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Erewhon (English Library) [Paperback]

Samuel Butler
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
RRP: 11.99
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Book Description

23 Feb 2006 English Library
Setting out to make his fortune in a far-off country, a young traveller discovers the remote and beautiful land of Erewhon and is given a home among its extraordinarily handsome citizens. But their visitor soon discovers that this seemingly ideal community has its faults - here crime is treated indulgently as a malady to be cured, while illness, poverty and misfortune are cruelly punished, and all machines have been superstitiously destroyed after a bizarre prophecy. Can he survive in a world where morality is turned upside down? Inspired by Samuel Butler's years in colonial New Zealand and by his reading of Darwin's Origin of Species, Erewhon (1872) is a highly original, irreverent and humorous satire on conventional virtues, religious hypocrisy and the unthinking acceptance of beliefs.

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Erewhon (English Library) + The Island of Dr Moreau (Penguin Classics) + She (Oxford World's Classics)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Impression edition (23 Feb 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140430571
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140430578
  • Product Dimensions: 19.5 x 13.9 x 1.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 418,749 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) was the son of a clergyman. He was educated at Shrewsbury and St John's College Cambridge and, after a disagreement with his father about his choice of career, left England to become a sheep farmer in New Zealand, where he stayed until 1864. On his return to England, he took up residence in Clifford's Inn where he stayed until his death. He began to study painting and worked at it for ten years, exhibiting occasionally at the Royal Academy. In 1872 he anonymously published Erewhon which was based on the letters he wrote to his father from New Zealand. This was followed by The Fair Haven, an attack on the Resurrection, making clear the religious skepticism which had turned Butler against a career in the church. In the years that followed, Butler wrote several works attacking contemporary scientific ideas, in particular Darwin's theory of natural selection. In 1881 he began to write books on art and travel, the first of these being Alps and Sanctuaries of Piedmont and the Canton Ticino. Around this time, he was also experimenting with musical composition and collaborated with Festing Jones on the oratorio entitled Narcissus. An interest in Homer led him to write lively translations of The Iliad and The Odyssey and he formed the theory that these two works were written by a woman. Butler's partly autobiographical work The Way of All Flesh was the result of many years' labor and appeared posthumously in 1903.

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First Sentence
If the reader will excuse me, I will say nothing of my antecedents, nor of the circumstances which led me to leave my native country; the narrative would be tedious to him and painful to myself. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well, I very much enjoyed it myself 19 May 2003
Format:Paperback
I have to disagree with Tony, I'm afraid. I thought Erewhon was very interesting and very amusing at times too. This was my first brush with Samuel Butler, so I did not really know what to expect, but despite the somewhat slow beginning (going into quite a bit of detail about how he reaches Erewhon), when he finally reached the lost civilisation, things really began to pick up.
The situation in which the narrator finds himself is at first curious, but quickly becomes outright bizarre. The values of the Erewhonians seem alien to us (sickness is punished by imprisonment, crime is merely frowned upon, beauty and manners are equated with morality) so that we are presented with a people who are both detestable and fascinating. At the same time, however, the Victorians who first read Butler's book would have come to realise the parallels between Erewhonian culture that of Victorian Britain, and it is the satire of the novel that is really interesting. The absurd institutions mentioned - the Musical Banks, the Colleges of Unreason, the Museum of the Machines - and the hypocritical nature of the Erewhonian religion, all would have reminded readers of their own world. For instance, at the Colleges of Unreason, the hypothetical language is taught, and the reader wonders why people would learn a language that has no use outside of the colleges. Then they realise that the same could be said for languages like Latin and ancient Greek. These are languages that are irrelevant to today, but are still studied in higher seats of learning.
In Erewhon, Butler created a satire of his own society that is both enlightening and entertaining. The characters are hardly very rounded and the story is not particularly filled out, but that hardly seems to matter.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A provocative and entertaining work 4 July 2010
By Melmoth
Format:Paperback
This is an odd, engaging book, which uses its hero's travels through the land of Erewhon as the launching-place for a series of satirical volleys against the mid-to-late Victorian society in which the author dwelt.

The story's narrator, Higgs, is an adventurer with an entrepreneurial bent, seeking - just as the author himself had sought - to better his fortunes in a far-flung part of the British Empire. His quest leads him to seek to penetrate the high mountain range that looms over the sheepfold where he works, in search of land to farm or gold to mine. So it is that he sets off one day, accompanied by his untrustworthy `native guide'.

So far, so conventional, but this is merely the preface to the meat of Butler's book, Higgs's discovery of the land of Erewhon and the extraordinary people that inhabit it, people whose ideas, on closer examination turn out to be satirical reflections of the ideas Butler could see about him in Britain. Thus for Erewhonians, to be ill is a sin deserving of the severest punishment, while criminal and similar wrongs are seen as we see medical matters, ailments that can be ameliorated with the application of the appropriate treatment ... the treatment for Erewhonians being visits to the local `straightener'. In condemning the Erewhonian's unthinking and unreasonable attitude to physical infirmity, Butler equally condemns Victorian attitudes to moral weakness

An equally neat inversion is to be found in Erewhon's `musical banks', beautiful buildings where Erewhonians pick up a few pieces of the, ostensibly revered, musical currency in order to be able to show them off, paying the institution of the banks lip-service (or, rather, wallet-service) much as some Victorians paid lip-service to the institution of the Church.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Following in the tradition of Jonathan Swift's "Gulliver's Travels," the English novelist, essayist, and iconoclast Samuel Butler published "Erewhon" privately in 1872. The title is an anagram of "Nowhere," which is the literal translation of the word "Utopia," the title by which Thomas More's 1516 work has commonly become known. "Erewhon" is arguably the first anti-utopian or dystopian novel, anticipating the later and better known works such as Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" and George Orwell's "1984." Whereas More and other utopianists are primarily interested in attacking society's ills and making the world a better place, the anti-utopians engage primarily in either satire of the society in which they live or in making dire predictions about the dismal fate that awaits humanity. Butler is most decidedly in the former category, since he proves in not only "Erewhon" but also his more famous work, the semi-autobiographical novel, "The Way of All Flesh," that his main concern is in attacking the complacency and hypocrisy he saw infecting Victorian society.
Like More's island of Utopia, Butler's Erewhon is a remote kingdom, not to be found on any map, which is discovered by the narrator of the novel (biographers of Butler have assumed it is modeled on a part of New Zealand, which anyone who has viewed the "Lord of the Rings" movies can attest has some spectacular landscapes). Cut off from the rest of the world, the citizens of Erewhon lives according to their own rules and dictates. Butler breaks from the tradition of creating an idealized world that goes back from More to Plato in favor of a more realistic society. In Butler's world there is still money, and both the rich and the poor still exist; there is even a monarchy in charge.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Starts well only to get bogged down in masses of tiresome detail
It starts well. Mr Butler writes well. I have to be honest though, I only reached halfway before I was skipping dozens of pages of detail that wasn't moving along the plot. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Mr. M. Howe
4.0 out of 5 stars A mysterious country
The traveller finds himself in a utopia cut off from the rest of the world. Will he stay or leave? And what will decide him. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Tweedledum
3.0 out of 5 stars Erewhon Revisited
I much prefer Butler's "The Way of All Flesh" to "Erewhon" whicj becomes rather turgid as the main character expounds details of the country's society and ethos - a... Read more
Published 15 months ago by cecilia craig
3.0 out of 5 stars Society In The Rear View Mirror
I am going to agree with the reviewer who called this book "stodgy". Its greatest crime if I can call it that is that it features no dialogue so there's no relief from the... Read more
Published 21 months ago by demola
2.0 out of 5 stars not a novel
Well, it is a novel, but it often feels like a report. The characters are not very interesting and the sense of turning things the other way round (erewhoning ;) is not always... Read more
Published on 14 Aug 2011 by pini
2.0 out of 5 stars GREAT IDEAS MADE TEDIOUS
This is a very stodgy and prolix 19th-century book, which none the less contains some excellent ideas of the social sci-fi variety. Read more
Published on 18 Mar 2000
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