Europe in “the Days of the Cloud”

The German tabloid BILD transformed an infrared image of the Icelandic volcano into an impressive title page over the weekend

WHEN I WAS ABOUT twelve or thirteen, I stumbled across H.G. Wells’s 1906 novel In the Days of the Comet at my local library. If I had been expecting a mind-expanding science fiction story along the lines of The Time Machine or The War of the Worlds, I was soon disappointed. Comet contains sci-fi elements, but it is clearly one of Wells’s “social” novels in which he laid out his vision of how much better the world would be if it were run according to enlightened socialist principles: An approaching comet foils both a young man’s plans for murder and an impending war between Britain and Germany by enveloping our planet in a strange cloud of gas that serendipitously arouses humankind from its moral torpor and permits it to resolve its problems through reasonable discussion. It’s a nice enough sentiment, although it’s hardly Steven Spielberg material.

Wells’s utopian premise is never far from my thoughts as Europe begins emerging from the vast cloud of hazardous grit and glass particles spewing from the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland…



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