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Islandia, by Austin Tappan Wright

From:David G. Durand <david@...>
Date:Tuesday, March 6, 2001, 18:40
I recently read this (very long ~1000pp) semi-utopian novel, set in
1905 in the  country Islandia, which is part of the Karain continent
in the southern hemisphere.

There is only a little language in the novel, mostly particular
lexical items, whose meanings are integral to the questions of the
story. In particular the story is concerned with the differences
between apia (sexual attraction), amia (friendship), alia (love for
the place where one has grown up, and which is the place of one's
ancestors) and ania (marital love, which generally involves varying
assortments of the others).

The novel is set in 1905, and was begun shortly after that date,
though it was not published until the 40's, after the authors
untimely death in 1931 (?)

I can highly recommend the novel, and someday when/if I have time, I
will try to examine the author's papers (at Harvard), to see if there
is any linguistic material there. I know that he wrote papers on the
geology of the Karain continent, so it's possible that there are more
detailed linguistic notes. I know that there is a 300+ page
historical piece in that collection.

This is one of the more sophisticated cultural constructions that
I've encountered, perhaps because the form of the 19th century novel
(which Islandia follows) is well-suited to the introspection required
to convey the internal idea of a different culture.

Any other readers of this book here?

There is only one part of the book that I don't find admirable, and
that is that there are a few lingering traces of 19th and early 20th
century racism in the book -- mostly in the existence of a
dark-skinned group to the south who periodically war against the
Islandians. This thread in the book is more of a plot device than
anything, as military threat plays a role in the story.

   -- David
David Durand
VP Software Architecture
Dynamic Diagrams / Ingenta plc