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Islandia Paperback – August 1, 2001

4.6 out of 5 stars 50 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From The New Yorker

Fabulous . . . there has never been anything like it.


"'Fabulous... There has never been anything like it.' The New Yorker 'The product of modern time, Islandia is vivid chiefly with the desire for complete escape from the actual world. It tries to make that escape so detailed, so palpable, that it will outrealise the reality' Time" --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 1016 pages
  • Publisher: Overlook Books (August 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1585671487
  • ISBN-13: 978-1585671489
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.4 x 1.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #569,792 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
In browsing Amazon.com I was delighted to find "Islandia" back in print after years when one could only acquire it in second-hand book stores. That print history is a shame, because the book is among the great Utopian novels of the 20th century. And, as you will note from the remarkable consistency of the comments by earlier reviewers on this site, it has spoken deeply to a good many people.

I first encountered it in a freshman lit course at Dartmouth College in 1967, and I since have read it again twice--and each time it spoke to one's life. Because while in one sense it is a Utopian novel advocating a set of values for the ideal society, it also speaks directly to the choices individuals face in how to live their own lives and in that respect it echoes Henry David Thoreau.

Islandia at the surface level is an adventure/romantic story and a good one, though not without flaws and a few too many emotional twists and turns in its 1000 pages, as it describes the adventures (both in events and romance) of young American John Lang assigned as US consul in the early 20th century to Islandia, a distant and exotic but essentially Western agrarian nation with some very progressive views (esp. at the time Wright was writing the book over 60 years ago) on sexual freedom, female equality, and sensitivity to aesthetics and the environment; yet also with a deep respect for tradition. Wright in creating this society for his novel was trying to transcend modern "left and right" political values to combine some of the best features of both as a prescription for how to create a humane and satisfying society.
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Format: Library Binding
I first read this book in 1946 at the age of 19. I read it through in one sitting and came out of the experience speaking Islandan better than English. I found in the book a minor character upon whom I wished to model my behavior and hoped to achieve the same position in my relationships.

Structurally this in not a good novel but then it was never intended to be a novel. The mood of the book parallels the emotions of the protagonist. When he is up--the book is up. When he is going through his disappointment in his thwarted love affair the book drags. When he is doing his "buckling and swashiling" toward the end of the book it is a great book of action. There are too many antclimaxes.

I have re-read this book several times a decade and each time leave it with a deep sense of satisfaction that Austin Wright had this dream and we are allowed to share it.
Comment 43 of 43 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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By A Customer on December 13, 2003
Format: Paperback
I found this book after reading about it in a essay by Ursula Le Guin. (The Left Hand of Darkness, The Dispossessed) You will not hear about it from your local bookstore, or from school, and until recently you would have had an extremely hard time even buying it. I found my copy 1942 HB (Tan) in a used bookstore for three dollars years ago and it never leaves my nightstand. I understand that there will be some who simply don't understand the allure of the uptopian book, and they would probally find it boring. The reviewer who found the author long winded would be amazed that only half the book acutually got published, over 1,000 pages were edited before the first printing.
It is one of the last elegant books, and the flavor of the early 20th century runs through it. It is a book that you can read to your children before bed, and too yourself anytime. It deserves shelf space next to Dickens and Tolkien. I cannot reccomend this book enough. Everyone should have a copy.
Comment 40 of 42 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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By A Customer on February 20, 1999
Format: Library Binding
This is my very favorite book, bar none, and has been since I first read it 20 years ago. Hero John Lang attends Harvard (Class of 1905) with Dorn, a young man from Islandia, a mysterious, xenophobic country struggling to deal with incursions from rest of the world. Upon graduating, he finds himself unable to choose a career, so he decides to use his language skill (Dorn teaches him Islandian one summer vacation in Maine) and is granted a rarely-issued entry visa. Though he never truly fits in, he becomes involved in Islandia's curious culture in various ways, and ends up at the crux of a national debate there, related in part to a German military threat. (Islandia is on the northern end of an Australia-like continent, never clearly located but probably in the far southern Pacific.) Wright carried Islandia in his head, expanding it from a childhood fantasy into hundreds of thousands of words of narrative and description of the place. [Sailing on Cape Cod once, he remarked that a particular bay looked just like another in Islandia.] He was killed in a car accident in Las Vegas in 1931, and his editor and family took 11 years to cut about 70% of his words to winnow the book to its still formidable length (it's 1,000 pages long). The book is wonderfully written and edited, with a smooth, lovely style. It's a bit slow by contemporary standards, but the description of Islandia's language, e.g. there are 4 words for love (romantic, strong friendship, desire, and one unique to Islandia's family-centric society), culture, and country, are beautifully done. Example: he's helping plow one day, and is horrified to find human remains right in the main field.Read more ›
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