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Utopia (Penguin Classics) Paperback – May 6, 2003

4.2 out of 5 stars 311 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Founded in 1906 by J.M. Dent, the Everyman Library has always tried to make the best books ever written available to the greatest number of people at the lowest possible price. Unique editorial features that help Everyman Paperback Classics stand out from the crowd include: a leading scholar or literary critic's introduction to the text, a biography of the author, a chronology of her or his life and times, a historical selection of criticism, and a concise plot summary. All books published since 1993 have also been completely restyled: all type has been reset, to offer a clarity and ease of reading unique among editions of the classics; a vibrant, full-color cover design now complements these great texts with beautiful contemporary works of art. But the best feature must be Everyman's uniquely low price. Each Everyman title offers these extensive materials at a price that competes with the most inexpensive editions on the market-but Everyman Paperbacks have durable binding, quality paper, and the highest editorial and scholarly standards. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From AudioFile

The esteemed Ackroyd is both novelist (CHATTERTON, THE TRIAL OF ELIZABETH CREE) and literary biographer (of Blake and T.S. Eliot); but those expecting a dramatic retelling of THE MAN FOR ALL SEASONS will need to bide their time here. Before reaching the famous clash between More and Henry VIII, Ackroyd first places More in the rich context of the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. This "Life and Times," as it would more accurately be titled, was written for the general reader, but not for one whose primary interest is Tudor matrimonial politics. Davidson's donnish reading accentuates Ackroyd's erudition and dry wit, but also serves to convey the underlying tension between intellectual ferment and abiding tradition that is the true drama in this story. D.A.W. (c) AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reissue edition (May 6, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140449108
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140449105
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.4 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (311 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,183 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By R. Albin TOP 1000 REVIEWER on July 20, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is a first-rate biography of the sainted Thomas More. Ackroyd's goals in this biography are to present a non-anachronistic depiction of More, and through his portrait of More, to give readers a sense of the late Medieval world destroyed by the Reformation and the emergence of nation-states. Ackroyd presents More as a man exemplifying the late Medieval ethos. Deeply religous, highly intelligent, and well educated, More existed with a profound sense of human fallibility and saw all aspects of his world as manifestations of a divine order. The world as the body of Christ, a metaphor to which Ackroyd returns repeatedly, is a recurring theme. The temporal world is transient and a necessary preparation for the eternal and in a crucial sense, less real than the eternal world of Christian teachings. This world is bound by custom and inherited legal and religous traditions, hierarchial and paternalistic in its structure of authority, and deeply enmeshed in rituals that mirror the structure of divine authority. More was not, however, a reactionary except when the radicalism of the Lutherans pushed him to stringent and violent acts needed to defend the integrity of his perception of the Christian world. A prominent member of the Northern European Humanist movement, More was dedicated to the recovery of a renovated faith based on a new reading of the Patristic fathers, attention to classical, particularly Greek neoplatonic authors, and disdain for complex scholastic theology. He and his fellow Humanists hoped for reformation of the Church without abandoning the unity of Christendom, the apparatus of ritual and hierarchy that defined so much of their lives, and the primacy of papal authority.
Ackroyd's efforts to present More and the late medieval ethos are very successful.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book has been on my reading list for a while, and I finally grabbed a copy to read when I got my Kindle. Thomas More, as well as many other famous men, put to writing a vision of the ideal society. As with most visions of the ideal society, he had some good ideas that were eventually put in place, but he also had many impractical ideas that won't work just due to the nature of man. It was also interesting to see that he came from an era that accepted several social mores such as slavery that today we find unacceptable and were deemed good institutions in his ideal society.

I think my favorite part was the method the Utopians used to minimize the importance of gold, fine apparel, and money. Gold and jewelry were considered baubles only interesting to children. They marked their slaves by bedecking them with gold. He related a story of a foreign ambassador coming to visit the Utopians. They mistook the gold bedecked ambassador as the slave and the plainly clothed slave as the ambassador and treated each as such.

I highly recommend this relatively short book as a glance into how people in the Middle Ages viewed the ideal society and also as a legitimate look at ongoing social problems. More highlights pride as one of the biggest problems facing society. It appears to be a continuing issue.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I purchased the Penguin edition intially, so to have a compact copy of this essential work. However, I was thoroughly unimpressed with the edition. The translator, Turner, assumes very little of his reader and therefore "translates" some of More's most witty and erudite comments into bland, lifeless remarks. The most irriating example is that rather than keep the main character's name as Rafael Hythloday he has "translated" the name as "Rafael Nonsenso." Turner justifies this choice by saying that not many modern readers know classic Greek... true. But, it would have been better to footnote the original name and explain it's origin and meaning rather than translate the name into an obvious joke. By doing this Turner steals the very essence and beauty from the work. There are many other examples of Turner's tweaking that are maddening. However, I will say that the Introduction to the Penguin Utopia by Tucker is very nice. I especially enjoyed Tucker's discussion of "Utopian Literature." However, I recommend that you find the book in a library, photocopy the intro... and instead purchase the Hackett Publishing version (now available in paperback, I believe) which offers thorough and accessible footnotes to the text as well as a wonderful introduction.
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Format: Paperback
There were utopias before this book that Thomas More wrote in the early 1500s, including Plato's Republic. This, however, is the book that gives us the word 'Utopia.' The book is brief, barely over 100 pages, and only 60-some describe the place itself. That is enough, and makes me nostalgic for the habit of writing briefly and to the point.

It's easy to sum up More's heaven-on-earth in a few words. It portrays a communal, democratic society. It is paradoxically unregulated and tightly regulated - overwhelmingly, More's citizens just want to do what is best for their society, and that covers a remarkably narrow range of possibilities. There are, of course, some who break the laws of the land, and More deals with them harshly. "Harsh" is a relative term, though, and his punishments were hardly harsh in a day when it was a hanging offense to steal a loaf of bread for your starving family. (That's actually the introductory topic, the one that leads up to the description of Utopia.)

It's also a strongly religious society. Religious tolerance is a matter of law, a novelty by the standards of More's day and the standard of his own behavior. 'Tolerance', however, meant tolerance of any monotheism that wasn't too animistic, and certainly didn't tolerate the unreligious.

This translation from More's original Latin is modern and smoothly readable. Even so, I wonder how another translator would have handled some of More's neologistic names, like the unpleasant 'Venalians' who are the Utopians' neighbors. No answer is right, but other renderings may convey more and grate less. Those are quibbles, though. It's a good book as well as being a Great Book, and casts an interesting shadow into modern communism, theocracy, and ideas of the good life. I recommend it highly.

//wiredweird
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