Sam Dunn Is Dead


Bruno Corra, Sam Dunn Is Dead [Milan; 1917]

A brief novel that can be read in any one of a number of ways: as a parody of nascent science-fiction (published in 1915, it's set in the late 1940s and early 1950s); as an exercise in stretching imaginative capabilities to their limits, with no regard for traditional canons of taste or morality (a discipline the Surrealists would later practice); or as a complete proto-Fascist novel of Creative Heroism (c.f. Gabriele D'Annunzio), only compressed and condensed into its most basic outline, an Al Frueh rendering of a Pre-Raphaelite mural.

Corra, like many of the initial wave of Futurists, turned out to be a good little Fascist once Mussolini came along, and while there's some of that admiring regard for absolute power here, it's harder to disentangle from the ironic distance, deliberately absurd events, and mock-elegiac tone of the text than (I take it) would be the case with his later work. What remains compelling about the book is Corra's use of the fantastic as a metaphor for technological and cultural change, the sense so prevalent among his generation that so many absurdly impossible things had already happened, what would a few more be?

March 23, 2017