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Erewhon (Erewhon #1)

3.31 of 5 stars 3.31  ·  rating details  ·  1,690 ratings  ·  156 reviews
In this novel, Butler satirically describes a utopian society, using the civilization of 'Erewhon' ('nowhere,' scrambled) to satirize beliefs popular in the England of his day. Butler wrote a sequel to the novel, Erewhon Revisited.
Paperback, 272 pages
Published September 13th 2000 (first published 1872)
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Erewhon, as a satire and/or essay, is interesting and has some thought provoking ideas. Erewhon as a novel has a fairly thin but still interesting plot line in an intriguing environment. Unfortunately, meshing the two of these together makes for a difficult book to swallow at times.

I enjoyed the thought provoking elements of the satire that Butler presents. He turns the world upside down in order to have us explore just how "civilized" we truly are. He maintains the same basic structure...that a...more
"I never asked to be born" says a character in The Blind Assassin, and is promptly corrected.

I wonder if Margaret Atwood was thinking of Erewhon. Members of Erewhonian society are all obliged to sign a document at birth admitting that they have chosen to be born of their own free will, and obliging them to indemnify their parents for any trouble it may cause them. Other appealing ideas are the inverted treatment of crime and physical illness: if you embezzle money, you're given medical treatmen...more
Douglas Summers-Stay
I admit I skimmed over a lot of this book. It's a satire about Victorian society and frankly I'm too far removed from a lot of the issues to get much out of his turning them upside down. But the three chapters on machines-- Wow! When I read Dune in the 80s the idea of the "Butlerian Jihad" struck me as a particularly unusual new idea. I never would have believed that the plot-- machines evolving through natural and artificial selection into a kind of artificial life, reproducing with the aid of...more
Pardon me, but the English geek inside me is coming out. Remember as Dave Barry said, if you can easily come up with idiot interpretations of novels, you should major in English. I majored in journalism, meaning I could easily come up with idiot interpretations of news events. Same thing.

So here’s my idiot interpretation of Samuel Butler’s contribution to Frank Herbert’s Dune.

Herbert, author of the Dune novels, may have taken the name of Butler and the idea of a societal rebellion against machin...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dylan Mcintosh
My favorite section from the book was:

“Why,” asked one Professor, “should a man want to be better than his neighbours? Let him be thankful if he is no worse.”

I ventured feebly to say that I did not see how progress could be made in any art or science, or indeed in anything at all, without more or less self-seeking, and hence unamiability.

“Of course it cannot,” said the Professor, “and therefore we object to progress.”

I absolutely loved this book when it was in fiirst person as you read from the...more
So, I finally finished this 200 page book that I started reading in October! Well, although it took me a long time to get through the book, I think it was worth it. The thing is, it is a very, very thoughtful book - certainly not a light read, so I couldn't read it unless I really had the free time and energy to concentrate. And, if I didn't get through a chapter in one sitting, I usually had to start if over later because I couldn't follow the chapter otherwise. AT ANY RATE, I found this book t...more
Eh. Ehhh! I was not impressed. Okay, I get it is a satire of Victorian society, but seriously I felt like I was getting beat over the head with how blatant the satire was. Samuel Butler tried to squeeze in much more than there was room for. It could have been a solid read, but I just wasn't feeling it. Compared to other authors of that time, it just doesn't compare. And don't even get me started on the Book of the Machines and the Rights of Animals and just dove into a death spir...more
Probably will not finish Erewhon, another classic I picked off the shelves of Project Gutenberg. It started out as a fairly pedestrian colonization / exploration story along the lines of something Louis L'Amor might write. But once our (unnamed) hero made it over the mountains and into Erewhon itself, it took and abrupt left turn and became something much closer to Gulliver's Travels. Many, endless chapters are devoted to the study of the peculiarities of Erewhonese culture, in which all illness...more
My word, this one took me a good while! I enjoyed Erewhon at first, having not read anything quite like it. It begins with the tale of an adventure, where Higgs the explorer tries to discover a new country for farming over the mountains in New Zealand (perhaps). He's a bit of a haphazard traveller, left to rot by his native guide, but somehow manages to stumble into a beautiful tribe of people known as the Erewhonians. Believing them to be one of the long lost Hebrew tribes, he tries to learn ev...more
The story is narrated by Higgs, looking back on the great adventure of his life in a strange land. As a young man, Higgs travelled to one of the British colonies, which he doesn't expressly name, but which sounds a lot like New Zealand (where Samuel Butler spent time as a youth). Here, Higgs found work on one of the large sheep stations in the interior of the country, at the limits of the region hitherto explored by the British and up against a seemingly impassable mountain range. Higgs feels su...more
Erewhon is one of those books that you know about and never quite get around to reading because you didn't take that particular English Lit class ... and then you graduate and think you won't read that kind of book on your own, until you join and someone suggests it as a buddy read and you think, well, why not?

And so, you read Erewhon, three syllables. Err-uh-wan. I wonder why that was important, other than maybe it's a poke at the precision of Upper Class Victorian British Pronun...more
First, the bad: there was so much potential here for a more interesting/thorough storyline! What we get is a very watered-down plot which exists solely as a jumping off point for commentary and satire on society and whose main points are often plainly announced before they occur. Further, a fair bit of the commentary is thin and lacks much force due to the way in which it is presented.

But, there are some great ideas here! For me, the chapters near the end of the book provide the most interesting...more
Adam Rabiner
Erewhon is an anagram for Nowhere. Butler's novel is a satire of late 19th century England. Erewhon is a kind of Shangri La, a medieval, European-like country, populated by what might be the lost 13th tribe of Israel. Their customs are odd - they are frozen in time having a deep distrust of technology, they are rational thinkers but esteem hypothetical knowledge over common sense, they punish the sick for the the crime of being ill but consider felony a mere misdemeanor. It's a strange, upside d...more
Andrew Maccann
Erewhon certainly starts off well: the first third or so is a compelling adventure story of one man discovering an almost fantastical, hitherto unknown country. The narrator's journey through the land of Erewhon is classic fish-out-of-water narrative, as we learn more of the alien culture & exaggerated moralities these people live by. Very much a novel with Swiftian influences; it's all quite tongue-in-cheek and a little bit silly.

It all goes quickly downhill though by the latter half; the...more
Erewhon is an 'undiscovered' community which follows quite a different (and often opposing) set of principles to those in the Western world (well, the western world when this was written). The book itself is a hodge-podge of travel diary, theoretical discussion, and philosophical musings which occasionally works and is occasionally turgid. The most interesting section deals with how this community dealt with the advancement of machinery. In many instances I felt the author had written himself in...more
It took me some time to finish this, as I was often distracted by other, flashier, more interesting books. This is often touted as the first modern utopian novel, and in that respect it's interesting. It presages the computer age and the ethical dilemmas we're just beginning to face, while also telling something of an adventure tale.

It bogs down in many places, however, as Butler satirizes various aspects of Victorian society. It can be interesting to read these, and often, multiple viewpoints a...more
Adam Mills
It's not a great book, but it is very important and worth reading. Butler is essentially limited by the form he had to adopt for this book, which took a lot of cues from other books in the Victorian era. It works well as travel writing, oddly enough, taking advantage of the increased demand for this kind of writing at the time, and it works extremely well as a science fictional imagining of a plausible otherworld that could exist within the boundaries of our own, give or take some curious altera...more
Ken Gloeckner
Mixed feelings on this classic satire. The prose are a bit cantankerous and I think that’s partly due to the memoir-style first person narrative used here which is not very suited to the content of the “story” here. Some passages clearly had some degree of satirical significance but I could not decipher them. The book is at its most interesting when describing some of the broader social and historical forces that made Erewhon what it eventually became – a wholly backwards, unreasonable place.

Agustín Fest
Hay muchas cosas de valor en este libro: los valores morales distintos... (las enfermedades como crimen, los arranques de maldad como enfermedad curable) y los capítulos que hablan de las máquinas, de la religión, de la no existencia y finalmente, de los oráculos que convencen de no comer ni carne, ni vegetales.

Tremendo libro.
For a book with such an acute identity crisis (am I a novel? a satire? a philosophical essay? I JUST CAN'T TELL) it had many strokes of pure genius.

Unfortunately I found it hard to get over said identity crisis (and the self-righteous narrator).

Good read, though, and worth going through it again in the future.

Chris Herdt
An important utopian/dystopian novel that, like Gulliver's Travels, critiques the author's contemporary society via a look at a topsy-turvy society, literally on the other side of the world in a New Zealand-ish geography. Features an excellent escape by hot air balloon.
Jul 28, 2007 Jenny rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: gluttons for punishment
This was excruciatingly slow-moving and it was all I could do to finish this book. I think if Butler had actually written the book all at once, instead of as installments in his local newspaper in the 1870's it would have flowed better. Oy!
Marco den Ouden
I love this book. An entertaining dystopian novel that finds the protaganist, a man named Higgs, discovering an unknown civilization in a remote area of the world, possibly in New Zealand. The people here have some strange notions and philosophies. Among other things, disease and other misfortunes are treated as crime and crime is treated as a disease. There are some excerpts from philosophical tracts of Erewhon's past which are excellent critiques of vegetarianism and ludditism among others. An...more
Gary Davis
The chapters on machines, religion and vegetarianism all resonated with me. Funny how they thought about the same things as we do so long ago.
This book was thrown up in a reading challenge, and that's the only reason I read it. I'd never heard of it before - which is unsurprising given that it's a Utopian novel from the 19th century.

In the beginning, I have to say I really enjoyed it. The protagonist initially had a fairly mundane existence, looking after animals in a remote part of his homeland with a gruff companion. He ached to explore lands beyond his own, so set off on a risky adventure alone. The language and descriptions used i...more
Erewhon is most famous for its satirical commentary on Victorian values, using a utopia to mount criticism of the beliefs and practices that Butler finds ridiculous in his own society. Specifically, he attacks the attitudes on the ill and unfortunate in society by treating disease as a crime and crime as a disease, which just reminds me of Cobra. The physically sick are punished, the unfortunate are imprisoned and sentenced to hard labor, and the criminals are treated at hospitals and at their h...more
Gijs Grob
'Erewhon' is an Utopian novel, much in the tradition of Tommaso Campanella's The City of the Sun (1602), Cyrano de Bergerac's L'Autre Monde: ou les États et Empires de la Lune (A Voyage to the Moon, 1657), Jonathan Swift's 'Gulliver's Travels' (1726).

In it the narrator explores the mountains of an unnamed colony, modeled on New Zealand, only to stumble unto an unknown land. The opening chapters contain grand passages of exploration, nature and the early wonders of the new land.

With chapter 10, h...more
Mutlu Cankay
Gönüllü bir sürgün olan ana karakter, talihini uzak diyarlarda aramak için İngiltere'den ayrılır. Avrupa'nın kolonilerinden birinde çobanlığa başlayan karakterin tek amacı tarifsiz zenginlikler bulmak ve şansını tersini döndürmektir. Sürekli bulutlarla çevrili olan yüksek bir dağın ardına yapacağı yolculuk onu henüz keşfedilmemiş bir uygarlığa götürecek, orada kaldığı süre boyunca bu garip toplumu inceleyecektir...

Keşfetme arzusu ile dolu olan karakter zamanın ruhunu yansıtıyor, başarılı pastora...more
Marc Kozak
Trying to explain this book to someone inevitably results in some kind of "what the fuck are you reading" response. First of all, the title instantly makes you think Lord of the Rings (as in, "King Erewhon rode through Mordor while battling demons with his light saber"), but in actuality, it's a version of 'nowhere' spelled backwards. Secondly, trying to make a snap judgement about the plot after hearing it briefly explained will make your head explode. Not to mention the assertion that this boo...more
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Goodreads Librari...: Please merge these two records 3 23 Jan 23, 2012 06:26PM  
  • Marius the Epicurean
  • News from Nowhere
  • Castle Richmond
  • The Coming Race
  • Born in Exile
  • The Absentee
  • The Monastery
  • The Hand of Ethelberta
  • After London: or, Wild England
  • Ascent
  • Some Experiences of an Irish R.M.
  • Virgin Soil
  • The Expedition of Humphry Clinker
  • Hello Summer, Goodbye
  • The Marble Faun (Oxford World's Classics)
  • The Influence
  • The End of the World News
  • Amelia
[For the author of Hudibras, see .]

Samuel Butler was an iconoclastic Victorian author who published a variety of works, including the Utopian satire Erewhon and the posthumous novel The Way of All Flesh, his two best-known works, but also extending to examinations of Christian orthodoxy, substantive studies of evolutionary thought, studies of Italian art, a...more
More about Samuel Butler...
The Way of All Flesh Erewhon Revisited (Erewhon , #2) Erewhon, Erewhon Revisited The Note Books of Samuel Butler The Authoress of the Odyssey

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“Property, marriage, the law; as the bed to the river, so rule and convention to the instinct; and woe to him who tampers with the banks while the flood is flowing.” 5 likes
“I remember one incident which bears upon this part of the treatise. The gentleman who gave it to me had asked to see my tobacco-pipe; he examined it carefully, and when he came to the little protuberance at the bottom of the bowl he seemed much delighted, and exclaimed that it must be rudimentary. I asked him what he meant.

"Sir," he answered, "this organ is identical with the rim at the bottom of a cup; it is but another form of the same function. Its purposes must have been to keep the heat of the pipe from marking the table upon which it rested. You would find, if you were to look up the history of tobacco-pipes, that in early specimens this protuberance was of a different shape to what it is now. It will have been broad at the bottom, and flat, so that while the pipe was being smoked the bowl might rest upon the table without marking it. Use and disuse must have come into play and reduced the function its present rudimentary condition. I should not be surprised, sir," he continued, "if, in the course of time, it were to become modified still farther, and to assume the form of an ornamental leaf or scroll, or even a butterfly, while in some cases, it will become extinct.”
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