Secondo il Vocabolario Treccani, nella sua seconda, ma più frequente accezione (nel linguaggio medico, la distopia è lo spostamento – in genere per malformazione congenita – di un viscere o di un tessuto dalla sua normale sede):

Previsione, descrizione o rappresentazione di uno stato di cose futuro, con cui, contrariamente all’utopia e per lo più in aperta polemica con tendenze avvertite nel presente, si prefigurano situazioni, sviluppi, assetti politico-sociali e tecnologici altamente negativi (equivale quindi a utopia negativa): le distopie della più recente letteratura fantascientifica.

Amo la fantascienza e di conseguenza adoro le distopie, e mentre parlo molti esempi mi si affollano nella mente, a partire da Erewhon di Samuel Butler, che mi sono trovato a raccomandare a un amico ignaro qualche giorno fa.

Secondo l’OED, il termine è stato inventato da John Stuart Mill nel 1868, ma già Jeremy Bentham nel 1816 aveva introdotto (con lo stesso significato) cacotopia: ci deve dunque essere un nesso profondo tra distopie a utilitarismo, ma al momento mi sfugge quale possa essere.

Wikipedia propone una lunga lista di opere narrative distopiche (tra cui, curiosamente, non c’è Erewhon), anche se ne sono citate molte altre che non io avrei messo: o perché non le ho lette, o perché non penso siano una distopia). Ecco la lista (tra parentesi quadra i miei commenti se ho letto il libro o, talora, visto il film):

Mah, lista molto discutibile, piena di buchi …

Ma adesso veniamo alla storia che volevo raccontarvi fin dall’inizio e che ho trovato qui:

Letters of Note: 1984 v. Brave New World

George Orwell

George Orwell / wikipedia.org

Ottobre 1949. 1984 è stato pubblicato da pochi mesi. George Orwell riceve una lettera da Aldous Huxley. Momento “forse non tutti sanno che …”: i due si conoscevano, perché oltre trent’anni prima, nel 1917, Huxley era stato per qualche tempo insegnante di francese di Orwell, a Eton. Huxley aveva pubblicato la sua distopia , Il mondo nuovo (Brave New World) 17 anni prima, nel 1932.

Quella che inizia come una lettera di lode diventa ben presto un confronto tra le prospettive presentate nelle due opere, e (prevedibilmente) Huxley resta convinto che la sua previsione sia più realistica. Ne sono convinto anch’io, dopo 80 anni, e resto anche convinto che Brave New World sia più bello di 1984.

Aldous Huxley

Wrightwood. Cal.
21 October, 1949

Dear Mr. Orwell,

It was very kind of you to tell your publishers to send me a copy of your book. It arrived as I was in the midst of a piece of work that required much reading and consulting of references; and since poor sight makes it necessary for me to ration my reading, I had to wait a long time before being able to embark on Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Agreeing with all that the critics have written of it, I need not tell you, yet once more, how fine and how profoundly important the book is. May I speak instead of the thing with which the book deals — the ultimate revolution? The first hints of a philosophy of the ultimate revolution — the revolution which lies beyond politics and economics, and which aims at total subversion of the individual’s psychology and physiology — are to be found in the Marquis de Sade, who regarded himself as the continuator, the consummator, of Robespierre and Babeuf. The philosophy of the ruling minority in Nineteen Eighty-Four is a sadism which has been carried to its logical conclusion by going beyond sex and denying it. Whether in actual fact the policy of the boot-on-the-face can go on indefinitely seems doubtful. My own belief is that the ruling oligarchy will find less arduous and wasteful ways of governing and of satisfying its lust for power, and these ways will resemble those which I described in Brave New World. I have had occasion recently to look into the history of animal magnetism and hypnotism, and have been greatly struck by the way in which, for a hundred and fifty years, the world has refused to take serious cognizance of the discoveries of Mesmer, Braid, Esdaile, and the rest.

Partly because of the prevailing materialism and partly because of prevailing respectability, nineteenth-century philosophers and men of science were not willing to investigate the odder facts of psychology for practical men, such as politicians, soldiers and policemen, to apply in the field of government. Thanks to the voluntary ignorance of our fathers, the advent of the ultimate revolution was delayed for five or six generations. Another lucky accident was Freud’s inability to hypnotize successfully and his consequent disparagement of hypnotism. This delayed the general application of hypnotism to psychiatry for at least forty years. But now psycho-analysis is being combined with hypnosis; and hypnosis has been made easy and indefinitely extensible through the use of barbiturates, which induce a hypnoid and suggestible state in even the most recalcitrant subjects.

Within the next generation I believe that the world’s rulers will discover that infant conditioning and narco-hypnosis are more efficient, as instruments of government, than clubs and prisons, and that the lust for power can be just as completely satisfied by suggesting people into loving their servitude as by flogging and kicking them into obedience. In other words, I feel that the nightmare of Nineteen Eighty-Four is destined to modulate into the nightmare of a world having more resemblance to that which I imagined in Brave New World. The change will be brought about as a result of a felt need for increased efficiency. Meanwhile, of course, there may be a large scale biological and atomic war — in which case we shall have nightmares of other and scarcely imaginable kinds.

Thank you once again for the book.

Yours sincerely,

Aldous Huxley

(Source: Letters of Aldous Huxley)