The Year 5865
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THE YEAR 5865, OR PARIS IN 400 YEARS
by Hippolyte Mettais
adapted by Brian Stableford
cover by Jean-Felix Lyon
It was a time of gods, demigods and genies. It was China before Sione-Fine, Egypt before Mehmet Ali; it was New Cosaquia before Nhoel I. Happy times! Our poetry lives on it, our most graceful literature stems from it. It was the time of legends, of heroic songs, when men were giants, ogres and slayers of armies. It was the time of our Sheikh Mansour the Invincible, who destroyed a whole army with a single sweep of his scimitar. That is ancient history.
The Year 5865 was published in 1865. It is a remarkable novel, consisting of a first-person narrative related by a character living 4000 years hence, after various disasters have obliterated almost all the documents relating to the world with which we are familiar. In consequence, the narrator's knowledge of the reader's world is severely limited and densely clouded by myth.
Hippolyte Mettais' innovative literary method in attempting to interpolate didactic material into a melodrama provides an anticipatory echo of a future subgenre of popular fiction: the "lost race" story. But unlike H. Rider Haggard's She (1887), Abraham Merritt's Dwellers in the Mirage (1932) and other classics, here, it is not present-day explorers who find relics of an ancient civilization but futuristic explorers who find echoes of ours.
A remarkable pioneer of futuristic fantasy, The Year 5865 is a uniquely intriguing classic of the genre, log ripe for rediscovery.
L'An 5865 ou Paris dans 4000 Ans [The Year 5865 or Paris In 4000 Years] (Libr. Centrale, 1865)
Introduction and Notes by Brian Stableford.