Review of “Mellonta Tauta” (1849)


Edgar Allan Poe (writer).

Read in 2022.

Antiquarian musings by “Pundita”, in the form of a diary-like letter to a friend, written on a boring journey by balloon in the year 2848.

A more solid SF satire than “Some Words with a Mummy” (1845) and a more solid futurology than “The Colloquy of Monos and Una” (1841), despite being built around a series of weak jokes about the woman narrator’s ignorance of history, which mirrors “A Predicament” (1838). Across a language divide, the emperor Nero is remembered as “Zero”, Francis Bacon as “Hog” etc. More amusing is the narrator’s and the author’s reflections on technological and social progress, extrapolations with more substance than The Last Man (1826) or Poe’s own “The Man That Was Used Up” (1839). The same spirit of progress was played straight in “The Balloon-Hoax” (1844). The title, “Mellonta Tauta”, is the epigraph of “Monos and Una”, quoted from Sophocles’s Antigone.

text fiction