GriffithReview73: Hey, Utopia! by Ashley Hay [editor]

Review by Richard Tutin

This edition of Griffith Review explores the concept of utopia. Since Sir Thomas More published his work on the ideal nature of a utopian society in 1516, many writers have added their thoughts on this topic raising questions about its nature and asking if a perfect society can exist.

For More, Utopia was a perfect imaginary world consisting of a complex, self-contained community set on an island in which people share a common culture and way of life.

Griffith Review contributors offer their reflections through various literary mediums such as essays, fiction, poetry, interviews and art while asking if utopia is unattainable or is it an option that should be both explored and aimed at.

The range of thought is wide ranging providing editor Ashley Hay with the opportunity to publish a larger edition than I have seen in previous issues. With the planet in turmoil through such crises as the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change and growing tensions between various world powers, it is worth imagining the possibilities of a better future and seeing if it will ease our situation or further exacerbate it.

Along the way, there are some inspiring and thought-provoking contributions that make this edition one that you cannot rush through but need to spend time thinking about an argument before moving on to the next article.

David Threlfall, for example, describes how the premature birth of his daughter forced him to confront the precarious nature of his imagined future within the crisis of a global pandemic. As a father and Anglican priest, I found it gave me a lot of food for thought. It also brought back memories of the times when I had to offer pastoral care and support to couples who were also confronted by the prospect that their newborn baby might not survive its first night.

With lockdowns and other restrictions causing people to lose both work and income, Briony Doyle’s article about how her Jobkeeper support provided her with time and space to write a book that otherwise may not have seen the light of day while giving an insight into what could be achieved if money was not a worry.

These are but two of the many contributions on offer in Hey Utopia! Each one asks the question about how and if society would be better if some of the world’s big issues were cooperatively resolved and people treated each other more respectfully and listened to the different societal voices.

Thomas More imagined his perfect world through his book on the subject. This leads to the possibility that perhaps utopia, as a concept and a world, is in the eye of the beholder. This edition of Griffith Review supports this possibility. Each of us has ideas and thoughts about how society can be improved and strengthened. Making those improvements is not as easy as we would like since everyone else in the world has their own ideas and, like us, wants them to be implemented.

The saying about being careful what we wish for comes into play as well. Hey Utopia! challenges us to imagine what the world could become while asking us if we are willing to make our contribution to change as others have done and are attempting to do.

Griffith Review is published four times a year by Griffith University Queensland. It aims to debate ideas while informing and provoking Australia’s best conversations. Its editor is Ashley Hay and its publisher is Julianne Schultz AM FAHA.

Griffith Review 73: Hey Utopia!

Ashley Hay (Ed.)

(2021)

Griffith University Queensland Australia

ISBN – 978-1-922212-62-7

$27.99; 303pp

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