Zone of the Marvellous
Hes constantly demonstrating that the natural world is as splendiferous as any fable. Jim Shepard, New York Times New Zealand and Australia were imagined thousands of years before they became real. From Platos Atlantis to Dantes Mount Purgatory, Sinbad the Sailor to Abel Tasman, travellers, writers, map-makers, charlatans and rogues dreamed of other worlds at the back of the sun. In Zone of the Marvellous Martin Edmond recounts the fantastic history of the antipodes in the Western imagination. Edmond tells the stories of Gilgamesh, seeking immortality on the other side of the Waters of Death, and Ptolemy, inventing a Great South Land to balance the weight of northern-hemisphere continents. He traces the invention underlying truth in the tales of Marco Polo and the equivocal John Mandeville, and the fact underlying fiction in Thomas Mores Utopia. Along the way he wonders if Tasmans dour puritanical character is somehow mirrored in aspects of the New Zealand psyche and if the Australian character might resemble that of the old pyrating dog and three-times circumnavigator William Dampier, insouciant larrikin and freedom-monger. Shining with intellectual breadth and imaginative reach, Zone of the Marvellous is one persons trawl through the detritus of the past five millennia. Edmond unfolds his inquiry with a weather eye for the always fertile intertwining of fact and fiction that makes up what we call history, for the moments of wonder and wild surmise that invented our Land of Gold, our Great South Land, our Antipodes, and for the sense and the resonant non-sense that keep alive our feeling for the marvellous.
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