Would you like to live in a beautiful, lush country where money and government has been abolished, everyone has enough, work is pleasurable, art and artisanship is a guiding star, and you could follow your bliss? Ah, I feel my shoulders lowering just writing that sentence. But alas, it’s just a dream/vision from William Morris’s News from Nowhere.
This is not a book where you will find loads of literary style, language play, or structural acrobatics — it’s a didactic story about the changes Morris imagined if socialism was allowed to take root in England. You can call it a bedtime story for budding adult Socialists, perhaps? 😉 Some parts are a little clunky, and in others the speechifying is shoveled on, but that’s par for the course — Morris originally published this in serial form in the Commonweal, his socialist newspaper, which was created to spread the word of socialism and win new followers.
Of course my little Neo-Marxist heart leapt at these ideas and said, “Yes, yes! Work, life, and art shouldn’t be separate!” and “Imagine a world where we all had what we needed, no 99%/1% business!” I laughed at Morris’s cleverness (Parliament has been transformed into a dung market!). I swooned over the aesthetic “useful, beautiful” -ness of the world he created. I could actually smell the green spaces and clean rivers and hay in his passages about nature. Nice. I scratched my head a little about how he handled crime, and tittered over how much Willie liked thee ladies (ya old goat)!
It also made me a little sad; we are not any closer to Morris’s socialist utopia than he was. But as he references in the title, utopia is a word coined by Thomas More from the Greek ou-topos meaning no-place or nowhere. Can we ever create the world we want? Can we ever stop trying?
(image: KELSMSCOTT PRESS edition of News from Nowhere. Woodcut frontispiece, title page, and initials. gilt-lettered vellum with green cloth ties, one of 300 copies. Makes we want to FAINT! so beautiful)