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A book cover for A voyage to Arcturus by David Lindsay

A book cover for A voyage to Arcturus by David Lindsay

Excerpt from "The Alienness of Atmosphere: Michael Moorcock Welcomes Back David Lindsay's A Voyage to Arcturus, One of the Great Originals" by Michael Moorcock, The Guardian,

Friday 30 August 2002

Few English novels have been as eccentric or, ultimately, as influential as David Lindsay's A Voyage to Arcturus. First published in 1920, it produced enormous enthusiasm in C.S. Lewis, who recommended it to Tolkien. In his introduction, Alan Moore compares it to Bunyan and Machen, while Walpole, Corvo, Hodgson, ER Eddison, Barrington Bayley, and even Mervyn Peake also come to mind. But, as Moore insists, Lindsay's engrossing book, a mixture of metaphysics and surreal dream-quest, stands as one of the great originals.

Colin Wilson's two informative afterwords reveal Lindsay as a disappointed eccentric dying of blood poisoning from neglected teeth. The book's photographs present a conventional, pipe-puffing, late-Edwardian gent, at ease in a domesticated English landscape. Lindsay's passion for music is revealed in his hand-written letter decorating the fly-leaves of Savoy's exquisite edition, lovingly designed with gold-leaf and Jean Delville paintings on the jacket by John Coulthart.

In common with many others, Lindsay returned from the trenches of the first world war with a profound unease, questioning every assumption of his pre-war upbringing. This was the first and best novel he wrote. A Voyage to Arcturus opens with a drawing-room séance attended by two apparent veterans, Nightspore and Maskull. They witness the manifestation of two ethereal visitors, one of whom is horribly killed by the other, who calls himself Krag. Krag then tells the men to meet him in a deserted Scottish observatory, where they find vials of what are called "Back Rays," by which light returns to its source. In a crystalline ship piloted by Krag, the rays allow the three to travel to Arcturus, the double star, and its single planet Tormance. Blacking out, Maskull wakes to find his companions gone. He now inhabits a vivid world where blazing blue and white suns rise and set, peopled by bizarre characters described with Blakean authority. Some of these Maskull is driven to kill, from anger or in self-defence.

Link to the full article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2002/aug/31/featuresreviews.guardianreview20

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