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Islandia (1942)

von Austin Tappan Wright

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Reihen: Islandia (1)

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4651541,588 (4.25)105
Published 11 years after the author's death, this classic of utopian fiction tells the story of American consul John Lang. He visits the isolated and alien country of Islandia and is soon seduced by the ways of a compelling and fascinating world.
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Rereading this again with over a decade since my last reading has been peculiar. Islandia remains as desirable as it ever was, but I don't recall feeling so negative about John Lang before. Certainly Wright did not like America. ( )
2 abstimmen MarthaJeanne | Dec 26, 2020 |
I loved this book when I read it in college- I so wanted the country to exist that I have convinced myself it did... ( )
  Darragh4444 | Oct 22, 2018 |
The racism undoes it. But "ania, apia, alia" are concepts worth keeping. So is the idea, however remote, that civilization is possible without "[forcing] differentiation and specialization." (p 821) ( )
1 abstimmen CSRodgers | Oct 17, 2018 |
Austin Tappan Wright worked in an American law office until his death in a 1931 car accident, after which his family discovered thousands of pages devoted to an imaginary place he called Islandia. With the help of an editor they assembled a complete 1,000 page novel describing the visit of John Lang, American consul, to this isolated, largely closed country in the southern hemisphere.

Islandia is frequently described as a utopian novel. To the extent this is a utopia, it is not one achieved by any readily stated idealistic philosophy (allowing for some Epicurean shades). Islandians eschew environmental menace and advanced technology as being unnecessary to human happiness. Sociologically, Islandian language and culture might be rated more advanced than ours for having better defined and grappled with the different shades that exist in human relationships, acknowleding the inherent contradictions in pleasure and jealousy, lust and envy. As one of its people illustrates through a fable, for the Islandians happiness is not achieved by denying or seeking to eradicate unhappiness but by its better integration, aided by a strong appreciation for nature. They are also devoted to the merger of arts and science. Farming, for one example, is guided not only by practical considerations but also by the preservation of harmonious aesthetics.

For a nation invented from wholecloth, Islandia is curiously grounded in the real. There is nothing of the absurd, whimsical or fantastical in its creation; it might exist anywhere on Earth, just over the horizon. If anything is unrealistic, it is its people's curiously muted response to stimuli. They are not excited by competition, and are almost entirely lacking for ambition. In place of capitalism and service to the almighty dollar, they are driven only by their roles as caretakers of family property and persons. Whether this would actually transpire in reality is impossible to say, as it could not be faithfully tested by any experiment that lasted less than several hundred years. The overriding sense-of-place-and-home carries over into their attitude towards death. The dead are mourned, but not grieved over. Burial is to become one with the land as another type of service to it, and there are no graveyards to add blemish.

This is only the start. I could write an essay's worth (or several) on examining Islandian life and all of its curious detail; a fact which I find astonishing to reflect upon, given that in all its thousand pages the novel never falls into the weeds of exposition. John Lang learns about Islandia almost sheerly through experience, and I learned of it alongside him. For this reason, because nothing about it is sewn neatly together and presented as a whole for study, the opportunity for interpretation is enormous. Whole schools of thought might compete with one another over what makes Islandia tick (or whether it actually would tick), drawing on provided evidence.

I've scarcely touched upon what I loved most about this novel. I loved the romances John engages in with these incredibly complex and intelligent women who astound with their insights and clear-headedness, penetrating immediately to the core of what John is feeling long before he does, aided by a cultural upbringing that proves all of its worth by this one result alone. This all by itself makes me a believer in the Islandian way of life, or at least provides me with the longing to visit such a place where psychology has been rendered child's play and where love - given the four Islandian words for love that make the single English word look feeble and fumbling by comparison - can be plumbed to its depths and all of its riches unearthed.

I wish I did not have to acknowledge this novel's one sour note: that at the same time Mr. Wright was writing up this brilliant meeting of the sexes, he was also casually propping up racism in equating his continent's black population with savagery that requires containment so it does not invade Islandia's all-white population. It's an unfortunate stain on what would otherwise be a wonderful treasure for every reader to enjoy. ( )
1 abstimmen Cecrow | Jun 27, 2018 |
https://nwhyte.livejournal.com/3008508.html

It's set in the first decade of the last century. Our protagonist has a bromance at Harvard with a scion of the ruling elite of Islandia, a mysterious country on a mysterious continent in the southern hemisphere (more likely the Atlantic than the Pacific, from the hints we are given). After graduation, he pulls some family political strings and gets sent there as the American Consul. And he falls in love, with several of the young women of Islandia, but most of all with the country itself, whose relaxed social and sexual attitudes are a stark contrast with the rather repressed American culture of the Gilded Age. It's a great work of world-building, with a series of romantic plots overlaid (and some politics, but really not all that much). The pace is fairly gentle, but I did find myself caught up in the story, especially the awkwardness of the narrator's relationships with the women of both Islandia and the USA. It's a long read, but worth it. ( )
  nwhyte | May 21, 2018 |
The fascination of Wright’s book lies partly in the way it matches our instinctive understanding of the interior richness of other people. The thrilling privacy and patience of its construction, its unique combination of vastness and particularity—together these give us the impression of an author slowly, painstakingly bringing forth a work as colossal and idiosyncratic as a self.
hinzugefügt von Cecrow | bearbeitenNew York Times, Charles Finch (Nov 2, 2016)
 

» Andere Autoren hinzufügen (2 möglich)

AutorennameRolleArt des AutorsWerk?Status
Austin Tappan WrightHauptautoralle Ausgabenberechnet
Silbersack, JohnEinführungCo-Autoreinige Ausgabenbestätigt
Wright, SylviaEinführungCo-Autoreinige Ausgabenbestätigt
Wright, SylviaNachwortCo-Autoreinige Ausgabenbestätigt

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Published 11 years after the author's death, this classic of utopian fiction tells the story of American consul John Lang. He visits the isolated and alien country of Islandia and is soon seduced by the ways of a compelling and fascinating world.

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