Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

THE ISLAND: In Imagination and Experience by Barry Smith

  • Written by  Jon Wright
  • Published in Books
THE ISLAND: In Imagination and Experience by Barry Smith
18 Oct
2017
Barry Smith is a self-confessed islomaniac and a fixation with islands and all they represent is ‘one of the most difficult compulsions to be cured of’

It’s also one of the most rewarding and, in this elegant little book, Smith provides a fascinating survey of the interplay between those little dots of land and the human imagination. Islands can tell us a great deal about how human beings impose their dreams and assumptions on the landscape. We use words like mysterious, dangerous or beguiling to describe them though, of course, ‘an island itself is neither happy nor unhappy’. Monks head to islands to be closer to their God, writers from Homer to Swift have used islands as their canvases, and many cultures have conjured up visions of paradise or hell in an island setting. The isolated places are where the psyche soars, where castaways can discover whether their elemental skills and instincts are up to snuff, and also, more menacingly, where the contours and comforts of civilisation are apt to slip away.

Islands are about more than romance and peril, however. Much of Smith’s book looks at the complex, often poignant, ways we have exploited them. There are fascinating sections on the manifold uses to which islands have been put: from weapons testing grounds to living biological laboratories to anthropological playgrounds. Politics have often entered the fray and Smith is excellent on the ways in which islands have always been pawns in geopolitical games. He also provides witty words on the tendency of islands to breed ‘self-appointed demagogues’: ‘if you are hoping to find peaceful living under caring governance on a small piece of land in the middle of the ocean, you may well be disappointed.’

Click here to purchase The Island by Barry Smith via Amazon

red line

NEVER MISS A STORY

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox by signing up to our free weekly newsletter!

red line

Subscribe to Geographical!

Geographical Week

Sign up for our weekly newsletter today and get a FREE eBook collection!

University of Winchester

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth University University of Greenwich The University of Derby

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

DOSSIERS

Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • The Human Game – Tackling football’s ‘slave trade’
    Few would argue with football’s position as the world’s number one sport. But as Mark Rowe discovers, this global popularity is masking a sinister...
    Essential oil?
    Palm oil is omnipresent in global consumption. But in many circles it is considered the scourge of the natural world, for the deforestation and habita...
    When the wind blows
    With 1,200 wind turbines due to be built in the UK this year, Mark Rowe explores the continuing controversy surrounding wind power and discusses the e...
    The true cost of meat
    As one of the world’s biggest methane emitters, the meat industry has a lot more to concern itself with than merely dietary issues ...
    The green dragon awakens
    China has achieved remarkable economic success following the principle of developing first and cleaning up later. But now the country with the world's...

MORE DOSSIERS

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in REVIEWS...

Exhibitions

Annual photography competition at the Natural History Museum celebrates the…

Exhibitions

We all have to live with buildings, but getting the…

Books

by Bruno Latour • Polity Books • £12.99 (hardback)

Books

edited by Fearghal O’Nuallain • Summersdale • £9.99 (paperback)

Books

by Francis Fukuyama • Profile Books • £16.99 (hardback) • £14.99 (eBook)

Books

by Pascal Bruckner • Polity Books • £16.99 (hardback)

Books

by Kevin Begos • Algonquin Books • £20.99 (hardback)

Books

by Karl Schlögel (translated by Gerrit Jackson) • Reaktion Books • £18 (hardback)

Films

Space race biopic tries to uncover the real Neil Armstrong,…

Exhibitions

Four new galleries at Royal Museums Greenwich explore Britain’s maritime…

Books

by John Foot • Bloomsbury • £25 (hardback)

Books

by Deborah Baker • Chatto & Windus • £25 (hardback)

Books

By Lucy Seigle • Trapexe • £12.99/£6.99 (hardback/eBook)

Books

by Simon Lewis and Mark Maslin • Pelican • £8.99 (paperback)

Books

by Christoph Baumer • IB Tauris • £30 (hardback)

Books

by Charles Lane • River Books • £40 (hardback)

Books

by Graham Hoyland• William Collins • £20 (hardback)

Books

by Dr Lucy Jones• Doubleday Books • £19.99 (hardback)

Books

by Daniel Pinchbeck• Watkins • £9.99 (paperback)

Books

by Jasper Winn • Profile Books • £16.99 (hardback)