John Powys: Atlantis

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John Powys Atlantis
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Atlantis: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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Published in 1954, John Cowper Powys called this novel, a 'long romance about Odysseus in his extreme old age, hoisting sail once more from Ithaca'. As usual there is a large cast of human characters but Powys also gives life and speech to inanimates such as a stone pillar, a wooden club,and an olive shoot. The descent to the drowned world of Atlantis towards the end of the novel is memorably described, indeed, Powys himself called it 'the best part of the book'. Many of Powys's themes, such as the benefits of matriarchy, the wickedness of priests and the evils of modern science which condones vivisection are given full rein in this odd but compelling work.

John Powys: другие книги автора

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John Cowper Powys




There had been an unusual tension all that Spring night in the air of the arched corridor that led into the royal dwelling. It was a weird, hushed, premonitory tension, the sort of tension that implies a secret fore-knowledge shared among a number of so-called inanimate things. It was the sort of tension that strikes human beings as ominous, and from which all sub-human creatures instinctively shrink.

Even when the phantom-light that comes before dawn and is known in the island of Ithaca as “Lykophos” or “wolf-light,” touched with its ghostly greyness that silent portico the tension did not relax. Some chroniclers would no doubt declare that if this palace of the aged Odysseus had been on the mainland, or if Ithaca had been a larger island, the elemental vibration that was bringing this tension would have been less active. This is extremely doubtful. Such chroniclers would be laying too much stress upon the purely physical capacity of the inanimate to convey the shock of far-away outbreaks, and too little stress upon whatever it may be in the composition of any form of matter that partakes, however faintly, of the nature of emotional consciousness.

The corridor which was thus affected that Spring night was a narrow one but it was about eighty feet in length and its arched roof was reached by — it would be incorrect to say “was supported upon”—six huge pillars. These pillars were not of great height, for the arched roof was low; but they were of colossal girth and were by no means identical in appearance.

In fact the first impression any stranger who visited the House of Odysseus received from them was that they had been dragged to this royal entrance by long-forgotten generations of slaves and had belonged to more than one pre-historic temple in the primal age of the Island of Ithaca, an age so fabulously remote that these terrific pillars had probably beheld creatures that were neither gods nor men nor centaurs nor satyrs moving about beneath them.

The entrance to the corridor was from a garden of very ancient olive-trees, at one side of which was the slaves’ burying-ground. The stones that supported the entrance-arch were so enormous that they made the porch itself look just what in all probability it was, the mouth of a subterranean river that aeons ago had dried up.

A stranger entering it could make out at once the half-open brazen doors at the end and at most hours could feel the fragrant smoke emerging from beside the throne and floating out down the row of pillars.

The tension at any rate that welcomed that particular dawn had been created, so it was gradually made evident, by some world-upheaval that was nearer human consciousness than the most insidious constituents of these last eddies of wood-smoke that were at that moment being wafted out between those brazen doors from the whitening ashes of the fire by the empty throne, nearer human consciousness than even the sepulchral mist that at this hour was slowly drifting in over the stunted olive-trees from the slaves’ burying-ground.

Whatever was the nature of the revolutionary event that was happening or was just going to happen, and however important it may have been or was going to be for human consciousness, one thing can be counted upon as certain: it meant absolutely nothing to the dust of the dead slaves out there in that unhistoric enclosure. What did it mean to those Six Pillars? Now this was a significant question. To dispose of those centuries-old layers of slave-dust not a great deal of nourishing soil had had to be disturbed; but with these Six Pillars it was a different matter.

Odysseus himself, who had known them from childhood, and whose homesick imagination had turned to them again and again under the walls of Troy and in the Nymph-tended gardens of Circe and Calypso, found it impossible even now, as he went out or came in between the polished rondures of their preoccupied surfaces, to imagine them as anything but still erect in their majestic immunity, whatever convulsion at the heart of the island might make the rest of his home a heap of ruins.

But if the aged lord of that place could himself only too easily imagine its final desolation and see in those Six Pillars its only lasting memorial, by what tremors of vibration or currents of magnetism was the appalling tension caused that now filled that corridor?

One of the most startling things in human experience, whether the person be old or young, occurs whenever such a person is left alone for a while with another of its species who is sunk in sleep. It is then that the wakeful one suddenly becomes aware of the chasm that exists, a chasm resembling a crevasse in scoriac rock, between its consciousness and a consciousness like its own that is functioning in a completely different dimension.

There are some who find themselves questioning when they are fully awake, but of course they may have been influenced during their sleep, whether it is true that of all the things in the world the most precious is human consciousness. The champions of human consciousness defend its preciousness on the ground that it is consciousness alone that makes it possible for one living creature to respond to the feelings of another living creature.

Among ourselves however there are so many varieties of consciousness that it would seem as if it ought to be possible for us to relax the thought-pattern of human beings, or perhaps stretch it a little, till we could pass into the consciousness of a fish or a reptile or an insect or even of a plant or a tree.

Indeed if we have known the weird discomfort and strange uneasiness of the isolation of a brain awake lying close to a brain asleep, we have also known the annoying frustration of our complete failure to feel what the inanimate entities around us feel.

In the pre-dawn of the February day that brought this odd tension into the corridor of the palace of Odysseus the human sensibility that was really needed before any adequate solution of the mysterious shock lately received by this portion of the earth’s surface could be obtained was the peculiar and special sensibility of a virgin who had never known a man, in other words of an old maid, a sensibility that the mere experience of copulation, whether resulting in pregnancy or not, wholly destroys, a sensibility that is as impossible for a mother as it is for a father.

The only human beings in the corridor at this hour were neither paternal nor maternal, nor were they on the watch. They were both male and they were both asleep. Thus it was left for the last of the six enormous Pillars to give the first articulation to the curious suspense that pulsed from one end to the other of that corridor.

One aspect of this magnetic vibration was naturally outside the Sixth Pillar’s field of awareness. We refer to the possibility that being so rocky an isle Ithaca may simply have been the highest peak in an under-sea range of precipitous mountains and that thus, whatever it was that had happened whether of a psychical or of a physical nature, whether an insurrection of Titans or a revolt of Women, the news of it had travelled by way of Ithaca from the extreme East to the extreme West and from the extreme North to the extreme South.

The Sixth Pillar was the one nearest the olive-trees and the slaves’ burial-ground outside the porch; and it was the furthest from the throne-room inside the porch. Its difference from the rest lay in the fact that it had been hammered and chipped and scooped and carved by none other than a son of the great craftsman Hephaistos, who was himself the son of Zeus and had been endowed with a peculiar sensitivity much nearer human awareness than anything possessed by the other five. So sensitive indeed was the Sixth Pillar that this particular Spring-night had seemed to it as long as three ordinary nights.

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