Six Attempts to Build the Perfect Society
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Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Number of Pages: 320
Width: 16.2 cm
Height: 24.2 cm
'Neima's book, impeccably researched and beautifully written, will be an inspiration for anyone looking to an alternative future today.' - Stella Tillyard, author of Aristocrats and The Great Level 'Deeply interesting and a pleasure to read, The Utopians illuminates the history of "social dreaming" at a time when it has never been more needed.' - Alison Light, author of A Radical Romance, Common People and Mrs. Woolf and the Servants The Utopians is the remarkable story of six experimental communities - Santiniketan-Sriniketan in India, Dartington Hall in England, Atarashiki Mura in Japan, the Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man in France, the Bruderhof in Germany and Trabuco College in America - that sprang up in the aftermath of the First World War. Each was led by charismatic figures who dreamed of a new way of living. Rabindranath Tagore, Dorothy and Leonard Elmhirst, Mushanokoji Saneatsu, G. I. Gurdjieff, Eberhard and Emmy Arnold and Gerald Heard all struggled to turn ambitious ideals into reality. They - and their fellow communards - left their jobs, their homes and their social circles. They faced mockery and persecution, penury, hunger and discomfort, and their own doubts about whether their efforts to change society would ever make a difference. Anna Neima's absorbing and vivid account of these collectives, from creation to collapse, reveals them to be full of eccentric characters, outlandish lifestyles and unchecked idealism. They were dramatic, fractious places where high ideals collided with the need to feed the chickens, clean the toilets, bring up squabbling children and grow the grain for the daily bread. These communities were small in scale and dismissed in their time. Yet, a century later, their influence still resonates in realms as disparate as progressive education, environmentalism, medical research and mindfulness training. They provided, and continue to provide, a rich store of inspiration for those who aspire to improve the world. Without them, the post-war world would have been a poorer place.
Fascinating and richly documented . . . This is Neima's first book, and should not be her last. She writes with a novelist's eye for detail and clearly revels in the eccentrics she has to chronicle - Gurdjieff selling sparrows painted yellow, for example, to fund his trek from Russia to France. Few books manage to be so informative and so entertaining. -- John Carey * Sunday Times * [Neima] offers an original perspective on the entire period and a new way of navigating its artistic and ideological upheaval . . . Fascinating . . . by showing how a global crisis can lead people to question tradition and reshape society, the subject remains important to this day. -- Guy Stagg * Spectator * [Neima] ranges with impressive confidence across the world . . . pleasingly non-judgemental and avoids laborious analysis. Reading this book is perhaps the most delightful way to indulge in elite communism in the 21st century, other than being recruited to a Californian tech start-up. -- Marc Mullholland * Literary Review * Neima's brisk storytelling and eye for the illustrative quote and telling anecdote conveys the thrilling and sometimes scandalous strangeness of these experiments . . . highly readable -- Mary Harrington * The Critic * Meticulously researched . . . an engaging and immersive blend of macro- and micro-histories. The fascinating protagonists of each story are expertly situated within wider socio-economic history, with parallels usefully drawn between each community. -- Zoe Apostolides * Prospect * Neima's diligent account focuses on six interwar endeavours, in Japan, India, America, Germany, England and France, each established by a charismatic leader, each with a goal of creating a more democratic, just and peaceful society. -- Olivia Laing * TLS * Neima's writing is absolutely, faultlessly superb. It was a pleasure to read every page and an example of how non-fiction can be capable of blending intense research with first-class prose plus a large dash of entertainment. Highly recommended. * BookMunch * Anna Neima has picked a valuable and illuminating focus for her first book . . . Engagingly written with colour, warmth and unobtrusive erudition, The Utopians looks back to find some sturdy roots of hope. -- Boyd Tonkin * The Arts Desk * In the midst of crisis it's inspiring to read about men and women who dedicated themselves to creating new worlds. Neima's book, impeccably researched and beautifully written, will be an inspiration for anyone looking to an alternative future today. -- Stella Tillyard, author of Aristocrats and The Great Level Can we ever transform ourselves and our divided societies? Deeply interesting and a pleasure to read, The Utopians illuminates the history of "social dreaming" at a time when it has never been more needed. This is a lovely book. -- Alison Light, author of A Radical Romance, Common People and Mrs. Woolf and the Servants Neima is a historian of rare and wonderful powers. She writes with utter lucidity, bringing great swathes of thinking into focus, uncovering deep connections between experimental communities across the world. Considering her chosen utopians with a precious mix of shrewd realism and questing open-mindedness, she honours both practicalities and dreams. I finished this book newly persuaded of what the interwar years can teach us about the future. I'll be recommending it to everyone I know, and looking to Neima as an inspiring new voice in non-fiction. -- Alexandra Harris, acclaimed author of Weatherland and Romantic Moderns By highlighting the wide-spread, magnetic attraction of ramshackle and often spartan utopias, Neima's meticulously researched and measured study underscores the collective trauma of the First World War, and people's fervent attempts never to see those horrors repeated. -- Susan Gray * Church Times * A book that carefully recuperates the wild desires of a diverse group of dreamers who founded new societies between the 1920s and the 1940s . . . One of the great joys of the book is the kookiness of the projects [Neima] highlights -- Joe P. L. Davidson * Tribune *