"Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Ecclesiastes 1:4

My Bible has a different translation for this passage, but for George R. Stewart it states: Men come and go, but Earth abides.

Hence the title of his classic book Earth Abides. Published in 1949, it is considered one of the finest examples of post-apocalypse literature.

I read it breathlessly, staying up past midnight last night, even, to finish the last hundred fifty pages.

It is a book that struck a profound chord within me. I could see myself in the main character, Ish. It's rare to find a protagonist in this sort of story who is like me, an observer, an over-thinker, and someone marginal. I was also struck by how it reinforced my belief that, in the grand scheme of the universe, our lives are pointless.

The story is obviously a Biblical metaphor. At first, Ish is Adam and his wife is Eve, and they live in the Garden of Eden. But, soon, they take on the roles of Abraham and Sarah, becoming parents to 'The Tribe' from which a new civilization will come as the Tribe is fruitful and multiplies.

I like that it sticks to one perspective, that of Ish, and that all we know about the fate of mankind is what he gleans from the limited information available to him. We know very little about the great plague that decimated our civilization, but very much about what he will miss of that civilization, as well as the bitter realisation that very little knowledge once thought vitally crucial needs be shared with the new generation. Again, our lives are meaningless.

Surprisingly, the book doesn't feel all that dated and it reads well. I could have done with a bit more description and a bit less moaning about the fate of humanity lying the in the hands of stupid people, but it remains brilliant nonetheless. Just think of the premise--a student leaves the world for a bit to get some research done and when he comes out again, he finds that the world has ended.

A haunting, thought provoking read.

No comments: