Zone of the Marvellous: In Search of the Antipodes
New Zealand and Australia were imagined thousands of years before they became real. From Plato’s Atlantis to Dante’s Mount Purgatory, Sinbad the Sailor to Abel Tasman, travellers, writers, map-makers, charlatans and rogues dreamed of other worlds at the back of the sun.
In Zone of the Marvellous Martin Edmond recounts the fantastic history of the antipodes in the Western imagination. Edmond tells the stories of Gilgamesh, seeking immortality on the other side of the Waters of Death, and Ptolemy, inventing a Great South Land to balance the weight of northern-hemisphere continents. He traces the invention underlying truth in the tales of Marco Polo and the equivocal John Mandeville; and the fact underlying fiction in Thomas More’s Utopia. Along the way he wonders if Tasman’s dour puritanical character is somehow mirrored in aspects of the New Zealand psyche – and if the Australian character might resemble that of the old pyrating dog and three-times circumnavigator William Dampier, insouciant larrikin and freedom-monger.
Shining with intellectual breadth and imaginative reach, Zone of the Marvellous is one person’s trawl through the detritus of the past five millennia. Edmond unfolds his inquiry with a weather eye for the always fertile intertwining of fact and fiction that makes up what we call history; for the moments of wonder and wild surmise that invented our Land of Gold, our Great South Land, our Antipodes; and for the sense and the resonant non-sense that keep alive our feeling for the marvellous.
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Compressing 4000 years of history into 250 pages is a formidable task but maverick essayist Martin Edmond is up to the challenge . . . A gifted storyteller with a wry wit, he packs the book with masterly miniature biographies of scallywags, adventurers, liars, lunatics, artists and dreamers. – Iain Sharp, Metro
Edmonds’ account is a lovely conflation of doubt with certainty courtesy of a scholarship whose sureness of touch effortless carries the depth of his thinking into a quiet lagoon where we can all enjoy this history of histories. Highly recommended. - Paul Reynolds, Idealog
Martin Edmond’s Zone of the Marvellous is an amazing treasure box of fact, fiction, myth, history, fable and imagination in search of the antipodes. - Pauline Dawson, Scoop