresses, these gender swaps actually serve to make the tragic tale all the more tragic.
The most startling part of this work is that I’d never encountered it in my readings across scifi and human nature considering the subject matter is so close and compatible to the tale of The Lord of the Flies and The Heart of Darkness. While both of those stories focused on behavioral reactions to removed supervision, Martinson’s story deals with the emotional and mental side of how people deal with the knowledge that they have no hope of salvation from their situation.
At times chaotic, at times primal, at times shocking, both epic poem and scifi movie first ask the reader/viewer how would you handle and endure in similar circumstances? Then they counter your positive answer with the question of are you sure?
This is a must-see and a must-read for any fan of scifi period. If you’re reading on evolutionary psychology and studies of human nature, this should be added to your parables of human nature set as Volume Three (the society/the species) after Volume One: The Heart of Darkness (the individual) and Volume Two: The Lord of the Flies (the group). For everyone else, I say just check it out in both forms. As far as movies go, it’s a fantastic film. As far as books go, how many scifi epic poems have you read?
I again request that any comments remain spoiler free.