First published in , it produced enormous enthusiasm in CS Lewis, who recommended it to Tolkien. But, as Moore insists, Lindsay's engrossing book, a mixture of metaphysics and surreal dream-quest, stands as one of the great originals. Colin Wilson's two informative afterwords reveal Lindsay as a disappointed eccentric dying of blood poisoning from neglected teeth. The book's photographs present a conventional, pipe-puffing late-Edwardian gent, at ease in a domesticated English landscape.
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One of my 10 favorite books of all time. This is one of those books that you can reread every 5 or 10 years and get something completely new out of it. You really take your own psychology and beliefs into this, and the novel reflects back to you whatever stimulates or stings you at that moment in your life.
You do need to think about it. I read this as a teenager and all I got out of it was fascination but little real insight. On the face of it, A Voyage to Arcturus is a wacky dream journey. Maskull is generally open to new experiences and he has the feeling that he travelled to Tormance for a reason, so he starts tramping about. All the while, he meets strange characters and grows new organs, and the very geography has psychological effects on him.
For instance, the first characters he meets, Joiwind and Panawe, represent emotion and intellect, if I interpret it correctly. The characters represent building-blocks of the mind, but their personalities make our interpretations a bit loose and vague, as if the truth can only be hinted at. So, as Maskull travels forth, we are urged to close the book every few pages and think about what is happening, because everything has a double meaning.
And as the story unfolds, Lindsay is actually communicating his personal philosophy about life and the human spirit, and it is all told through a humorous, phantasmagorical adventure and unique metaphysical theories. This is absolutely brilliant. The great achievement is that Lindsay completely superimposes this psychological journey with a spiritual journey. For Maskull is seeking the creator, the God of this world Tormance that represents the human mind, and this creator is alternately called Surtur, Shaping or Crystalman.
Maskull sees his journey as a moral quest, and his journey of discovering the human mind overlaps with the spiritual journey of a pilgrim in search for enlightenment. Lindsay goes a step beyond any other book ever written when it comes to bewildering experiences. It is a bit dated though; Lindsay has odd ideas about men and women.
There are, for example, two suns on Tormance: Branchspell and Alppain. The rays of Branchspell slow you down and depress you, while Alppain, just beyond the horizon, makes you feel restless and noble. Seeing them together in the sky would tear you apart because of their opposing forces. This is just a small part of the jigsaw puzzle that is A Voyage to Arcturus , and every couple of pages introduce new ideas.
By now you might have noticed how Lindsay hints at meanings through the names that he gives to characters and places. Maskull, a combination of mask and skull, hints at the role he plays and the metaphysics of his journey, as do all the other names. Nothing is random, everything carries implications. The names are very evocative and linger in the mind, because they carry tantalizing emotional significances that lay just beyond the edge of understanding. Other times, actions carry hidden meanings.
Maskull is only able to travel to Tormance after he receives a big wound, which is then covered up, but the pain spreads throughout his body. Does that mean that we are only inclined to investigate our own emotions after getting hurt? And what about the character that gives Maskull this wound? Enlightenment comes to those who think, close the book, and think again.
You have to be inclined to think about your own emotions, though. I never stopped thinking about this book. He is set on his journey of introspection by Krag, or pain, who gives him a diffuse melancholy. On arrival at Tormance, which both resembles his mind and is a metaphysical representation of reality, he first encounters Joiwind and Panawe, who represent two ways of knowing.
Joiwind is emotion, Panawe is intellect. Next, a dimension is added to his personality: will and a desire for efficacy. He develops these faculties while interacting with Oceaxe and whilst travelling through the Ifdawn Marest, which is a land of quick decisions and quick action to stay alive. After his actions in Ifdawn, Maskull realizes that he has committed crimes. Guided by Tydomin, who is his voice of judgment, he feels morality and shame and he sacrifices himself to atone for his actions.
Instead of being reborn, pain sends him back to Tormance and Maskull masters Tydomin and moves on. Next, he encounters Spadevil, who represents a new concept which once again builds on what came before, namely: duty. However, Maskull finds that this is an illusion and rejects duty as a solution. After this, the quest turns more spiritual in search for answers.
He must die for Nightspore to meet Surtur. Also, the world itself is false. It is created to capture sparks of Surtur, but it is blemished by pain, and the way to know the outside reality of Surtur is through pain, which is the crack in the foundation. Maskull also learns from Leehallfae that as a man, he might be unfit to experience Surtur, because he represents only half of living creation.
He comes across a religion in Threal that divides reality into three worlds: existence, relation and emotion, but all three turn out to be variations of Crystalman, while Surtur exists beyond. Finally, Maskull is ready for his greatest challenge before coming to his destination: that of love. He learns that all men have a bit of woman inside of them and vice versa. Then he meets a dream-woman, Sullenbode, who is the perfect partner for him but will die once he stops loving her.
But Maskull learns that love is earthly and thus part of Crystalman, and then he sees the light of Muspel and forgets Sullenbode, and loses her. In grief, he renounces the whole world. Krag, who is pain, then appears to lead him through the final land of Barey. The final test is whether to ignore pain, or embrace it.
Pain, Krag, then leads him to the ultimate vision of reality. Like Liked by 1 person. You can also get a free electronic version from Gutenberg. They have various formats. It is also available as a free audiobook via Librivox — and mere pennies online as it is a super widely known and published novel…. Like Liked by 2 people. Like Like. Did you know that Howard Bloom of all people wrote a sequel and his only novel to date of A Voyage? Did you read his book? Bloom is a famous lit critic who has been rather ostracized by the lit community… I might not be the best person to ask why and what I think about his stuff though.
As for the novel, I have not read it, I only discovered it existed while reading up on A Voyage. You are commenting using your WordPress. You are commenting using your Google account. You are commenting using your Twitter account. You are commenting using your Facebook account. Notify me of new comments via email. Notify me of new posts via email.
A Sky of Books and Movies. Skip to content. Share this: Twitter Facebook. Like this: Like Loading Bookmark the permalink. July 20, at am. Would like to read this. Just tried my library and all associated libraries — nil result. Ah well. Thanks for the review. Cheers, Frank Like Liked by 1 person. Jeroen Admiraal says:. Joachim Boaz says:. July 20, at pm. Listening to the Librivoc audio version now. Cheers, Frank Like Like. Leave a Reply Cancel reply Enter your comment here Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:.
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The alienness of atmosphere
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A Voyage to Arcturus
The room was illuminated only by the light of a blazing fire. The host, eying him with indolent curiosity, got up, and the usual conventional greetings were exchanged. Having indicated an easy chair before the fire to his guest, the South American merchant sank back again into his own. The electric light was switched on. Backhouse, on the contrary, was a novelty to the merchant. As he tranquilly studied him through half closed lids and the smoke of a cigar, he wondered how this little, thickset person with the pointed beard contrived to remain so fresh and sane in appearance, in view of the morbid nature of his occupation.
A VOYAGE TO ARCTURUS.
It combines fantasy , philosophy, and science fiction in an exploration of the nature of good and evil and their relationship with existence. Described by critic, novelist, and philosopher Colin Wilson as the "greatest novel of the twentieth century",  it was a central influence on C. Lewis ' Space Trilogy ,  and through him on J. Tolkien , who said he read the book "with avidity".