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Published in Paperback by Yale Univ Pr (1964)
Authors: Thomas, Sir More and Edward Surtz
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A Classical Masterpiece
Utopia is a classic masterpiece that conveys More's vivid imagination of the Island of Utopia. Although most of the characters are fictional, it is intriguing to learn about the true values of European societies during the 16th century, when More actually wrote the book (although many scholars believe that the exact year was 1515). Truthfully, the book is quite easy to understand. All More tries to do is convey his own views of how society should be through Raphael. Moreover, the use of imagery in Book I is quite fascinating, including the constant references to Roman and Greek myths and beliefs. It is also quite remarkable to see that the story begins to be more and more interesting after More and Giles come back from dinner. To make a long story short, I think it is a great book because of the actual time it was written in since most pieces of literature written at that time were either lost or destroyed.

"In no place"
As a social critique of Enlgish and European society, this book is very effective. It is also beautifully written. But it should not be read as the depiction of what society should be like. Thomas More, a wise and brave man executed by orders of Henry VIII, knew that Utopia shouldn't be taken very seriously, and that is exactly why he used the word Utopia to name his famous island. Utopia, in latin, means "in no place", that what can not exist. The problem is that this simple fact was not understood by many. And so, "utopianism" was born. The preposterous belief that there is a universal and definitive form of organization for human societies led to disasters like Nazism and Communism. By organizing everything perfectly (according to who?), these systems become the negation of the very essence of the human being: its innate imperfection and its need to be constantly changing, always on the move. It is simply impossible that some political, economic and social system resolves once and for all the troubles of humanity. Problems are exactly what make humans progress and reform constantly. Besides, the State has proven indispensable for survival, but also limited in what it can accomplish (in Utopia, the State provides everything for everybody). Stagnant societies degenerate and disappear, or remain to live from the charity of dynamic societies. Closed, perennial social systems, simply don't work: there is abundant proof in history, ancient or recent. "Utopia" is an excellent account of human shortcomings and a good tale, but it is not, nor was intended to be, a recipe with solutions for the world. Aldous Huxley and George Orwell have shown us what might happen in a supposed Utopia. The Communist world was worse. And Anthony Burgess clearly shows us in "A Clockwork Orange", that in "perfect" societies, the only way to practice freedom is violence. Let's not be perfect.

A Different Take
It's unfortunate that it seems as if most of these reviews were written by people whose only knowledge of More has come from the (mostly incorrect) opinions they have formed after reading this book. I don't think one can truly understand its import until he or she understands where Moore is at this point in his life and what he previously wrote ("Life of Pico", for example) and what he wrote later (while in prison, perhaps). No, he wasn't expressing his views through Raphael. In fact, it's clear that Raphael is an opinionated fibber (i.e., he discovered Utopia after Vespucci's fourth voyage? There were only three and Morus knows it...) and his account is purposefully filled with contradictions. There's more to it! More is raising issues, trying to make the careful reader think (and shame on some of the other reviewers for not being careful readers). And once you've read this book, read enough More (ha!) to understand what was going on in the bigger scheme of things, such as More's relationship with the other Renaissance humanists of his time and Henry VIII.

Complete Works of Saint Thomas More
Published in Hardcover by Yale Univ Pr (1965)
Authors: Thomas More, Edward Surtz, and J. H. Hexter
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