Darko Suvin

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Darko Suvin
Born (1930-07-19) 19 July 1930 (age 84)
Zagreb Kingdom of Yugoslavia, (now Croatia)
Religion Judaism
Era 20th century philosophy
Region Western Philosophy
School Zagreb University
Main interests Science Fiction
Notable ideas Cognitive estrangement

Darko Ronald Suvin (born Darko Šlesinger; July 19, 1930) is a Croatia born academic and critic who became a Professor at McGill University in Montreal — now emeritus.[1] He was born in Zagreb, Kingdom of Yugoslavia (now capital of Croatia), and after teaching at the department for comparative literature at Zagreb University, moved to Canada in 1968.

He is best known for several major works of criticism and literary history devoted to science fiction. He was editor of Science-Fiction Studies (later respelled as Science Fiction Studies) from 1973 to 1980. After his retirement from McGill in 1999, he has lived in Lucca, Italy. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (Academy of Humanities and Social Sciences).

In 2009, he received Croatian SFera Award for lifetime achievement in science fiction. Also, he is member of both Croatia's writers association, Croatian Writers Society (HDP),[2] and Croatian Writers' Association (DHK).[3]

Recently, he published the series of his memoirs on his youth as member of the Young Communist League of Yugoslavia during the Nazi occupation of Croatia and Yugoslavia, and first years of Josip Broz Tito's Yugoslavia, in the Croatian cultural journal Gordogan. Suvin is a member of the Advisory Board of the left-wing journal Novi Plamen and Croatian science fiction journal Ubiq.

Biography[edit]

Early life[edit]

Suvin was born in Zagreb, Kingdom of Yugoslavia, on July 19, 1930 to a Croatian Jewish family of Miroslav and Truda (née Weiser) Šlesinger. In Zagreb he attended the Jewish elementary school in Palmotićeva street. In 1939 his family changed the surname from Šlesinger to Suvin due to political situation and antisemitism caused by Nazi propaganda.[4][5][6] When Suvin was a young child, there was great political strife in Yugoslavia. Originally a monarchy, Yugoslavia quickly succumbed to the Fascist occupation, and then later various other types of government. In the early 1940s, before the end of World War Two, a Nazi controlled bomb exploded close to Suvin, an event that was ultimately responsible for piquing his interest in Science Fiction, not because of the technology behind the bomb, but because he realized in even a slightly alternative world, he may have been killed right then and there.[7] Many members of his family have perished during the Holocaust, including his paternal grandparents Lavoslav and Josipa Šlesinger.[4]

Interest in Literature[edit]

After World War Two, Suvin became even more infatuated with Science Fiction. He earned his PhD from Zagreb University, one of the most prestigious universities in Europe.[8] Soon after, he published his first article, which was little more than a brief overview and survey of the SF genre. After getting his foot in the proverbial door, he continued making money by translating a wide variety of Science Fiction books into his native language. Some of the books he translated include The Seedling Stars and Day of the Triffids. In general, the more fascinating the book, the more likely he was to translate it.

In Yugoslavia during the early 1960s, Suvin published his first book, a historical introduction, or general overview of Science Fiction as a whole. Authors like Asimov and Heinlein were discussed in great detail, and several different SF books were analyzed. The book also included the results of his first article initially published in 1957.[7]

Move to North America[edit]

In 1967, Suvin immigrated to North America to teach in universities. Shortly after arriving, college students in the United States were revolting. Students wanted many things, but among them were more courses, one of which was Science Fiction. At this point, Suvin's expertise was extremely desirable, and there were many educational institutions that were looking to hire him.[7]

Suvin was hired as a Science Fiction professor at McGill University in Montreal in 1968. About five years later, the number of students signing up for SF courses dropped significantly, leaving him to teach English and Literature courses. Through his teaching career, he has published numerous works and contributed to the study of Science Fiction. In 1999, Suvin retired and moved to Italy, where he lives to this day.[8]

Philosophy[edit]

Science Fiction[edit]

Works of Science Fiction all begin with the idea of framing a hypothesis. The most common of these hypotheses is likely time travel, although there are many thousands of distinct alternate realities used in books and movies that do not utilize time travel as a hypothesis. It is Suvin's opinion that some of the most commercially successful works of SF have only used this idea of framing a hypothesis as an ornament. In other words, Suvin believes that the most popular main stream SF works, like Star Wars, are not truly SF at heart—they simply utilize the genre as a way to take advantage of the special effects and uniqueness that go along with the genre.[9]

Cognitive estrangement[edit]

Naturally, this is detrimental to the perception of Science Fiction as a whole, because in Suvin's opinion, the focus of the genre lies in encouraging new ways of thinking about human society, or to inspire those who are oppressed to resist. Suvin has labeled this idea of subversive thinking as cognitive estrangement. Those works of SF that could be characterized as using cognitive estrangement rely on no one particular hypothesis, but instead on the cognitive presentation of alternative realities that directly contradict the status quo.[9]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Kraus, Ognjen (1998). Dva stoljeća povijesti i kulture Židova u Zagrebu i Hrvatskoj. Zagreb: Židovska općina Zagreb. ISBN 953-96836-2-9. 

Works[edit]

  • Dva vida dramaturgije: eseji o teatarskoj viziji (Zagreb 1964) — "Two aspects of dramaturgy: essays on theatrical vision", in Croatian language
  • Od Lukijana do Lunjika (Zagreb 1965) — "From Lucian to Lunik", in Croatian, anthology and theory of science fiction. Major parts of this book and other early essays, published in the 1960s in Croatian language, were later reworked for Metamorphoses of Science Fiction.
  • Other Worlds, Other Seas: Science-Fiction Stories from Socialist Countries (1970) and later editions — editor, with preface
  • Uvod u Brechta (Zagreb 1970) — "Introduction into Brecht", in Croatian language
  • Russian Science Fiction, 1956-1970: A Bibliography (1971) and later editions
  • Andere Welten, andere Meere (1972) and later editions — German translation of Other Wolds, Other Seas
  • Autres mondes, autres mers (1973) — French translation of Other Worlds, Other Seas
  • Science-Fiction Studies: Selected Articles on Science Fiction, 1973-1975 (1976) — editor with R. D. Mullen
  • Dramatika Iva Vojnovića: geneza i struktura (Dubrovnik, Vol. 20, 1977, issue 5-6) — "Ivo Vojnovic's Dramatics: Genesis and Structure", the whole issue of the magazine printed Suvin's PhD from University of Zagreb; often wrongly cited as the book
  • Pour une poétique de la science-fiction : études en théorie et en histoire d'un genre littéraire (Montreal 1977) — first world edition of Metamorphoses of Science Fiction; although in French, it seems it was translated from English manuscript
  • H. G. Wells and Modern Science Fiction (1977) — edited by Darko Suvin, with Robert M. Philmus
  • Science-Fiction Studies: Selected Articles on Science Fiction, 1976-1977 (1978) — editor with R. D. Mullen
  • Metamorphoses of Science Fiction: On the Poetics and History of a Literary Genre (1979)
  • Poetik und Science Fiction. Zur Theorie einer literarischen Gattung (1979) — German translation of Metamorphoses of Science Fiction
  • Victorian Science Fiction in the UK: The Discourses of Knowledge and of Power (1983)
  • To Brecht and Beyond: Soundings in Modern Dramaturgy (1984)
  • Metamorfosis de la ciencia ficción (Mexico 1984 and 1987) - Spanish edition of Metamorphoses of Science Fiction
  • Le Metamorfosi della fantascienza (Bologna 1985) - Italian translation of Metamorphoses of Science Fiction
  • The Long March, Notes on the Way 1981-1984, Poems (1987)
  • Positions and Presuppositions in Science Fiction (1988) — essays
  • Armirana Arkadija (Zagreb 1990) — poems in Croatian
  • SF no hen'yô (Tokyo 1991) - Japanese translation of Metamorphoses of Science Fiction
  • Lessons of Japan: Assayings of Some Intercultural Stances (1997)
  • Learning from Other Worlds: Estrangement, Cognition, and the Politics of Science Fiction and Utopia (Liverpool University Press, 2001) - edited by Patrick Parrinder, collection of essays on science fiction and utopian literature honouring the work of Darko Suvin, with Suvin's full and detailed bibliography in all languages
  • US Science Fiction and War/Militarism (Fictions, Studi sulla narrativita, Anno III, Pisa 2004, issue 3: 1-166) — guest editor, with Salvatore Proietti, special issue in English
  • Gdje smo? Kuda idemo? Za političku epistemologiju spasa: eseji za orijentaciju i djelovanje u oskudnom vremenu (Zagreb 2006) — "Where are we? What are we getting to? For a political epistemology of salvation: essays for the orientation and doing in time of needs", in Croatian language (translated from English manuscript with author's supervision)
  • Of Starship Troopers and Refuseniks: War and Militarism in US Science Fiction, Part 2 ("1975-2001: Post-Fordism, and Some Conclusions") printed in Extrapolation, 48.1 (2007): 9-34; Part 1 ("1945-1974: Fordism"), in D.M. Hassler and C. Wilcox (eds.), New Boundaries in Political Science Fiction, University of South Carolina Press, 2008, 115-144; integrally printed (in Croatian language, authorised translation from the manuscript) in Ubiq, Zagreb 2009, No. 5
  • Spoznaja, sloboda, The Dispossessed kao klasik (In: Ubiq, Zagreb 2008, No. 2) — "Cognition, Freedom, The Dispossessed as a Classic"; major work on Ursula K. Le Guin's novel, in Croatian translation with author's supervision, English version partially printed in Paradoxa (2008, No. 21, Ursula K. Le Guin Issue)
  • Naučna fantastika, spoznaja, sloboda (Belgrade 2009) — "Science fiction, cognition, freedom", in Croatian and Serbian language, selected essays on science fiction translated from English manuscripts or printed in Croatian, from 1960s to 2000s; selection from Yugoslav, Croatian and Serbian journals
  • Defined by a Hollow: Essays on Utopia, Science Fiction and Political Epistemology (Peter Lang Verlagsgruppe, 2010) — preface by Phillip Wegner
  • Kje smo? Kam gremo? Za politično ekonomijo odrešitve (Ljubljana: Založba Sophia, 2010) — "Where are we? What are we getting to?" in Slovenian translation
  • Metamorfoze znanstvene fantastike (Zagreb: Profil 2010) — Croatian version of Metamorphoses of Science Fiction, translated from English edition, with translated text adapted and proofed by author himself, with preface by Carlo Proietti and Suvin's commentary
  • Darko Suvin, a Life in Letters (Washington 2011) — edited by Phillip E. Wegner, Paradoxa, No. 23, selected writings and poems
  • Preživjeti Potop: fantasy, po-robljenje i granična spoznaja (Ubiq, 2012) — "Surviving the Deluge: fantasy, commodification and liminal cognition", in Croatian, the book which collects Suvin's recent writings on fantasy
  • In Leviathan's Belly: Essays for a Counter-Revolutionary Time (Borgo Press, 2012) — essays
  • Samo jednom se ljubi: radiografija SFR Jugoslavije (Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung South East Europe, 2014) — "You Love Only Once. Radiography of SFR Yugoslavia, 1945-1972", in Croatian language, Suvin's attempt at dialectical history of Socialist Yugoslavia (yet unpublished in English)

References[edit]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ David Johnston, Convocation: Honorary degrees and emeritus professorships, McGill Reporter, Volume 33, No. 05, November 2, 2000
  2. ^ (Croatian) "Darko Suvin". Hrvatsko društvo pisaca (Croatian Writers Society). Retrieved 2013-06-13. 
  3. ^ (Croatian) "Darko Suvin". Društvo hrvatskih književnika (Croatian Writers' Association). Retrieved 2013-06-13. 
  4. ^ a b (Croatian) Gordogan - kulturni magazin; Darko Suvin; Slatki dani, strašni dani (iz Memoara jednog skojevca, dio 1); stranica 25; broj 15-18, godina VI/VII, zima-jesen 2008 / zima-jesen 2009.
  5. ^ (Serbian) Suvin, Darko. "Rat je stigao na radiju". Danas. Retrieved 2013-06-13. 
  6. ^ Ognjen Kraus (1998, p. 17)
  7. ^ a b c Horst Pukallus, An Interview with Darko Suvin: Science Fiction and History, Cyberpunk, Russia...., Science Fiction Studies, #54, Volume 18, Part 2, July 1991
  8. ^ a b Phillip E. Wegner, Darko Suvin: A life in letters, Paradoxa, 2011
  9. ^ a b Victor Wallis, Introduction, Socialism and Democracy Journal, April 6, 2011