Saturday, May 26, 2012

Searching for Crusoe

Sometime ago,  I came upon an interesting title on the stack of remaindered books at the local Barnes & Noble:  Thurston Clarke's Searching for Crusoe:  A Journey among the Last Real Islands.  The subtitle reveals the content, a travel account.  Islands visited by Clarke include Crusoe's island, of course; Bali; the Maldives; Patmos, the island from whence came the book of Revelation; Nihau; Svalbard; and others.   Probably this title will not prove to be worth reading again.  I have laid it aside for reading later, but it calls to mind the role of islands in literature:   Prospero's island in Shakespeare's The Tempest; Sancho Panza's island in Don Quixote; Crusoe's island; Treasure Island; Jackson's Island in Tom Sawyer; the island of Atlantis in Plato's Critias, in Otto Muck's The Secret of Atlantis, and in innumerable "channeled" books and narratives; even the islands of Constance Fenimore Woolson's Castle Nowhere.

What is the fascination of islands?   I do not recall reading anything about islands in Carl Jung's works interpreting symbolism, but perhaps the island is a mandala in the Jungian sense.   Looking in Cirlot's A Dictionary of Symbols, it is noted that Jung does consider islands, seeing in them, in Cirlot's words,  "the refuge from the menacing assault of the 'sea' of the unconscious . . . . the synthesis of the consciousness and the will."  Plato's Atlantis, with its interior artificial circular waterways and four channels directed to the four points of the compass, has something of the mandala about it.


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