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The Futurist and Other Stories

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What's Tatiana Troyanos doing in Spartacus' Tent?
Carl Djerassi Scientist
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I want to give you an example of imagination, how autobiography- it just can be total automythology. And it came out- as usual, I publish everything in the end one way or another, sometimes years later. In my first published short story- actually the first book I published- prose book in the collection of short stories, which was published in England and is long out of print. It is called, "The Futurist and Other Stories". And one of the stories has a long title. Usually I have short titles. "What’s Tatiana Troyanos doing in Spartacus’ Tent?" Well, Spartacus, you know, was the gladiator in Roman times. Tatiana Troyanos was one of my favourite opera singers, who unfortunately died young, maybe ten years ago now. A fabulous opera singer and I just absolutely adored her and I go to the opera all the time. Of course, I knew her at that time. I actually literally met her subsequently and there is a photograph of Tatiana Troyanos and me, I think, in here, and if it is I will actually turn to it- I have a feeling, yes, well, I don’t know whether you can see this in- well, no, it’s not a very good photograph. It’s the bottom photograph here. Can one see that at all? We will be able to. Well, you can see she’s taller than I. She’s really sort of a majestic woman and that was after a concert that she gave in the Bay area, where I presented her with my short story, which is entitled, "What’s Tatiana Troyanos doing in Spartacus’ Tent?". Which was a polite way of telling her, I would like to sleep with you, as you will see, but of course she hadn’t read it yet when I gave it to her and signed, and then she took it home. And we’ve never met since. And then she died a few years later. But what did- Obviously it was not initially about Tatiana Troyanos. It was about a book that influenced me very much. I was a great reader as a kid, as a teenager, particularly in Vienna, and then just as a teenage refugee in the United States, and two of my favourite writers at that time were Aldous Huxley and Arthur Koestler, and they were authors that I continued reading as they- you know, they’re not my contemporaries, but they’re only ten, twenty years or thirty years older than I. So I kept reading them. I read that time the first novel of Arthur Koestler which hardly anyone at all remembers. I mean, everyone thinks his first novel was "Darkness at Noon", for which he became very famous when he was still a Communist or just a disillusioned Communist. But in fact he’d written one before. The first one, that’s called "Spartacus", and that was a fictionalised account of this Spartacus, the uprising of the gladiators and the campaign that Spartacus led against the Romans, where they eventually took a beating. And Spartacus was of course was an unbelievably macho male character, wonderfully described in that novel of Arthur Koestler.

Austrian-American Carl Djerassi (1923-2015) was best known for his work on the synthesis of the steroid cortisone and then of a progesterone derivative that was the basis of the first contraceptive pill. He wrote a number of books, plays and poems, in the process inventing a new genre, 'science-in-fiction', illustrated by the novel 'Cantor's Dilemma' which explores ethics in science.

Listeners: Tamara Tracz

Tamara Tracz is a writer and filmmaker based in London.

Tags: The Futurist and Other Stories, What’s Tatiana Troyanos doing in Spartacus’ Tent?, United States, Darkness at Noon, Spartacus, Tatiana Troyanos, Aldous Huxley, Arthur Koestler

Duration: 3 minutes, 53 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008