Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Lost Horizon by James Hilton

“The first quarter-century of your life was doubtless lived under the cloud of being too young for things, while the last quarter-century would normally be shadowed by the still darker cloud of being too old for them; and between those two clouds, what small and narrow sunlight illumines a human lifetime!”

So, I chanced upon the 1937 Frank Capra film adaptation of this novel one lazy Saturday at JB Hi Fi and promptly bought it. It sat on my ‘to watch’ pile for quite some time and then utterly charmed me one rainy afternoon. The images are amazing and for its time, the special effects are impressive.

 I wondered whether the source material would be even better (particularly since the current print of the film is missing some sections – they are replaced by production stills and overlaid with the soundtrack) and rushed onto book depository (that site is my lack of savings Achilles heel) to get a copy. If the state of the world leaves you feeling a little despondent, you too may need a trip back in time with some adventurous travels to a mystical place high in the Himalayas. The high lama is a mysterious man, but Shangri-La is a rather, mysterious place. 

Perhaps it is a testament to the Indiana Jones style adventure vibes that this novel gives off that it is still in print. I was particularly intrigued by the gender equality achieved within Shangri-La, given that the novel was published in 1933. Whereas other novels of the time might feature a little casual racism, here the protagonist grimaces at the disregard his travel companions display for their new surrounds and hosts. This can be seen here, when he counters Mallinson's assertion that all peoples of the East are slow to act -

"Yet to Conway it did not appear that the Eastern races were abnormally dilatory, but rather that the Englishmen and Americans charged about the world in a state of continual and rather preposterous  fever heat."

Now I suggest you grab a copy and tell me what you think. If you've watched the film you will note there are some differences between both stories and they can be appreciated independent of each other. Both possess an intriguingly contemplative tone and some days I'd rather be hanging out in the remote reaches of the mystical Shangri-La, head ensconced firmly in one of the many books of its library.

5 out of 5 sherpas are hard to find.

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