There is no planet B: Beginning the age of correction
I wrote the short story 2066. Beginning the age of correction about climate change and old population in Europe which, thanks to the magazine Cafebabel, was translated in English and many other languages in the spring of 2006. Thirteen years later, the delicate situation around our planet is even worse than I could imagine for this fictional story.
In 2050, 35% of Europeans will be over 65 and there will be 58 million more senior citizens than today. Whereas the current generation over 65 enjoys retirement, the pension system is in crisis. What future for an ageing Europe? In the short fiction “2066. Beginning the age of correction” the working population beginning to think about retirement is called by the state to take part in an ecological mission.Cafebabel.com · Issue (grand)mother Europe http://www.cafebabel.com/en/article.asp?T=T&Id=7224 [Consultation: June 19, 2006]
2066. Beginning the age of correction, by Núria Añó
A land of older people and with the experience finally to be able to decide if they throw out the alarm clock or put it in a suitcase. A nation that will be able to choose what they put in a suitcase. People that will have a choice between bathing suit and a walking stick for the mountain, wearing SPF factor 60 or 120. Hotel or apartment complex. Chalet or camping store. Complimentary vitamins, Viagra, or pills for degenerative osteoarthritis. Private beach club or cosmetic surgery. People that have in their hands their bankbooks and the pension plan because they have been prepared. Congratulations! You are no longer a doctor, or teacher, or laborer, or vendor. Now you are a free person.
Those people that in this moment connect with their families thanks to the technology available in their homes, will discover how their children put their grandchildren in the car, with the only benefit today being that they save on babysitters. At any moment the newly retired person could be the victim of a visit, the charming grandson or granddaughter that will jump on the sofa, kicking and screaming and still wake up with a certain tenderness. Why? Because they are the blood of your blood, and because in some way they are in danger of extinction. People will have to decide between their families or their life. Between having a suitcase or parting with it, between keeping the pension money or sharing it out between the kids. Because if you decide to close the suitcase and leave for another part of Europe, perhaps when you get to your destination you’ll be surprised at just how much everything has changed. And decide to return.
Ten. Nine. Eight. Seven. Six. Five. Four. Three. Two. One. Happy New Year 2066!!!
Europe, the land of easy mathematics where he who works adds up and he who retires subtracts. The land where the economy gets to stagger all over the continent, opening a great many camps that find themselves in an experimental phase. The chosen ones that were thinking of retiring in 2066 have been called to collaborate in a type of ecological reform. This is if they want to recover their pension, and so for this reason they have entered the camps.
Nicoletta, for example, has wanted to do something like this, but only in a free, non time consuming, way. One hour a day would have been sufficient for her because she is on medication for depression and has spent a lot of time feeling down. The state has been paying for her medication for years, and this is what they told her: “Nicoletta Vlasak, we have noted your work with various NGO’s in Latin America between 2030 and 2040 as well as various trips to Africa between 2041 and 2043. As you have made small contributions during your working life, and have enjoyed a widower’s pension for the last five years, your Social Security number has been chosen for camp mission C: Europe against acid rain. This mission will consist of planting trees during a period of five years. Your house will be rented out and upon completion of the mission your keys will be returned to you.”
Miguel had dissolved three tablets of pork and white rice when his virtual monitor displayed the following: “We have noticed an increase in cholesterol in your metabolism in the last two minutes. Bearing in mind your hypertension and that your weigh 148 kilos, could you confirm if you’re considering suicide?” To which Miguel replied: “Don’t wish me to commit suicide now that I am on the brink of retiring! I have spent one whole life getting up at 5am, all of my life driving a car up and down from one end of Europe to the other, loading and unloading”, and added: “I have a hernia and rheumatism. Now what I want most is to forget about travelling and pick up my fishing rod.” Miguel sat there, looking sceptically at the monitor as it replied: “Miguel Pontes, given your sense of humor, we inform you that your Social Security number has been chosen for Camp mission F: Europe returning life to the rivers.”
When Pietro’s housing development opened up a virtual window, it was Elizabeth who pressed click: she accepted an unknown virtual conference, because in the back of her mind she was hoping for a virtual visit from her grandkids. Elizabeth shouted; “Pietro!” and Pietro began to listen, his eyes glued to the screen and corroborated: “In effect, five years that pay for the pension” and he was read the official documents that he had digitally signed. At which point he heard: “Pietro Scheider, we have just renewed your retirement. It is a real shame that you do not wish to collaborate with the cause: Europe converts water into ice. A mission to the Poles.” When that finished, they both heard: “Elizabeth Toderas, three miscarriages, two sons and a daughter. You are retiring in March. We remind you that your mission begins in March in Camp A: Europe. Cloning fertile women.’ We recommend that you prepare yourself physically during this period.”
Jacques, an author, was waiting for a videoconference like this. He turned on the screen and said: “I am impatient to start the mission. Arrest me!” Only his number hadn’t been chosen. Therefore, with luck, he would be able to enjoy all the benefits of retirement. “Jacques Zola, we are sorry to tell you that we haven’t received any mission for you. We are letting you criticize whatever you like, because in reality, there isn’t anyone left who buys electronic books. Besides, your Social Security number has not been entered into the draw because we cannot risk your words setting the cat amongst the pigeons.”
And so, the agents that signed the project Europe against old age have begun to see the first fruits of their labor: suicides, heart attacks, death from exhaustion, natural deaths and intentionally failed flights. Everything ought to be controlled by ex-prisoners running the projects. On the other hand, the ecological reform which was promised has been a complete failure, though this was well known from the beginning. Now the search for habitual planets begins.
© Núria Añó – 19.6.2006 | Translation : Rebecca Caulfield
About the author
Núria Añó was born in Lleida, Catalonia, Spain, in 1973. She is a Catalan/Spanish writer, a translator and a regular speaker at conferences and symposia, where she gives papers on literary creation, films, cities or authors like Elfriede Jelinek, Patricia Highsmith, Salka Viertel, Karen Blixen, Alexandre Dumas or Franz Werfel at the University of Lleida (UdL), Tunis University, University of Jaén (UJA), International University of Andalucía (UNIA), Spanish National Research Council (CSIC-Madrid), Sysmän Kirjasto Library in Finland, Shanghai Writers’ Association (SWA), Fudan University in China, East China Normal University, Sinan Mansion, Instituto Cervantes in Shanghai, Conrad Festival in Poland, Massolit Books, Baza or Instituto Cervantes in Krakow, also in libraries, secondary schools or in higher education. She also acts as a juror for international competitions.
Her novel Els nens de l’Elisa was third among the finalists for the 24th Ramon Llull Prize for Catalan Literature and was published in 2006. L’escriptora morta [The Dead Writer, 2020], in 2008; Núvols baixos [Lowering Clouds, 2020], in 2009, and La mirada del fill, in 2012. She is the author of a biography on screenwriter Salka Viertel, El salón de los artistas exiliados en California [The Salon of Exiled Artists in California, 2020] Jewish salonnière and well-known in Hollywood in the thirties as a specialist on Greta Garbo scripts.
Some of her novels, short stories and articles are translated into Spanish, French, English, Italian, German, Polish, Chinese, Latvian, Portuguese, Dutch and Greek.
Her writing focus on the characters’ psychology, generally antiheroes. The characters are the most important in her books, much more than the topic, due to “an introspection, a reflection, not sentimental, but feminine”. Her novels cover a multitude of topics, treat actual and socially relevant problems such as injustices or poor communication between people and frequently, the core of her stories remains unexplained. Añó asks the reader to discover the “deeper meaning” and to become involved in the events presented. Read more
Literary Prizes/ Awards:
- Awarded at International Writing Program, by the Academy of Literature in China.
- Awarded at International Writer’s and Translators’ House in Latvia.
- Fourth prize of the 5th Shanghai Get-together Writing Contest in China.
- Selected for a literary residence in Krakow UNESCO City of Literature, Poland.
- Awarded at the International Writers’ and Translators’ Center of Rhodes in Greece.
- Awarded at the Baltic Centre for Writers and Translators in Sweden.
- Awarded at the Shanghai Writing Program, hosted by the Shanghai Writer’s Association in China.
- Awarded by the Culture Association Nuoren Voiman Liitto to be a resident at Villa Sarkia in Finland.
- Third among the finalists for the 24th Ramon Llull Prize for Catalan Literature.
- Finalist for the 8th Mercè Rodoreda Prize for Catalan Short Stories.
- Awarded the 18th City of Almenara Joan Fuster Prize for Fiction.
Other books by Núria Añó in English
The Salon of Exiled Artists in California, Núria Añó (ebook) READ AN EXCERPT
Lowering Clouds, Núria Añó (ebook) READ AN EXCERPT
The Dead Writer, Núria Añó (ebook) READ AN EXCERPT