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The Boys From Brazil

Ira Levin's 1976 novel The Boys From Brazil posits the rebirth of world-historical fascism by way of cloning: The infamous Nazi Dr. Josef Mengele, having escaped war-crimes tribunals, lovingly preserved and replicated a few of Adolf Hitler's cells and, working from his laboratory deep in the Paraguayan rainforest, implanted these cells with expert cloning technology in some 40 young women who, before being murdered, gave birth to identical-looking boys who were adopted out to suitably vetted families and whose progress through life was managed and exploited by Mengele and his minions, with a view toward nurturing a literally reconstituted Fuhrer and Fourth Reich. The potential destructiveness of cloning was carried forward into the Jurassic Park series of movies, which posit that dinosaur DNA, spurred to life by mad scientists, could spell the end of mankind.

Plainly, this is the stuff of melodramatic suspense thrillers, but aspects of Levin's plot and the Jurassic series achieved plausibility in part because they had both literary and scientific antecedents. Aldous Huxley's novel Brave New World, first published in 1932, posits the cloning--Huxley's term is budding (Huxley 35ff)--of an elite, or "civilized," strand of Homo sapiens generated in laboratories designed for the purpose, distinguished from the "savages" who come into being the old-fashioned way. By 1943, Nazi concentration-camp culture had evolved to the point of serving as "a protected place for acts of violence intended to 'purify' the nation biologically" (Broszat 480). The real-life Dr. Josef Mengele, dubbed Todesengel, or Angel of Death, by survivors of Auschwitz, supervised "pseudoscientific . . . medical experiments on inmates to discover means of increasing fertility (to increase the German race). His chief interest, however, was research on twins" ("Mengele").

In recent years, the artificial replication, or cloning, of living beings has moved beyond the realm...

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The Boys From Brazil. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 15:10, April 21, 2019, from