Bossy Italian Classics: Utopia by Thomas More

Image from Biblio 
As some of you may or may not recall, I have vowed to read the classics this year as part of my New Year's resolutions. I am a woman of my word, and have started the year off with Thomas More's Utopia. Upon starting this book, I am sad to report that I swiftly began rethinking the validity of my resolution. Perhaps this was not the book I should have started with...

I have be honest when I tell you I thought long and hard about "reviewing" classics on my blog at all... "What if I say something truly stupid about a beloved classic?!" I thought to myself. But in all truth, this classic may be more of time piece than anything else. Look I have to be myself, and if I am being myself, I have to say this book put me to sleep....for a week!

Utopia is not a long book. In total it's about 135 pages. Granted, these pages are typed in very small font. But it felt like a million pages. I struggled through it despite the translator's claim that he took out the tautologies (or redundancies)  in this in book. Maybe it is modern me who thinks, "Why wax on for six pages about why prisoners shouldn't be killed for stealing food?--we know this already!"

So FINALLY, about 70 pages in, we get to what Utopian society is like, and I have to say it held my interest for several pages. But some of it was just too old fashioned. Where are the women in this society?! Oh wait, there she is--being stripped nude to her prospective groom (a full 100 pages into the book.) Glad she could make a stark-naked appearance. Don't be alarmed. More compares this ritual to the buying of a horse. You would make sure the horse was in working order, and why in the world would you treat a woman differently?

And seriously--Utopian society urges the invalid to kill themselves?! Am I supposed to agree with that!?

Look, I can admire Thomas More for essentially creating a genre, and if I put into context the fact that this book was written in 1500's, then I can appreciate that it was groundbreaking...but out of context does this book stand the test of time? Well, I hate to say that I am not only torn on the matter, but I am skeptical.

None of this is to say you shouldn't read it. I feel expanded and enlightened...just not in the ways I expected. Instead of being taken forward, I was taken both back and aback by this book. Call me crazy, but it seemed completely contradictory being read in modern times. The juxtaposition of such liberation and yet such repression (in way of women's rights) was striking...perhaps offensive.

Groundbreaking for it's time, lackluster in a modern light, Utopia created a genre and paved the way for  [more] modern Utopian novels. Classic...well, sure. I'd go with more "classical." Though I have to say, I found it a bit of snoozer. 

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