Thursday, May 14, 2015

Back in the day, little green men were not automatically aliens



The Green Child – Herbert Read (1935)

            Several weeks ago I did a search online for “weird” books, to see if there were any being mentioned that sounded good to me.  One of the books discussed by many was Herbert Read’s The Green Child.  Every mention of this book stated that this was Herbert Read’s only novel, that otherwise he was an anarchist poet, political philosopher, and art critic who wrote countless articles, essays and books, and that he was one of England’s preeminent political thinker and disseminator.  When taken into account, all these personal experiences definitely show up in this novel.
            The story is based on a mysterious tale told in England of how, in a remote country village around the 13th century, two slender, green-tinged children who spoke a language no one could understand showed up in town.  One was a boy, who died soon after arriving, and the other a girl.  From this basis, Herbert Read builds a story wherein his protagonist, a Mr. Olivero, is heading back home to his ancestral village, the same one where the children appeared, and encounters the female green child. 

This is NOT the green child

            The novel is broken into three parts.  The first tells of Olivero’s arrival back in his home village and what he finds there.  The second part is a flashback to the decades before his arrival back in the village, when Olivero ended up shaping and ruling a small nation in South America.  The third part is the continuation of the first, and takes place in a world apart from our own.
            As with all fiction I review here at RXTT’s Intellectual Journey, I will not give away much of the plot, for I hate that shit when I run across it in reviews.  However, it is very interesting to juxtapose the two stories told in this book, one being of Olivero and the Green Child and the other being his foray to South America, including the roundabout way he arrived there.  This middle section is great as a piece of historical fiction, and includes a ton of detail describing how Olivero set up the government of the small nation he helped establish.  This helps to show the author’s political views and serves a counterpoint for the protagonist’s later adventures. 
            This is a nicely written novel by a man who wrote no others, but I am interested enough to seek out some of Mr. Read’s non-fiction writing to see how it stacks up.  While this is by no means a perfect book, The Green Child does what all great works do, which is to open up the reader’s mind, and deposit new ideas and knowledge for further reflection and thought, all without coming across like a polemic political screed.  The last chapters of this novel are profound, sensitive, and wrap everything up so fittingly that it made me sit and think quietly for a while.  Nice stuff.

 (This book can be read/downloaded here: https://archive.org/details/greenchild030736mbp )

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