Short summary - Aniara - Harry Martinson

Scandinavian literature summaries - 2023

Short summary - Aniara
Harry Martinson

The lyrical "I", on behalf of which the narration is being conducted, is "mimorob", a nameless engineer who serves Mima - a machine that reproduces sensual images captured from the most remote corners of the universe. Mimorob and Mima, along with eight thousand passengers and crew, are on board the "goldonder" Aniar, making a routine flight from Doris (the former Earth) to the Tundra Planet (as Mars is now called in the forty-third century). The Goldonder's flight ends in disaster. Turning sharply and thus avoiding a collision with an asteroid, Aniara falls into a stream of stones. Tacking among them along a broken trajectory, she loses control (the “Saba-aggregate” fails) and, having completely lost her course, rushes into the void in the direction of the unattainable constellation Lyra.

Fortunately, all the main components of the goldder ("heat pipe, light pipe and gravity system") are in order. Fell into apathy after the surging panic and despair, the passengers gradually come to their senses. Their position is unenviable. They have an “endless odyssey”: they can neither turn back, nor go back, nor call for help, the “loxodrome” speed of Aniara’s movement is also not so great that they could hope that during their lifetime Aniara could fly to the constellation to which she is directed nose.

Caught in a state of forced idleness, people are looking for something to occupy themselves with. Soon exotic religious sects arose, and a considerable part of the passengers and crew became "yurg worshipers" ("yurg" - dance), spending all their time in carnal pleasures. They are helped in this by priestesses of love - "yurgini" Daisy, Yale, Tschebeba and Libidel. Pleasures (Mimorob also pays tribute to them - with Daisy) help to forget ... but not completely: most of the eight thousand population of Aniara (the size of the goldonder is huge, its length is 14,000 feet, its width is 8000) prefers to spend time in the halls of Mima, transmitting a stereoscopic picture of what is happening on other planets and star systems - wherever life exists. Created by man, Mima has the ability to self-develop, moreover, she is endowed with consciousness and a certain degree of freedom - in any case, it is impossible to force her to lie. Mima can only be turned off, with which the Aniarians would not agree: the spectacles of other worlds, no matter how terrible and depressing they may be, but for the most part Mima conveys pictures of decay: he prevails in space, yet distract the thoughts of passengers from their own fate.

But in the sixth year of the journey, Mima begins to convey terrible visions of what is happening on Doris: the country of Gond burns in the whirlwinds of the fiery "photonoturba", then the huge Dorisburg, Aniara's homeland, turns into boiling lava. Mima conveys to the passengers not only the "picture", but also the feelings and thoughts of those dying on Earth: from the "thickness of the stone" the dead cry out to them - deaf from the explosion and blind from the flash of light. Now the Aniarians understand what the expression "when the stones cry out" means. What they see and hear paralyzes their will and desire to live for a long time. Mima also behaves strangely after the transmission: first, interference is detected in her work, then she requires repairs and asks to turn it off, on the sixth day Mima declares to Mimorobu that she is blind and refuses to work: her mind is traumatized - Mima destroys herself.

From now on, people are completely alone. The last thread that connected them with the world is broken. It is not surprising that many Aniarians reminisce about the past. Mimorob, as if replacing Mima, draws up their internal monologues. In the longest monologue, the Space Sailor, who previously worked on transporting people from Doris to the Planet Tundra (there are now several zones on Mars called Tundra 1, Tundra 2, etc.), talks about his love for Nobby, a selfless woman who helped wretched and desperate people and who loved even the meager and stunted vegetation of the tundra and its animal world poisoned by metals. From the monologues, it becomes clear what kind of mechanized hell Doris-Earth has turned into - the living flame of burning wood is shown to schoolchildren on it as an example of a very ancient curiosity. In the memoirs of other passengers, as if by the way, the main milestones of the path traversed by mankind emerge: by the 23rd century, "the brilliant kingdom of man / in the smoke of war shone dimmer, / the projects of the humanists failed, / and again it was necessary to dig trenches." Then a “clot of star dust” shielded the Earth from the Sun for as much as 10 centuries, and a new era of glaciation began, science and art as a result fell into decay, but did not disappear at all, and after another ten centuries the dust dissipated and the world was restored to its former splendor.

But he looks extremely inhuman. Traveling people to Mars is forced: because of the long wars of earthlings among themselves and with other planets, Doris is poisoned by radioactivity. In the spaceports of Dorisburg, people are sorted according to the readings of their "psycho punch cards". “Gond is useless” (that is, a person), and instead of the Planet Tundra, he is sent to the swamps of Venus, and there they are placed in “Mansions and goals”, intended for the painless killing of their inhabitants. The terrestrial region of Gond, the refuge of the escapees from Dorisburg, is destroyed by a "photonoturb". Apparently, by order of the rulers of Doris, the planet Rind with its main city Xinombra was blown up: a naked slave - a captive from this city adorns the "flying garden" of Shefork - the sovereign commander of Aniara (and in the past the commandant of the Needle Mansions), phantoms " xinombre," like the furies of vengeance, haunt the Aniiarians in their sleep. In general, the future of mankind appears on the pages of the poem as frighteningly cruel, blurry and chaotic - this is exactly how the passengers of Aniara remember it. And yet they, languishing from the meaninglessness of life, he is desirable, and they would give everything to return back.

Mimorobe's attempts to restore Mima are in vain. And as if in mockery of the aspirations of the Aniars, an incredible event happens right next to them - in the same direction as Aniara, a spear rushes ahead of her! It was released by someone unknown. And it is not known for what purpose. But it sets a riddle for everyone - "the spear pierced everyone." This happened in the tenth year of the journey. Aniars now live in anticipation of a miracle. But completely different surprises lie in wait for them: either they fall into an accumulation of cosmic dust, which causes panic on the ship (as a result, the mirrors that increase the visual volume of the interiors are broken, and several "yurgins" are stabbed with their fragments), then they are seized by an eerie feeling of endless falling into a well (and Mimorobu costs a lot of effort to get them out of this state).

As it turns out, the most painful thing is the feeling of the aimlessness of life. Shefork, the all-powerful leader of the flight, makes an attempt to overcome it in his own way: he establishes a cult of his personality, requiring human sacrifice. And what? He did not surprise the passengers of Aniara with this: Mima fed them with more terrible spectacles, fragments of which can be viewed again in the Mimorob's Mimostorage, partially restored. Thus twenty-four years pass. By the end of them, many inhabitants of Aniara die a natural death. Among them is the terrible Shefork: after making sure that his power claims do not touch his subjects at all, and finally crucifying several servants of his own cult on four powerful magnets, he, in the past, also a murderer, becomes the most ordinary inhabitant on the eve of his death - power is fed by inspired illusions that residents Aniars are not able to perceive in their special position. Mimorobe sadly recalls his attempt to forget himself in the arms of the absurd beauty Daisy (she died long ago) and his love for Isagel, a female pilot who passed away of her own free will. Aniara's energy is running out. Having settled down around Mima, at its foot, the survivors, having gathered all their courage, "free time from space."