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182 pages, Mass Market Paperback
First published January 1, 1950
'Who wants to see the Future, who ever does? A man can face the Past, but to think - the pillars crumbled, you say? And the sea empty, and the canals dry, and the maidens dead, and the flowers withered?' The Martian was silent, but then he looked ahead. 'But there they are. I see them. Isn't that enough for me? They wait for me now, no matter what you say.'The story, for those who somehow are not familiar with it, is simple. In the far future of 1999, rocket ships from Earth start coming to Mars. The Martians - the enigmatic, serene, telepathic race - sense the disturbances. Eventually they die off, and the colonization in the American Dream style begins, until the nuclear war on Earth interferes. But the narrative is not quite this linear. It is made of separate, rather stand-alone short stories that often read as interludes, some straightforward, some surreal, but all of them quite haunting, memorable, and thought-provoking.
"Night are night for every year and every year, for no reason at all, the woman comes out and looks at the sky, her hands up, for a long moment, looking at the green burning of Earth, not knowing why she looks, and then she goes back and throws a stick on the fire, and the wind comes up and the dead sea goes on being dead."
"The Martians stared back up at them for a long, long silent time from the rippling water."
There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;
And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum-trees in tremulous white;
Robins will wear their feathery fire
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;
And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.
Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree
If mankind perished utterly;
And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone.
~ Sara Teasdale, July 1918
They had a house of crystal pillars on the planet Mars by the edge of an empty sea, and every morning you could see Mrs. K eating the golden fruits that grew from the crystal walls, or cleaning the house with handfuls of magnetic dust which, taking all dirt with it, blew away on the hot wind. Afternoons, when the fossil sea was warm and motionless, and the wine trees stood stiff in the yard, and the little distant Martian bone town was all enclosed, and no one drifted out their doors, you could see Mr. K himself in his room, reading from a metal book with raised hieroglyphs over which he brushed his hand, as one might play a harp. And from the book, as his fingers stroked, a voice sang, a soft ancient voice, which told tales of when the sea was red steam on the shore and ancient men had carried clouds of metal insects and electric spiders into battle.
They biked in summer, autumn, or winter. Autumn was most fun, because then they imagined, like on Earth, they were scuttering through autumn leaves.
They would come like a scatter of jackstones on the marble flats beside the canals, the candy-cheeked boys with blue-agate eyes, panting onion-tainted commands to each other. For now that they had reached the dead, forbidden town it was no longer a matter of ‘Last one there’s a girl!’ or ‘First one gets to play Musician!’ Now the dead town’s doors lay wide and they thought they could hear the faintest crackle, like autumn leaves, from inside. They would hush themselves forward, by each other’s elbows, carrying sticks, remembering their parents had told them, ‘Not there! No, to none of the old towns! Watch where you hike. You’ll get the beating of your life when you come home. We’ll check your shoes!’
“Nosotros, los habitantes de la Tierra, tenemos un talento especial para arruinar las cosas grandes y hermosas.”Las historias de terrícolas y marcianos que aquí se cuentan me recordaron a algo que dijo Juan José Millás acerca del libro que había escrito con Juan Luis Arsuaga, “La vida contada por un sapiens a un neandertal”: «Yo siempre he fantaseado con la idea de que los neandertales eran la especie humana que debería haber sobrevivido, en vez de los sapiens. Siempre he pensado que el neandertal era bondadoso, ingenuo y sentimental, mientras que el sapiens era retorcido y solo pensaba en sus intereses». En definitiva, que en aquella guerra ganamos los malos, igual que en la inmensa mayoría de las guerras que han acaecido a lo largo de toda nuestra historia conformando al hombre presente y presagiando al hombre futuro que acabará con esta sucesión de fatalidades con el gran desastre definitivo y fatal.
“Fuimos y somos todavía un pueblo extraviado.”La lectura, relectura en realidad, de estas crónicas ha sido una experiencia magnífica, muy superior a la que tuve en su día, siendo yo muy joven, quizás porque a estas alturas de la vida ya no me molesta tanto esa relevancia que el autor otorgó al declive de la religión y a la pérdida de la fe (algo muy cuestionable, en todo caso, tanto en su tiempo como en el nuestro) como causa del desastre en el que se había convertido nuestra existencia (si es que alguna vez fue otra cosa).
“Quisimos derribar a Darwin, Huxley y a Freud, pero eran inconmovibles. Y entonces, como unos idiotas, intentamos destruir la religión…Lo conseguimos bastante bien. Perdimos nuestra fe y empezamos a preguntarnos para qué vivíamos. Si el arte no era más que la derivación de un deseo frustrado, si la religión no era más que un engaño, ¿para qué la vida? La fe había explicado siempre todas las cosas. Luego todo se fue por el vertedero, junto con Freud y Darwin.”También pudiera ser que aquellas tres estrellas que le di se debieran a la rabia que sentí ante ese último relato totalmente prescindible para mí por esperanzador, que no por malo. Ojalá me equivoque. Del resto, destaco los de “Ylla” o “Aunque siga brillando la luna”, el humor de “Los hombres de la Tierra” o “Los pueblos silenciosos”, y, por encima de todos ellos: “Un camino a través del aire”.
“Llegaron porque tenían miedo o porque no lo tenían, porque eran felices o desdichados, porque se sentían como los Peregrinos. Cada uno de ellos tenía una razón diferente. Abandonaban mujeres odiosas, trabajos odiosos o ciudades odiosas; venían para encontrar algo, enterrar algo o alejarse de algo. Venían con sueños ridículos, con sueños nobles o sin sueños.”
most men felt the great illness in them even before the rocket fired into space. And this disease was called The Loneliness, because when you saw your hometown dwindle the size of your fist and then lemon-size and then pin-size and vanish in the fire-wake, you felt you had never been born, there was no town, you were nowhere, with space all around, nothing familiar, only other strange men.I just love this passage, so evocative!
I am a librarian. I discovered me in the library. I went to find me in the library. Before I fell in love with libraries, I was just a six-year-old boy. The library fueled all of my curiosities, from dinosaurs to ancient Egypt. When I graduated from high school in 1938, I began going to the library three nights a week. I did this every week for almost ten years and finally, in 1947, around the time I got married, I figured I was done. So I graduated from the library when I was twenty-seven. I discovered that the library is the real school. (Paris)And what did Bradley read in these thousands of hours spent in libraries? Science Fiction by Clarke, Asimov, Van Vogt, Heinlein – but his greatest loves in this genre were Jules Verne and H.G. Wells; writers such as Steinbeck, Sherwood Anderson, Huxley, Thomas Wolfe, Thomas Mann; women writers like Eudora Welty, Katherine Anne Porter, and Edith Wharton; and poetry – Shakespeare, Hopkins, Frost, Yeats.
In 1949, Bradbury and his wife were expecting their first child. He took a Greyhound bus to New York and checked into a room at the YMCA for fifty cents a night. He took his short stories to a dozen publishers and no one wanted them. … Bradbury had dinner with an editor at Doubleday. When Bradbury recounted that everyone wanted a novel and he didn't have one, the editor … asked if the short stories might be tied together into a book length collection. The title was the editor's idea: … "The Martian Chronicles." Bradbury liked the idea and recalled making notes in 1944 to do a book set on Mars. That evening, he stayed up all night at the YMCA and typed out an outline. He took it to the Doubleday editor the next morning, who read it and wrote Bradbury a check for When Bradbury returned to Los Angeles, he connected all the short stories and that became The Martian Chronicles.