Barack Obama's election as America's first black president is fueling worldwide demand for a forgotten 1926 science-fiction novel from Brazil.More information can be found in Manuela Zoninsein's article about O Presidente Negro published by Slate in September:
Jose Bento Monteiro Lobato's ``O Presidente Negro'' (``The Black President'') tells the story of Jim Roy, a brilliant and charismatic leader who is elected America's first black president in the year 2228.
Out of print for 40 years, the pulp novel was republished in March by Brazil's largest media conglomerate, Organizacoes Globo, at the height of the Democratic primary battle between Obama and New York Senator Hillary Clinton, a contest that drew comparisons to Roy's race against a fictitious white feminist named Evelyn Astor.
Now the obscure work -- controversial for what some critics see as its defense of racism -- is going international. Last month, it was published in Italy by Edizzione Controluce under the title ``Il Presidente Nero.'' The book is being translated into English and Spanish from Portuguese.
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, in a June interview with the Sao Paulo newspaper Gazeta Marcantil, said Obama's victory was foretold by Monteiro Lobato.
The book was rushed to publication in March after its antiquated Portuguese was updated for modern readers. Full-page advertisements in national magazines under the tagline ``Any resemblance to actual events is pure coincidence'' have spurred sales of 7,000 copies for 28 reais ($11.73) each. They printed 15,000 copies, the same amount as the original printing.
Brazilian bloggers debate the book's racial ideology as well as its prediction of the rise of China and a technology system much like the Internet.
``We knew we were sitting on a gold mine,'' said Lucia Machado, an executive at Globo Books, adding that sales were double the amount considered a commercial success for a new book in Brazil.
Monteiro Lobato is famous in Brazil for the children's fable ``Adventures of Little Nose.'' The ``Black President,'' when read at all, was criticized for its association with eugenics, a philosophy of human improvement through genetic engineering that was embraced by the Nazis.
The H.G. Wells-like storyline takes place in an age of racial purity, where black people are subjected to selective breeding, forced whitening and sterilization...
Of course, there are several differences between Lobato's story and the circumstances surrounding the 2008 election. In Lobato's fictional world, the United States prohibited the mixing of races—believing it would lead to "disintegration" or "denaturalization"—and thereby conserved white and black races in "a state of relative purity." Lobato also failed to predict the civil rights movement, which undid his predictions of an extreme version of "separate but equal." Unlike Roy, born in a supposed age of "pure races," Obama, born of a white mother and black father, witnessed America's social revolution.
In the 2228 of the novel, the white women's party, the Sabinas (a reference to the Roman legend of the rape of the Sabine women), has apparently reached feminism's pinnacle: Women are no longer considered equal to men—they are simply different and entirely independent. Homo, the ruling white men's party, and the Sabinas each command 51 million voters.
In previous elections, voters sided with their gender, with no regard to race. But with the creation of the Black Association, black men and women unite to create the largest political party, giving Roy 54 million supporters. Kerlog is forced to broker an alliance with Roy: black votes in exchange for easing the "Código da Raça" ("Race Code"), which set limits on the growth of the black population through selective breeding and genetic manipulation. To Kerlog's frustration, when the time comes to cast ballots, citizens loyally vote with their identity group, and the black man wins the presidency.
In response, Kerlog threatens race war. He persuades Astor to protect the interests of the white race and encourages an alliance. Lobato, at his most sexist, writes that Astor accepts this proposal on the grounds that man "is woman's husband for thousands of reasons ... long live man!" With hardly a second thought, she shepherds the 51 million female voters to the cause of the Homo Party. Kerlog demonstrates to a despairing Roy that his race will never assume control, and on the morning Roy is set to assume the presidency, he is found dead in his office. (Lobato hints at murder.) Kerlog calls for a re-election and emerges victorious. White leaders then mastermind the end of the black race in America, using a senseless and tragic sterilization technique, and Roy's dream of serving as the first black man in the nation's most powerful post is left by the wayside.