CRISIS IN UTOPIA by Peter A. Munch


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Remote as it may seem, Mr. Munch has been able to invest a great deal of sympathetic interest in this account of the small island of Tristan de Cunha in the South Atlantic, discovered first in 1506, visited through the years, and altogether disrupted by a volcano in 1961. Until then the island had been an undisturbed sanctuary, peopled by peaceable descendants of its original settler-founders maintaining a community of perfect freedom and anarchy, equality and reciprocity. They lived on a subsistence economy down to potatoes, a little fish and eggs in season (""the fat times""). Some public services and small industry were introduced, but the islanders preferred to be independent or help each other. Finally with the 1961 holocaust, the natives were rudely transplanted to Cape Town, but jobs and shiny cars and clothes did not compensate and only five of 153 chose to stay there. The almost complete unanimity broke down a little in later years with some drifting towards England, but on the whole the islanders have retained a greater solidarity than ever. A truly distinctive phenomenon which Mr. Munch (an early visitor -- 1937) has recorded and assessed in terms of social and economic features and still more abiding values -- a way station in the modern world where every man ""can make his own living if he works on his potatoes, looks ahead, and saves for a rainy day.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1971
Publisher: T. Y. Crowell