Contented Reader

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Lost Horizon

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Lost Horizon

James Hilton

Project Gutenberg Australia

Conway is a good man.  His years fighting in the Great War have made him a little bitter, a little philosophical, and more than a little disillusioned, but still, he is well known as a man who is reliable and skilled.  Maybe even the heroic type.

Conway is one of four Europeans on an airplane which descends unexpectedly in a remote area of the Tibetan mountains.  They are rescued and taken to a beautiful lamasery, a serene and peaceful place, a haven from the world.  The lamasery is Shangri-la.  There, people live a life of moderation, of benevolent kindness, of quiet study and pleasure.

Unfortunately (or perhaps not so unfortunately), Conway is to learn two secrets about Shangri-la.  One is that the people of the lamasery live unusually long lives.  And the other is that, willing or no, Conway and his companions are now novice lamas; they will never be permitted to leave.

My girlfriend was sick, and I took her to the doctor.  She was consulting with the doctor for a very long time, long enough for me to read well over half of Lost Horizon on my electronic reader.  It’s easy to see why it was one of the most popular books of the late 1930s.  The timeless quality of a doctor’s waiting room was very compatible with the timelessness of the slow-paced and idealized retreat of the book, and I found myself wanting to live in Shangri-la, as I suppose millions of people have felt before me.  The idea of a place of peace and calm, where the concerns of a noisy and violent world can never intrude, where time is meaningless, is appealing to me, and I can imagine it must have been even more appealing to the readers of a time when one world war was fresh in the memory and another loomed uncertainly on the horizon.

After my girlfriend was released (and feeling much better, thanks to an injection that seems to have been as magical as the vaguely-described drugs of Shangri-la), I finished the book on the comfy chair at home.  I immediately wanted to turn back to page one and read it again.


Written by Contented Reader

July 17, 2012 at 6:48 am


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