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" Seek the truth and run from

those who claim to have found it "

after André Gide

Lost Islands

April 25th, 2008

Books come into the office for review and I usually send them on to our monthly magazine editor, Penny Billington, but this week one has come in and I can’t let go of it… it’s called Lost Islands – Inventing Avalon, Destroying Eden by Kevan Manwaring.

I haven’t finished it, so it’s too early for a review, but I want to give it a plug. Kevan has written two novels inspired by the Long Man of Wilmington (see picture at the top here) The Long Woman and Windsmith, and they’re excellent. I went to the launch of his last book in the virtual world of Second Life.

Here’s the publisher’s description of Lost Islands:

Otherworldly islands haunt the imagination of the West. From Atlantis to Ys, the peoples of the Atlantic seaboard have dreamt of, searched for, journeyed to and lost several distinctive kingdoms of the sea – all ‘into the West’, where the sun sets and where the soul is said to go at death. Are they a collective dreaming of a real place, or mere salty yarns spun by ancient mariners?

In Lost Islands: Inventing Avalon, Destroying Eden Kevan Manwaring takes you on an adventurous odyssey charting this metaphysical archipelago, drawing upon philosophy, folklore, literature and myth. This voyage encompasses many imaginary Eden-like utopias. Can we ever hope to attain such paradises or are they ultimately within ourselves – states of consciousness and enlightenment to aspire to and fall from? And why do such island Edens seemingly inevitably end in disasters – whether inundated by mythic floods, as with Atlantis, or with all-too-real ecological disasters, as with Easter Island?

In an era of climate change and global uncertainty the myths of inundations are more poignant today than ever. How permanent is our own ‘island state’ of living on Earth?

4 Responses to “Lost Islands”

  1. this book sounds fascinating – it’s funny the human search for Utopia when really – we have it right here – everytime we climb a hill, walk upon the sand or through a forest, rest in a garden or sleep under the stars – so why are we pressing the self destruct button? Sadly history/mythology seems to be repeating itself…

    I like to think these places did exist and why not? There is so much we don’t know about everything – sounds good that this book mixes the more ‘mythical’ lands with places we know existed/exist. Thank Philip – looking forard to the review 🙂

  2. Looks really interesting! – I’m a bit obssessed with Islands at the moment. Laurie and I have been living on the Isle of Wight for a year now and talk often about the interesting psychological impact of Island living. From the mainland the I.O.W is often completely or nearly obscured by sea mist (Manannan’s cloak!) . It really does look like that magical, otherwordly Island and certainly has that magical, otherwordly feel to it, a subtle something that is different to the mainland. The five mile crossing might as well be five hundred; there is something very powerful about sea journeys that bring us to special Islands – I can really understand the pull of those myths. Many people are drawn to the Island in search of healing, renewal and the possibility of a different life – their own rural idyll. Of course, no journey can take you away from yourself, and up close the ‘rural idyll’ can bring its own problems, but I still get that buzz taking the ferry, seeing the Island’s lights twinkling on the horizon and knowing I am coming home.

    Perhaps this is what we are seeking in those magical islands – that sense of a homecoming, arriving where we have always meant to be? It’s perhaps both an inner and outer landscape, a yearning for our spirtual home.

    There is also something about living within a very defined boundary – the coast draws it line around you and so the focus on that contained space becomes all the more intense (its a bit like casting circle -the island coast actually feels like a sacred boundary or enclosure to me). In an age where global travel threatens the well-being of our planet, Island living is certainly a lesson in finding that deeper connection with the land beneath your feet, that paradise under your nose that Jane writes about. There is a nice quote from J.B Priestly – an Isle of Wight resident for many years:

    ‘Any man from America or Australia might take a glance at the island as something on a map, and then decide to give it a couple of hours. But you can spend days and days exploring the IOW, which if you are really interested, begins magicaly enlarging itself for you.’

    Perhaps it is about seeing wherever we live as a sacred enclosure, a magical island/space that opens up to each of us when we truly engage with it, and in doing so truly engage with ourselves.

    The inundation – the sea claiming back the land -seems to me to be a part of the deal. Utopia’s are fixed states and life is deeply cyclical and ever-changing. This sedimentary island born of the sea that I live on, will be claimed back by the ocean one day (erosion is very visible here!)- no dream can stay fixed without stagnation. My Island experience so far, has taught me that the constant change and surrendering of the land to the sea has a deeper mystery and meaning; it’s a process that needs to be trusted.

    Thanks for this Philip- yet another great thread to follow – I am going to have to start building some new book cases!

  3. There is a small island in a little lake near the town I was born. I often looked at it from the shore. And then winter came -1963 and I was 6 years old. Ice was forming and a few days later we could walk over to the island. It was an amazing experience standing there. Winter lasted until March or so and during that time I learned to skate (hey, I’m Dutch :-). Then spring came, the ice melted and the little isle was once again out of reach. Somehow that felt right; it ought to be just out of reach to keep its mystery…

  4. Yes I feel that way too. We used to do retreats on Iona for about ten years, and over this time I got to walk on most parts of that very small island, but I always left one corner of it unexplored. I never wanted to walk there – I wanted to keep it mysterious – a kind of ‘holy of holies’.

    Walking around Uluru felt like that too. To not explore its interior, to not walk into its little valleys, to resist the urge to always ‘know’ felt good and created an opening – a place of ‘Not Knowing’ and reverence.

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