Foigny, Gabriel de

Tagged: Author

(circa 1630-1692) French author of an early Fantastic Voyage, La Terre Australe Connue: C'est-à-dire la description de ce pays inconnu jusqu'ici, de se moeurs et de ses coûtumes. Par M. Sadeur (1676 Switzerland; cut vt Les avantures de Jacques Sadeur dans la découverte et le voiage de la terre australe 1692; trans anon of cut vt, as A New Discovery of Terra Incognita Australis, or the Southern World 1693; new trans David Fausett of the original version, as The Southern Land, Known 1993) [for full titles, see Checklist]. The publication history of this text is complex: the 1692 version of La Terre Australe Connu – the only French-language version in circulation until 1922 – was a bowdlerized recasting of the original by a cleric, F Raguenet; the first English translation from 1693 is based on this bowdlerization; the 1993 translation is of the original text.

Now that it is more widely available, it is likely that Foigny's complex and rewarding tale will become recognized as a central example of seventeenth-century Proto SF. It is presented as a manuscript left on his return to Europe by Mr Sadeur, who is now dead. He recounts his various travels, which climax in his arrival in Australia, a land occupied by a Lost Race of hermaphrodites (see Gender, Sex), who have created for themselves a preternaturally calm Utopia, made possible in part because no issues based on sexual dimorphism are of course possible; Sadeur fits in immediately, as he too is a hermaphrodite. The Australians' Religion is an extremely calm deism, though touches of Hermeticism colour the flatness; their language (see Linguistics) is entirely rational, and allows no misunderstanding; but they are ruthless in War, and their extirpation of a force of human invaders troubles the narrator (and arouses him to sexual interaction with a human female, which puts paid to his hermaphrodite status). He then escapes on the back of a giant bird. La Terre Australe Connu is a text whose many implications warrant further study. [JC]

Gabriel de Foigny

born Picardy, France: circa 1630

died Savoy, France: 1692

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