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Green Isle of the Great Deep

Green Isle of the Great Deep

by Neil Miller Gunn

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Limned in a gnarly, homespun Scots dialect, Gunn's earnest parable again features the two eponymous characters of Young Art and Old Hector, whose companionship illustrates the best aspects of youth and age. During WWII, eight-year-old Art and his octogenarian friend Hector have an adventure that allows Gunn to ponder the question of how God could allow the Nazis to inflict the horrible atrocity of mind control. Embarked on a slightly illegal fishing excursion, the poachers fall into the depth of the Hazel Pool and regain consciousness in a wonderfully fertile land called The Green Isle. Though the trees in the orchards are laden with apples, grapes and oranges, the subdued and obedient inhabitants are forbidden to eat the fruit because it is poison. This distorted version of Paradise is controlled by a hierarchy ensconced at The Seat on the Rock. Refusing to be enslaved by the system, Art defiantly takes some fruit, a metaphor for the truth, but he is subject to instant retribution. His name a clear portent, Art thus becomes a symbol of artistic freedom, ``the living poem and the eternal legend.'' The late Gunn (1891-1973) doggedly presses home his warning message about the abuses of knowledge and power, but, despite its passages of lyrical description, the narrative lacks the subtlety and grace characteristic of his earlier work.
Ray Olson
Originally published in 1944 and now accorded its first U.S. edition, this strange fantasy is of its time, yet, on account of Gunn's artistry, timeless. It is a dream vision of an outwardly idyllic society in which, as in the nightmares of "Darkness at Noon" and "1984", human individuality and spirituality are being ground out. An old man and a small boy fall into a pond and awaken in the apparently Edenic Green Isle, whose inhabitants are weirdly affectless. They wander, subsisting on the luscious local fruit, and are seized when they arrive at the regional capital. The boy escapes, and the old man is worn to a shell of himself by the powerful Questioner; moreover, he loses his stomach for the fruit. The man is sent to the farm of a covertly rebellious couple who are helping the boy hide. Eventually, the whole countryside is roused to hunt the boy, and God arrives to question the Questioner. There are happy resolutions both in the Green Isle and when boy and man are revived at home. Before then, Gunn packs the story with piquant allegory, satire of the intellect divorced from body and soul, and melodramatic appeal--all of it expressed in a simple yet rich diction. Gunn is a great artist. Reading him recalls how fine prose fiction can be.

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Walker & Company
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5.83(w) x 8.58(h) x 1.02(d)

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