L. S. Mercier
novel begins with the dedication of the year two thousand four hundred fortieth. In the advance notice, the author reports that his goal is universal prosperity.
The hero (who is also the author) of the novel, tired of a long conversation with an old Englishman who sharply condemns French mores and customs, falls asleep and wakes up at his home in Paris in 672, in the twenty-fifth century. Since his clothes are ridiculous, he dresses in a second-hand dress shop, where he receives a passer-by on the street.
The hero is surprised by the almost complete absence of coaches, which, according to his companion, are intended only for sick people or especially important persons. Man, famous in any art, complains a cap with his name, which gives him the right to universal respect for citizens and the opportunity to freely visit the sovereign.
The city is struck by the cleanliness and elegance of the decoration of public places and buildings, decorated with terraces and climbing plants. Doctors now belong to the most respected category of citizens, and prosperity has reached such a degree that there are no shelters for the poor and strait houses as it is useless. At the same time, a person who wrote a book preaching “dangerous principles” must wear a mask until he redeems his guilt, and his correction is not compulsory and consists in moralizing conversations. Every citizen writes down his thoughts, and by the end of his life he compiles a book from them, which he reads on his grave.
Children are taught in French, although the “College of the Four Nations” has been preserved, in which it learns Italian, English, German and Spanish. In the notorious once his “fruitless” debates Sorbonne are engaged in the study of human corpses, in order to find means to reduce the bodily suffering of man. A universal therapeutic agent is aromatic plants that have the ability to “dilute clotted blood”; cure inflammation of the lungs, consumption, edema and many previously incurable diseases. The newest principles of disease prevention include vaccinations.
All books on theology and jurisprudence are now stored in the cellars of libraries, and, in case of danger of war with neighboring nations, these dangerous books are sent to the enemy. At the same time, lawyers are preserved, and the violated law is either publicly held in prison or expelled from the country.
The conversation is interrupted by frequent strokes of the bell, informing about the rare event – the execution for murder. The law of disobedience is brought up early: at the age of fourteen everyone is obliged to rewrite the laws of the country with his own hand and take the oath, renewed every ten years. And still, sometimes for exhortation, the death penalty is executed: on the square in front of the Palace of Justice, the criminal is led to a cage with the body of the murdered person. The President of the Senate reads the verdict of the court, the repentant criminal, surrounded by priests, listens to the speech of the Prelate, and then they bring the death warrant signed by the Sovereign. At the same cell, the perpetrator is shot, which is considered the final atonement of guilt and his name again fits into the lists of citizens.
Servants of the church in the state are a model of virtue, their main mission is to console the suffering, prevent bloodshed. In the temple, almost everything is customary for our hero, but there is no painting and sculpture, the altar is devoid of ornaments, the glass dome opens the sky, and the prayer is a poetic message coming from the heart. In the ritual of communion, the young man looks at the celestial bodies through a telescope, then in a microscope he is shown the world, even more marvelous, thereby convincing in the wisdom of the Creator.
Traveling around the city, the satellites examine the square with symbolic figures: the kneeling France; England, stretching out her hands to Philosophy; drooping head of Germany; Spain, from marble with bloody streaks – which was supposed to portray repentance in unrighteous deeds in the past.
The time of dinner was approaching, and the companions find themselves in a house decorated with a coat of arms and a shield. It turned out that in the houses of the nobility it is customary to cover three tables: for the family, for strangers and for the poor. After dinner, the hero goes to watch a musical tragedy about the life and death of the Toulouse merchant Kalas, who is wheeled for wanting to convert to Catholicism. The escort tells about overcoming prejudices against actors: for example, the Prelate recently asked the Emperor to welcome an embroidered cap to one outstanding actor.
The hero sees a dream with fantastic visions that change the course of the experienced events – he turns out to be alone without escort in the royal library, which instead of huge once rooms sweeps in a small room. The librarian recounts the changed attitude towards the book: all frivolous or dangerous books were stacked in a huge pyramid and burned. However, in advance, the main essence of them was extracted from the burned books and is set out in small books in 1 / 12th of the sheet, which constitute the current library. The writer who appeared in the library characterizes the current writers as the most revered... citizens – the pillars of morality and virtue.
After going to the Academy, the satellites are in a simple building with seats for academics, decorated with flags with a list of the merits of each. One of the present academicians is addressing a fiery speech condemning the old Academy of the 18th century. The hero does not dispute the rightness of the speaker, but calls not to judge the strictly past times.
Then the hero visits the Royal Collection, in which he examines marble statues with inscriptions “The inventor of a saw,” “The inventor of a loophole, a gate, a block”, etc.; Before him pass rare plants, minerals; whole rooms are devoted to optical effects; halls of acoustics, where the young warlike heirs of the throne are disaccustomed to aggression, deafening the sounds of battles.
Not far from the collection is the Academy of Painting, which includes a number of other academies: drawing, painting, sculpture, practical geometry. The walls of the academy are decorated with the works of the greatest masters, mainly on moralizing topics, without bloody battles and the loving pleasures of mythological gods. In the allegorical form, the peculiarity of the peoples is conveyed: the envy and vindictiveness of the Italian, the proud aspiration of the Englishman, the contempt for the elements of the German, the chivalrousness and loftiness of the Frenchman. Artists are now on the maintenance of the state, the sculptors do not sculpt the money-bags and royal servants, they only perpetuate the great deeds. The engraving, which teaches citizens of virtue and heroism, was widely spread.
The hero returns to the center of the city, where, with a crowd of citizens, he enters the throne room without hindrance. On both sides of the throne there are marble plaques engraved on them by the laws denoting the limits of royal authority, on the one hand, and the duties of subjects on the other. The sovereign in the blue raincoat hears the reports of the ministers, and if there is at least one dissatisfied, even of the lowest origin, he immediately listens publicly.
Admired by what he saw, the hero asks the people present to explain to him the form of government adopted in the state: the power of the king is limited, the legislative power belongs to the People’s Congress, the executive to the senate; the king monitors compliance with laws, solely resolving only unforeseen and particularly complex issues. So “the prosperity of the state is combined with the well-being of private individuals”. Heir to the throne goes a long way of education and only in twenty years the king declares him his son. At twenty-two, he can ascend to the throne, and at seventy, he resigns “authority.” His wife can only be a citizen of his country.
Women of the country are chaste and modest, they “do not rouge, do not snuff tobacco, do not drink liquors.”
To explain the essence of the tax system, the heroes lead to the crossroads of the streets and show two chests with the inscriptions “The tax to the king” and “Voluntary contributions”, in which citizens “with a happy look” put sealed bags with silver coins. By filling the chests are weighed and transferred to the “Controller of Finance.”
In the country, “tobacco, coffee and tea” are expelled from use, there is only domestic trade, mainly agricultural products. Trade with foreign countries is prohibited, and vessels are used for astronomical observations.
Towards evening the companion of the hero proposes to dine in the house of one of his friends. The host meets guests simply and naturally. Dinner begins with the blessing of the dishes standing on the table, which is served without any luxury. The food is simple – mostly vegetables and fruits, liqueurs are “banned as strictly as arsenic,” servants are sitting at the same table, and everyone is putting food on himself.
Returning to the drawing room, the hero attacks the newspapers, from which it follows that the world has become a community of free states. The spirit of philosophy and enlightenment spread everywhere: in Beijing the tragedy of Corneille “Cinna” was staged in French, Voltaire’s “Mohammed” in Constantinople; in a previously closed Japan, the treatise “On Crimes and Punishments” was translated. In the former colonies on the American continent, two powerful empires were created – North and South America, the Indians were restored in rights, their ancient culture was revived. In Morocco, astronomical observations are underway, there is not a single disadvantaged person left on the Papuan earth, etc. There are also fundamental changes in Europe: in Russia, the sovereign does not call himself an autocrat; the moral impact of Rome is felt by “a Chinese, a Japanese, a resident of Suriname, Kamchatka”; Scotland and Ireland want to make a single whole with England. France, though not an ideal state, but far ahead of other countries in the progressive movement.
The newspapers lacked secular news, and the hero, wishing to know the fate of Versailles, is making a trip to the former palace. In his place, he finds some ruins, where from the elder present there he receives explanations: the palace collapsed under the weight of buildings being built on each other. All means of the kingdom were used to erect them, and pride was punished. This elder is King Louis XIV.
At this point, one of the nesting in the ruins of snakes bites the hero in the neck and he wakes up.
L. S. Mercier