Time travel appeared in fiction before H. G. Wells published the short story The Chronic Argonauts (1888) and the novel The Time Machine (1895), but the first story about a time machine — Gaspar’s novel El anacronópete — was published in Barcelona in 1887. Anacronópete is a Spanish neologism for “who flies against time”.
Reportedly, an English translation will finally be published by Wesleyan University Press in 2012 under the title The Time Ship: A Chrononautical Journey, translated by Yolanda Molina-Gavilan and Andrea L Bell.
Note also that Alfred Jarry’s essay “How to Construct a Time Machine,” an exercise in his mock-science of ’pataphysics, appeared in 1899. Jarry is not mentioned in the potted histories of time travel to be found in the links below.
For more on the early history of the time travel subgenre, see the companion web page Edward Page Mitchell (1852-1927), Science Fiction Pioneer: Time Travel, Hegel, and More.
There are numerous studies placing Wells’ work in social and intellectual context, and the place of the fourth dimension in 19th century mathematics and popular culture (especially in fiction and in spiritualism) is well-known. The concept of time travel has been treated by historians of science and of science fiction. Presumably there are studies on how and why the notion of time as the fourth dimension and the notion of a time machine appeared when they did. Whether there is resonance among El anacronópete and other landmark events of 1887 (such as the first appearance of Sherlock Holmes or Esperanto) remains to be determined.
The cultural epoch in which we live receives the mystifying label of postmodernism. Pastiche and combinatorialism are not limited to popular culture ensconced in the moment, for in the intellectual realm there is more intensive attention to the cultural past and its presuppositions than ever. The English translation of El anacronópete is all the more to be welcomed for its contribution to retrospective consciousness.
Wells Or Enrique Gaspar: Whose Time Machine Was First?
by Kathryn Westcott, BBC News
British Library: history of science fiction exhibit (Boing Boing, 16 May 2011)
The Fiction of Time Travel (phantasy physics)
History of Time Adventure (Time Travel Portal)
Spirits, Art, and the Fourth Dimension by Bryan Clair
French Tales of Infinity by Prof. Mark Brake & Rev. Neil Hook
“Deflating Hyperspace” by David Pacchioli
Modernity's Metonyms: Figuring Time in Nineteenth-Century Spanish Stories by Geraldine Lawless
Jarry @ Ĝirafo
combinatoria, Ramón Llull, Leibniz: reminder / rememorigo
Links on this siteLe maître du temps» par Giuseppe Lipparini
Definition of ’Pataphysics by Alfred Jarry
Alkon, Paul K. Origins of Futuristic Fiction. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1987.
Gaspar, Enrique. The Anacronópete; translated by Leyla Rouhi; edited with an introduction by Michael Cooperson. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2012.
Kirschenbaum, Leo. Enrique Gaspar and the Social Drama in Spain. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1944.
Nahin, Paul J. Time Machines: Time Travel in Physics, Metaphysics, and Science Fiction; foreword by Kip S. Thorne. 2nd ed. Woodbury, NY: AIP Press; New York: Springer, 1999.
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Last update 25 April 2013
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