1986 war breaks out on the South American continent. A small group of people manages to escape on the cruise ship Bahia de Darwin that was just getting ready for its maiden voyage. On board are some regular passengers who had planned to go on the cruise and six little girls, the last survivors of a native tribe from the Amazon, the Kanka-bono. Among the passengers happens to be a Japanese woman whose mother was a victim of the Hiroshima bomb.
The Bahia de Darwin reaches the Galapagos islands, the original destination of the "Nature Cruise of the Century". Due to trouble with the ship's engines the refugees are stuck in Santa Rosalia. The passengers all of a sudden are victims of a shipwreck who can't count on ever seeing anybody from the world known to them. A virus rendered all the women in the world infertile and wars are contributing to the extinction of mankind.
Evolution happens in small isolated populations. The various kind of darwin finches on the Galapagos Islands are a very good example. It's tempting to apply this theory to human beings: how would they develop when only a few specimens were left after a global disaster? Of course that depends mostly on the composition of the group.
Kurt Vonnegut carries the satire to the extreme by postulating that the majority of women belong to a primitive tribe who cut themselves off from the others, preserve their own manners and customs and pass them on to their children. In the beginning the colonists of Santa Rosalia still speak English, Japanese and Kanka-bono. But after a few generations only Kanka-bono prevails. A special addition to the genetic pool is the daughter of the radiation victim who was born with hair on all parts of her body. In her new environment that gives her an advantage over the others because she isn't easily sunburned. Darwin's "Survival of the Fittest" is taken literally, but from a surprising point of view.
Who never wasted a thought on whether it is really an advantage for human beings to have such an extraordinarily large brain will be surprised by all the disadvantages this feature can bring. Kurt Vonnegut presents the reader with a new way of looking at things that may not always be pleasant. The narrator of the story is the son of the writer Kilgore Trout who takes stock of one million years of evolution of the new mankind and recapitulates the beginnings back in 1986.
GALAPAGOS is a satire that will be enjoyed most by people who don't believe humans to be the "Pride of Creation". An entertaining read for everyone who is not shocked to find out that the world can do without us in our present form. The slogan "Back to Nature" has a whole new meaning for the shipwrecked people of Santa Rosalia. Evolution observed on the subject "mankind" and not taken all that seriously. Or is it?
Kurt Vonnegut: Galápagos
Copyright 1998 Christina Gross & Monika Hübner