- The Absolute at Large
infobox Book |
name = The Absolute at Large
title_orig = Továrna na absolutno
language = Czech
release_date = 1922
"The Absolute at Large" ("Továrna na absolutno" in the original Czech), better translated as "The Factory of Absolute", is a science fiction novel written by Czech author
Karel Čapekin 1922. It appears to take place in the early 20th century, with the imperial governments still extant in both Russia and China.
The story centers on the invention of a reactor that can annihilate matter to produce cheap and abundant energy (c.f.
special theory of relativity). Unfortunately, it produces something else as a by-product, the "absolute". The "absolute" is a spiritual essence that according to some religious philosophies allegedly permeates all matter (see also monism). It is associated with human religious experience, as the unsuspecting humanity is to find out all too soon in the story. The widespread adoption of the reactors cause an enormous outpouring of pure "absolute" into the world. This leads to an outburst of religious and nationalistfervor, causing the greatest, most global war in history.
Čapek has much fun describing this war in a self-consciously absurd manner. Characteristic of the war are distant military marches, hence for example "battles of the Chinese with the
Senegalese riflemen on the shores of the Finnish lakes." Some of the more prominent political changes the war causes include expulsion of the Russian army to Africa (via Europe) by the Chinese invasion, the conquest of East Asiaby Japan that cuts the Chinese conquests in Russia and Europe down to the limits of the former Austro-Hungarian empire, and the Japanese conquest of North America. The later happened because the United States were exhausted by a bloody civil war between the supporters and opponents of the Prohibition.
"Absolute" does more than affect minds. It also does physical work. During the war, it causes catastrophes against the enemy (various parts of "absolute" support any given side in the conflict). At some point, it also becomes interested in production of material goods and produces them, in a supernatural manner, in enormous quantities. This leads to economic collapse and, absurdly enough, deficit of all manufactured items because, allegedly, once the price of goods has dropped to zero because of "absolute", nobody cares to produce or distribute them any more. Starvation is averted because "absolute" does not produce food, and the peasants who do not let the price drop to zero. In fact, they force every last penny from urban population in return for food, hence saving humanity. This is a satirical reference to the very real phenomenon of
bag peopleFact|date=September 2008 who bring food to the cities from the countryside in times of economic and political collapse.
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