|Primo Levi & SF
||[Feb. 12th, 2007|12:53 pm]
In response to elfs post regarding Primo Levi in The New Yorker:
SF is generally expected to be heavy on technology, or occur in a post-apocalyptic world, or otherwise be very much tech-influenced. On the other hand, Anne McCaffrey's Pern series is generally billed as fantasy, even though (to me) it's obviously SF. I mean, c'mon, genetic engineering of the dragons, AIs, starships—gotta be SF, right? Part of this is because SF is essentially assumed (in the US, at least...I wouldn't know about other parts of the world) to be speculative fiction, with a technological/scientific basis.
I would argue that Levi's work is essentially metaphor on a grand scale (so long as grand scale is under about 20k words, anyway...); he uses science as the basis for the metaphor, obviously, but, to my (admittedly limited) knowledge, he used the current state of scientific knowledge, instead of extrapolating to functional artificial intelligences, faster than light travel, stasis, cryogenic storage of people, and assorted other 'scientific' principles that were essentially invented for various novels, and such. It could be argued that Levi's work is science fiction while not being speculative fiction, but the line between the two is so blurred as to be practically nonexistent, and, as such, I must agree that it's not a good idea to describe Levi's work as science fiction. I suspect that Levi would be amused by the ambiguity of the language used to describe his work, especially given his predilection for precision in descriptions.
There's an interview with the translator that seems to be where the 'this story is science fiction' bit came from:
The second part of "Lilít" is entitled "Futuro Anteriore," or "Future Perfect." The stories here are a sort of science fiction—I'm not a reader of science fiction, I'm not very interested in it—but they're usually based in a real world, and then there's one element that takes them into another realm and makes them not real. Being as the translator is also an editor for The New Yorker, I'm not surprised that it was billed as SF. Unhappy with the categorization, yes—fiction is by definition "not real"—but not surprised. She does make some good points about Levi's work in the interview, though, including his use of precise language in descriptions. Personally, I find his style to be quite enjoyable; the content, not so much. Must be the engineer in me. *grin*