We all have in mind a man with a nose as sharp as his tongue capable of seducing any woman with his verbiage when we think of Cyrano de Bergerac.
But this French poet, playwright and thinker, contemporary with Boileau and Molière, was actually a lover of men and obsessed with outer space . Mind you, he had a big nose.
Atheism and materialism
Before Cyrano became a fictional character by Edmond Rostand , the real Cyrano was the author of a work that narrated a trip to the moon: The Other World or the States and Empires of the Moon (1657).
Cyrano was a singular character in his time: he was an atheist and a materialist . And he used the strategy of space travel to criticize everything he did not like about the real world, as a good science fiction author.
All of his work, in fact, was not published uncensored until 1921 . At least his book on the moon appeared in at least nineteen editions in French and two in English before the end of the century.
The protagonist, as if it were Icarus, invents an artifact to be able to fly. After some mistake that takes him to the ground, he manages by chance to rise up and reach "another world."
In addition to expanding our range of vision, the telescope and microscope made it easier to recognize the limitations of our sensory apparatus when deprived of artificial aids. One of the most interesting snippets is the following :
There are a million things, perhaps, in the universe that would require you to have a million different organs to understand. For example, by my senses I know the cause of the sympathy, which is found between the calamita and the pole, of the flow of the sea, and what happens to the animal after death; you cannot reach these elevated concepts except by faith, because they are secrets above the power of your intellect; in the same way that a blind man cannot judge the beauty of a landscape, the colors of a painting, or the hues of a rainbow.
The lunar crater Cyrano bears this name as a tribute by the International Astronomical Union to the literary adventures of the character’s satellite.