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Item #: PL76
THE SOUTHERN LAND, KNOWN de Foigny 1993 1st edition DJ New
By de Foigny, Gabriel. Translated and edited by David Fausett
Price: $9.99


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NY, 1993, 1st edition. 152 pp, ills. Foigny's "La Terre Australe connue", published in 1676, is an engaging and playful example of the "imaginary voyage" genre. It is also a 17th-century work with some curiously modern resonances. Written by a Franciscan monk defrocked for his licentiousness, it is one of the best-known French utopias of that era, one that is discussed in every general history of utopianism.
 
Until now, the only English translation available was one made in 1693 from a bowdlerised edition published the previous year. This scholarly translation, with introduction and notes, makes the original text accessible to English language readers for the first time.
 
Written in the tradition of More's "Utopia" and serving itself as a forerunner to Swift's "Gulliver's Travels", "The Southern Land, Known" offered its readers a radical criticism of then prevailing ideologies in the guise of a lively and provocative novel. Knowledge of the vast continent of Australia was, in Foigny's day, still mingled with legends, hearsay and travellers' tales. It is in this context that the "unknown Southern Land" becomes known to the hero of this short, action-packed and highly structured story. The narrator braves a long sea journey, raging storms, shipwrecks, giant whales and high-flying creatures that try to eat him - all to reach the mysterious Austral utopia. Peopled by hermaphrodites, Foigny's Australia is a society in which distinctions of both class and gender have been abolished.
 
It includes, among other things, an indictment of "the great empire that the male usurped over the female" as "rather a form of tyranny than a just cause". Today, Foigny's hermaphrodite utopia is attracting new critical attention for its bold and imaginative treatment of social, political, and religious themes. Some of these are as fanciful and contentious today as they were 300 years ago; but all provide insight into that pivotal time, the Early Enlightenment. As a "voyage of discovery", for example, the story mirrors Foigny's own experience as a Huguenot refugee and reflects the rootlessness central to the "modern condition". It also engages issues of gender and power that are of vital significance today.
 
Hardcover, DJ, New.

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