Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Lost Horizon by James Hilton
James Hilton's Lost Horizon has left a huge legacy in that the lost city of Shangri-La has become a byword for any utopian place of contemplation.
James Hilton is an interesting writer in that he's best known for this book and Goodbye Mr Chips, both of which were filmed successfully and two more different works you could not find. He also worked on the screenplay for the wartime classic Mrs Miniver.
Lost Horizon is largely the story of Hugh 'Glory' Conway. Conway was a schoolboy sports star and academic achiever, who was what every student aspired to be. His experiences in WW I affected him deeply, and after a period in academia he became a minor diplomat. It was in that capacity that he was on a small plane with 3 other travellers and heading out of India.
The plane was hijacked and taken deep into the Himalayas. The four travellers found themselves at the Shangri-La lamasery. Conway is the one who discovers the lamasery's secret. It is a place where time stops, and as long as one stays there they have the ability to literally live forever and never age.
Driven by his love for Lo-Tsen; a beautiful Manchu princess, and constantly badgered by the annoying young diplomat that travelled with him, Conway leaves the lamasery, but never forgets it.
At the end of the book after having briefly met with an old friend Conway disappears again, believed to be trying to get back to Shangri-La.
It's a very short book and could have even been shorter, there's a lot of unnecessary philosophising in it. Not much really happens, but it's still an easy, even enchanting read as one strives to get to the mystery behind Shangri-La and it's mysterious ruler the High Lama.
There are countless books written about lost civilisations and eternal life. The most recent and closest to the themes in Lost Horizon that I've read and can mention is H. Rider Haggard's She, although I'd recommend Lost Horizon over that.