1893: Electric Life in 20th century. The past dressed as the future?


Well-known member
Stumbled across this today and had a brain fart.

Le Vingtième siècle. La vie électrique: 1890 by Albert Robida Usual

'The twentieth century - the electric life'

A celebrated artist and writer, lived through photography, no images, perhaps another pseudo character.

The book:

It is a ‘Science fiction’ story, which predicts future tech in France (some 65 years in the future)

Main character is an inventor, with a bio weapon and cure. Develops TV and secretly records people...

What struck me outside of the story is the obvious prediction of future tech.

TV, Flight, Electricity, Battleships, all sorts of modern stuff everywhere, but not only modern stuff (If you read through this forum)

Having read the Waki version of this, it struck me, what if this story, which is said to be set in the future, is actually a reference to 65 years prior….
To be able to guess at these inventions is ridiculous, IMO.

Here are some illustrations (by the author) which incidentally were omitted in the later satirical version....

Remember this is 1890... minus 65 years, = 1825... Fits the discussed time of reset....



TV Skype


this, does not look like a futuristic vision to me... What is that big gun at the bottom?


We have also, seen some of these 'predictions' before: Floating church


Here is a bunch of illustrations : pdf

It goes on, this guy, had to have had an insight?

Could this be the past, being past off as a possible future?

Love to hear your thoughts!



Well-known member
I would love to find out the meaning of the second image in the OP.
My take he is ruing the destruction of the traditional world with the modern industrial monster. Reducing the 'old ways' to physical rubble and then mere memory. Commerce enslaving people.

I did find this on a French site Daniel Perez Zapico : “Le XXe siècle, la vie électrique” L’électricité dans le roman d’anticipation scientifique. Jules Verne, Albert Robida, Nilo Mario Fabra and used google translate to change it to English.

However, the most interesting chapter in terms of fluid representation is the XVI, "The Demon of Electricity". Energy appears, for the first time and very clearly, in a negative light. It is associated with the worst of industrial society, with its impersonality and alienating nature. In the depths of despair, Dufrénoy tries to escape from this modern civilization of progress in which he is unable to integrate while he searches for his fiancee Lucy. In his delirium, he is convinced that the demon of electricity is pursuing him and that he is unable to escape his presence. His flight, lost in the night of Paris, brought him to the banks of the Seine. This has been transformed into a huge dam that provides millions of kilowatts to the city. Looking at the sky, Dufrénoy sees a whole "of electric wires that passed from one bank to another, and stretched like a huge spider's web to the Police Prefecture". Overwhelmed by this vision, Michel takes refuge in Notre-Dame:

"Our Lady was there; his stained glass windows shone with light; solemn songs were heard. Michel entered the old cathedral. The salute ended. Leaving the shadow of the street, Michel was dazzled! The altar sparkled with electric fires, and rays of the same kind escaped from the monstrance raised by the priest's hand! "Always electricity," repeated the wretch, even here! "[9]

The end of the chapter offers an equally interesting representation of the dual image of the fluid, commonplace very common at the time of the construction of his imagination. Electricity acts as a double mirror. The energy reflected in it is just as beneficial as it is evil, and capable of creating as well as destroying. Michel falls on an "electric concert" where the same pianist plays on two hundred pianos connected to each other by a current [10]. From the artistic creation one passes to the death when while skirting the prison for minors, Michel sees mount a gallows whose guillotine was replaced by the electric discharge. Verne anticipates here the electric chair, which will be used only in the nineties in the United States [11]. Michel's melancholy wanderings end at the Père Lachaise cemetery. The protagonist discovers a Paris smoked by the chimneys of ten thousand factories. He once again curses this society and then collapses, inanimate, in the snow.