June/July/Aug 2010

Special Section: Utopia Dystopia

Utopia is . . . what? The sum of our aspirations? Dystopia's noble twin? A human vanity? Or a joke? The very word means "no place" in Greek, but that absurdity hasn't inhibited a great many dreamers and schemers: History is littered with attempts to realize some portion of heaven on earth. Literature is also rife with depictions of worlds gone right and worlds gone very wrong. Indeed, we have long looked to novelists, artists, philosophers, and poets to articulate our yearning for a better world—as well as our dread of a worse one—and to conjure a geography of the possible. At this particularly anxious moment in our political and cultural lives, BOOKFORUM sets out to explore this most placeless of places. The following section features provocative essays by Paul La Farge and Keith Gessen, in conjunction with reflections by novelists and scholars. Illustrating the section is a portfolio of cartographies charting childhood memories, fantastic islands, and fictional territories. Selected from From Here to There: A Curious Collection from the Hand Drawn Map Association, edited by Kris Harzinksi and to be published in the fall by Princeton Architectural Press, the drawings epitomize the idiosyncratic nature of any idealized locale. Utopia, and its opposite number, are personal places, alive in the mind, reachable only by ourselves.

Utopia: Paul La Farge

Dystopia: Keith Gessen


June 21, 2010
6:30 pm

While the utopian dream may appear foolishly idealistic to many, the vision somehow tenaciously survives; if only to provide both a conception of progress and the uncomfortable reminder: that however sincere ones hopes, aspirations and efforts may be, the means to achieve such ends have perpetually eluded the defining, predominant values of mankind. Understanding that limitation of our species and the means to transcend it is the final frontier. http://www.energon.org.uk

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