Utopia has inspired generations of thinkers and writers to imagine the good – and evil – humans might be capable of. China Miéville rereads a classic.
If you know from where to set sail, with a friendly pilot offering expertise, it should not take you too long to reach Utopia. Since the first woman or man first yearned for a better place, dreamers have dreamed them at the tops of mountains and cradled in hidden valleys, above clouds and deep under the earth – but above all they have imagined them on islands.
The island utopia has been a standard since antique times: Eusebius’s Panchaea and Iambulus’s Islands of the Sun; Henry Neville’s Isle of Pines, and Antangil, from the anonymous 1616 novel of that name; Bacon’s Bensalem; Robert Paltock’s Nosmnbdsgrutt, from The Life and Adventures of Peter Wilkins; Huxley’s Pala; Austin Tappan Wright’s Islandia; and countless others. And in the centre of that great archipelago of dissent and hope, one place, one name, looms largest.