The Real Beasts: Revisiting The Planet of the ApesAugust 19, 2013 | Print |
HAVANA TIMES — I have been a sci-fi addict ever since I discovered the works of Jules Verne, back in the tender years of my childhood. However, for a while, nothing interesting came my way and I got disconnected from science fiction altogether. Now, since I own a computer, I’ve been revisiting the genre more and more.
The science fiction stories that appeal to me are those that serve as pretexts to delve into issues related to the human condition. In this connection, I’ve enjoyed Douglas Adam’s saga The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy particularly, and many of Frederick Brown’s works as well.
I recently discovered The Planet of the Apes, a novel written by French novelist Pierre Boulle at the beginning of the 1970s.
In the novel, a group of well-meaning earthlings arrive at a planet where apes have reached high levels of intelligence and human beings remained stuck at the intellectual level of our primates.
Till very recently, I had a pretty good sense of who were my kind of “people”: beings blessed with consciousness. If a mosquito had the ability to converse with me, trade science fiction books with me, and do other things of this sort, I would identify with it much more than with a being that had a human body and the brain of a bloodsucking insect.
This, at least, is what I believed until reading this book, which shook the foundations of my thinking. The main character, a journalist from Earth, feels a strong attraction towards a beautiful humanoid woman with a primitive mind, and finds refuge in her after witnessing the evil that intelligent beings are capable of.
At first, he is embarrassed by this and doesn’t want the apes to discover the intimate relationship he maintains with this beast. He even rejects her in public. When the woman becomes pregnant, however, he is unable to keep his love for her in check.
The novel has other interesting anthropological insights as well. Thousands of years ago, as it turns out, things on this distant planet were pretty much what they are on Earth today: apes were the beasts and human beings the superior race. Contact among the species, however, made apes increasingly smart and insolent.
Finally, out of fear of the apes, human beings fled the cities and took refuge up in the mountains, where they gradually lost their language and regressed to an animal state. The forms that the fear of a popular rebelling adopt are interesting indeed.
This is only a part of this novel, which is full of interesting details. I recommend it.