Magazine article Geographical

THE ISLAND: In Imagination and Experience

Magazine article Geographical

THE ISLAND: In Imagination and Experience

Article excerpt

THE ISLAND: In Imagination and Experience by Barry Smith; Saraband; [pounds sterling]12.99 (hardback)

Barry Smith is a self-confessed islomaniac and a fixation with islands and all they represent is 'one of the most difficult compulsions to be cured of'. It's also one of the most rewarding and, in this elegant little book, Smith provides a fascinating survey of the interplay between those little dots of land and the human imagination. Islands can tell us a great deal about how human beings impose their dreams and assumptions on the landscape. We use words like mysterious, dangerous or beguiling to describe them though, of course, 'an island itself is neither happy nor unhappy'. Monks head to islands to be closer to their God, writers from Homer to Swift have used islands as their canvases, and many cultures have conjured up visions of paradise or hell in an island setting. The isolated places are where the psyche soars, where castaways can discover whether their elemental skills and instincts are up to snuff, and also, more menacingly, where the contours and comforts of civilisation are apt to slip away. …

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