Berlin in the Year 1924

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Voss, Julius von. Berlin in the Year 1924: (A Comedy in Two Acts). Berlin im Jahn 1924, Lustspiel in 2 Akten. 1824.[1][2] Translator Dwight R. Decker (J.J. Pierce). Decker's translation of Act One is in the volume with his translation of Ini.

According to John J. Pierce[3]

Some details are carried over from Ini, notably the postal service balloons drawn by eagles – only local express mail is shot from guns! But Voss adds others like steam artillery, electric rifles and “cargo whales” as freighters [...]. Such innovations come fast and furious, and a lot sooner than in Ini’s 21st Century. The play also alludes to E.T.A. Hoffmann [... including] an office, perhaps a government bureau, staffed with automatons which, like the one in Hoffmann’s “The Sand-Man,” can be mistaken for human – but they can run down.[...]
On a more sober note, a woman beggar reveals that poverty is rife – machines have eliminated traditional jobs, from excavation to sewing. And “epidemic bombs” are the latest weapons of war. (Pierce p. 62)

So see, if available, for early automata (and robots), and labor in a time of mechanization and automation — dealt with lightly, but dealt with.


In the selection in Decker's Ini translation, one can see the beggar woman and hear, so to speak, her complaints about job loss to "mechanical shovels" and "sewing machines" (p. 154). There is also a farmer on a "steam plow" and clarification that "telegraph" definitely means "semaphore" system (pp. 154 and 155). A class system is firmly in place in a larger hierarchy, with a Whaler visiting from the city of Polaria at the North Pole doffing his cap to a young "gentleman of some importance" (p. 159) and casually noting that in his community the "cargo whales" are rendered obedient with "bridles and spiked whips" (p. 158). The young gentleman in turn casually shoots a crow at long distance with no indication that he's eliminated a pest or will pick up the corpse — although the young man does have a "game bag": he's just showing off his electrically-activated shotgun. In an interesting question of tone, the young gentleman tells the Whaler about his "Telescopic spectacles" and personal lightning rod. The spectacles allow one to "see for miles" during the day and at night "see the mountains and valleys of the Moon and the satellites of Jupiter." For technology and hierarchy, and a definite question of tone and attitude, the young aristo adds that "[...] pretty girls don't like it when you look at them through the spectacles because enlarging them doesn't do them any credit" (p. 157), an idea arguably handled with more nuance in Gulliver among the Brobdingnagians in J. Swift's Gulliver's Travels (1726).

RDE, with thanks to J. J. Pierce, 16May20; 20Sep21