À travers Céline, la littérature by Henri Godard

By Henri Godard

« Céline est un grand écrivain, mais ce n'est pas un écrivain comme les autres. Il m'arrive aujourd'hui encore, en lisant un des "contre-Céline" qui se publient périodiquement, de me demander remark j'ai pu consacrer tant d'années à éditer et à explorer l'œuvre d'un auteur aussi controversé et, en effet, aussi problématique... »

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As Jarvis recounts these experiences to his shipmates, they continually offer theories about Tweel’s nature based on rational observation, focusing on scientific (that Tweel takes no water as an adapted desert creature, for example) rather than social (that he recognizes Jarvis’s greater need and foregoes water) frameworks of explanation. Tweel successfully conveys the idea that builders of pyramid structures they observe are not “people” but merely animals by telling Jarvis “no one-one-two” (148): lacking mathematics, the sign of reason, these creatures are irrelevant.

Its setting in domestic space and its narrative focus on family insist that these contexts, as much as laboratories or military installations, are sites where science and technology change daily life. Thinking of sf as the literature of technologically saturated societies, then, encourages us to see the genre as a cultural and aesthetic response to how technoscience changes not only our material world but also our cultural values and practices. It may even be asking us to rethink what it means to be human.

Only a single alien character, Christopher Johnson, is individualized, but the brief scenes we see of him interacting with his peers suggest that he is not necessarily more capable than the others, just perhaps better able to communicate with humans. He and Wikus form a brief partnership of sorts, mainly conducted in gestures, and the only name we learn for him is the humanized one given by the government. Christopher is played by Jason Cope, who also plays Bradnam, the news correspondent most critical of MNU’s treatment of the aliens; this casting, combined with Wikus’s biological transformation from human to alien, works to humanize the aliens (in the sense that we see them as beings like ourselves, with capacities for emotion and reason, valuable as living beings and deserving of respect), but without anthropomorphizing them COGNITIVE ESTRANGEMENT 43 (Wikus actually becomes more sympathetic the less human he looks).

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