What does this passage remind you of?  Why?

These are some definitions of DYSTOPIA, which one do you prefer? Why? 

Is there one that fits the extract below better than another? 

After reading the short passage, can you come up with your definition of dystopia in Paul Auster’s In the Country of Last Things?  Do you think it presents dystopic qualities or not?  What do the words chosen by the writer make you feel like?

A negative utopia: a place where instead of all being well, all is not well. Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and George Orwell’s 1984 are the best-known fictional examples.

An imaginary society in which social or technological trends have culminated in a greatly diminished quality of life or degradation of values.

A dystopia (alternatively anti-utopia) is a fictional society that is the antithesis of utopia. It is usually characterized by an oppressive social control, such as an authoritarian or totalitarian government. In other words, a Dystopia has the opposite of what one would expect in a Utopian society.  Some academic circles distinguish between anti-utopia and dystopia. As in George Orwell’s 1984,and Yevgeny Zamyatin‘s "We", a dystopia does not pretend to be good, while an anti-utopia appears to be utopian or was intended to be so (e.g. Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World or Andrew Ryan’s Rapture in BioShock), but a fatal flaw or other factor has destroyed or twisted the intended utopian world or concept.


Excerpt taken from Paul Auster’s In the Country of Last Things, Faber and Faber, 1987, page85-86 

In spite of what you would suppose, the facts are not reversible.  Just because you are able to get in, that does not mean you will be able to get out.  Entrances do not become exits, and there is nothing to guarantee that the door you walked through a moment ago will still be there when you turn around to look for it again.  That is how it works in the city.  Every time you think you know the answer to a question, you discover that the question makes no sense.  I spent several weeks trying to escape.  At first, there seemed to be any number of possibilities, a whole range of methods for getting myself back home, and given the fact taht I had some money to work with, I did not think it would be very hard.  That was wrong, of course, but it took me a while before I was willing to admit it.  I had arrived in a foreign charity ship, and it seemed logival to assume that I could return in one.  I therefore made my way down to the docks, fully prepared to bribe whatever official I had to in order to book passage.  No ships were in sight, however, and even the little fishing boats I had seen there a month before were gone.  Instead, the whole waterfront was thronged with workers – hundreds and hundreds of them, it seemed to me, more men than I was able to count.  Some were unloading rubble from trucks, otherws were carrying bricks and stones to the edge of the water, still others were laying the foundations for what looked like an immense sea wall or fortification.  Armed police guards stood on platforms surveying the workers, and the place swarmed with din and confusion – the rumbling of engines, poeple running back and forth, the voices of crew chiefs shouting orders.  It turned out that this was the Sea Wall Project, a public works enterprise that had recently been started by the new government.  Governments come and go quite rapidly here, and it is often difficult to keep up with the changes.  This was the first I had heard of the current takeover, and when I asked someone ther purpose of the sea wall, he told me it was to guard against the possibility of war.  The threat fo foreign invasion was mounting, he said, and it was our duty as citizens to protec our homeland.  Thansk to the efforts of the great So-and-So – whatever the name of the new leader was – the materials from collapsed buildings were now bieng collected for defense, and the project would give work to thousands of people.  What kind of pay were they offering?  I asked.  No money, he said, but a place to lvie and one warm meal a day.  Was I interested in signing up? No thanks, I said, I have other things to do.  Well, he said, there would be plenty of time for me to change my mind.  The government was estimating that it would take at least fifty years to finish the wall.  Good for them, I said, but in the meantime how does one get out of here? Oh no, he said, shaking his head, that’s impossible.  Ships aren’t allowed to come in anymore – and if nothing comes in, nothing can go out.  What about an airplane? I said.  What’s an airplane? he asked, smiling at me in a puzzled sort of way, as though I had just told a joke he didn’t understand.  An airplace, I said.  A machine taht flies through the air and carries people from one palce to another.  That’s ridiculous, he said, giving me a suspicious kind of look.  There’s no such thing.  It’s impossible. Don’t you remember? I asked.  I don’t know what you’re talking about, he said. You could get into trouble for spreading that kind of nonsense.  The government doesn’t like it when people make up stories.  It’s bad for morale.

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47 Responses to Dystopia?

  1. PaulAuster2008 says:


    you point out an interesting aspect, that any form of repression, any form of nasty limitation to human freedom is created by human beings. THere are no aliens who smother the expression of feelings or choke hope. The enemy is man himself. However, there is always someone who (for whatever reason: more sensitivity or sensibility, etc.) does not bow to a maddening and inhuman/inhumane system. That someone embodies hope and a possible way out. In some dystopian novels that SOMEONE does not survive, in others s/he DOES and represents the possibility for a NEW BEGINNING.

    Federica, you chose a quotation that could be used as a “motto” to the novel by AUster, to the dystopic novel and to life itself. I do not perceive it as negative, in the sense that if life endless investigation, is continually changing, then it goes without saying that questions cannot always remain the same. They need to be, somehow, adapted to the changes that have occurred or that are taking place. Of course, there are questions that will always remain with us and those are questions about faith, the existence of God, moral values, etc.

    Barbara, your quotation, as you pointed out, is open to different interpretations. The door may stand for decisions you take in life. Sometimes you can come back, sometimes you can’t, so you need to take full responsability of your actions and decisions. This is a possible reading. Another one could be that doors may be built by a system that wants to trap you, wants to put you in a cage (as you wrote) to control you, so once again we should be wary when we walk through a door, we should question it and ask ourselves about the why we are on the point of going through that door, etc.

    Write to you later!

  2. anonimo says:

    This passage remind me of plenty of things; while reading it I immediately imagine the big walls that in the past was built as the Berliner one, but even the walls erected now-a-days thinking about the Gaza one or, nearer us, the Padova one. All the governments that build walls want to protect their way of life and obstacle communications that are fundamental for people pacification, so they don’t want to protect their citizens but, with this barriers, they foment hatred.

    I think that the best definition is the pink one because it analyze in a deeper way the differences between something “mean” from the beginning and something changed by a fatal flaw and it provides example.

    For me the second definition is the one that fits best for the extract, because we read that the people work for food, so the human conditions are very low but they work for a great product of technology as a sea wall is.

    Auster’s dystopia is filled with dystopic qualities: an armed and authoritarian government that makes people forget of the past in order to control them better.

    Auster’s words are very powerful because you have vivid images and makes you feel a little bit loss.

    Francesca Cazorzi

  3. anonimo says:

    This passage reminds me of the novel by G.Orwell, 1984. When I read both of them I was attacked by feelings of oppression and loss of dignity. Both in the book that in this extract, people are brainwashed, their speaking’s capability has been altered and minimized into few words. Influencing people’s minds was too easy that powerful people have taken advantage from it to reinforce their power. The naiveness of simple people is set against the harmful cunning of the powerful, as if the stories were setting under a totalitarian regime. That is why I’ve chosen the third definition of Dystopia; in my opinion, it is a world made up by immagination, illusion and pretence, too far away from real world. Dystopia is also a technique, used by authors to denounce misfacts and the sad reality around them, underlining and exasperating some aspects, often with an ironical tone. The extract is an example of dystopia, with ironical and disenchanted words , P.Auster wrote a story completely engrossed in a world that seems to be far from our reality, but it is also a characteristic in the history of the mankind, it’s enough only think at the XX century, under the totalitarian regime, Hitler and Stalin, people’s way of life was not so different from the way of life of people who are characters of ”Country of last thing” and 1984.

    Carla Cipolla

  4. anonimo says:

    This passage makes me think of an absurd world, check overdone, workers without a conscience specifies well. this excerpt makes you really remain to mouth opened, even if you do not want! Paul Auster has been certainly affected by Orwell, from his book “1984”. both the works expose an idea of unreality: you think that the workers are crazy, but this is only a consequence of the company who surrounds them, of the government which has done them the washing of the mind. things that seems unbelievable to us, for Auster’s characters are normal, it is their life, neither the problem is not placed, if this reality is indeed like them it they live, they are as dragged by a storm, jolted of here and there without gave any questions. interlocutors, and personally, reading the passage, my facial gesture was saying “I do not believe us, it is impossible, how can he say certain things”?. this is what a totalitarian regime can produce on the human mind, a control thoughtless, uncontrolled, which limit does not have, to the point to say about not knowing what a plane is. I agree with the third definition (pink), I think that it is the most exhaustive and realistic also in the case of Paul Auster.

    Matteo Cervesato

  5. anonimo says:

    This passage makes me think to “1984” by George Orwell, where people don’t remember anything of freedom and happyness.

    I Prefer the third definition of Dystopia because it’s more exhaustive and it’s the only that clarified the totalitarism that exists in a dystopia. A totalitary regime explains better what lack of freedom means such as can’t express thought and position and can’t move troughtout the country and the city.

    So the third definition fits better the extract below becuase points out the lack of freedom and the totalitary regime.

    The passage is a definition of Dystopian world itself: nobody can get out because anybody can get in. It makes me mad thinking taht none know what an airplane is only beacuase government says it so. Also the brain-washing is typical of a Dystopia: the wall they’re building is a protection against the invasor not a way to imprison citizen; and people can’t understand that the invasor and the evel is the government, not who wants to escape from Dystopia o comes in.

    I feel anguished at the beginning as at the end: the description about the door that disappers when you turn back is very impressive. The dialogue between two man is absurd and make you question “but am I in this world or not?”. Wearing the shoes of the man who wants to escape from the Dystpia I think I’ll drive crazy or I’ll get the brain washed by government soon. In that situation it’s very difficult to preserve your mind from the totalytarism beacuse of the confusion that it makes to you. You are a man no longer because with lack of freedom what cares to you is only to survive.

    Giulia Raineri

  6. anonimo says:

    Well…in front of these controls of thought i’m horrified and worried.i’m agree with the third dystopia’s definition because distingueshes between dystopia and anti-utopia. I’ m worried because in dystopia people is not able to persive what is happening, doesn’t do question about his situation and condition. the mind of people is driven by government’s wills. most people is satisfied and doesn’t want to improve or search some way to change the reality. it’s dangerous beacuse who is powerful, who thinks change the world how he wants, and, very often, these person are petty, hypocritical and egoist. who doesn’t permit to people to think with own head…well…acts to get to own objectives. who is powerful and permit to people to choose and think…well…wants the good for society and for his future. now it’s difficult understand or find who would able to have the power, because not everybody wants to spent own life to the other.we’re living on the edge of razor.

    Laura Sist

  7. anonimo says:

    Reading this passage from Paul Auster ‘s “In the country of last things”, I’ve immediately noticed analogies with G. Orwell’s “1984”, that is the portrait of the totalitarian government where people are controlled 24 hours to 24, they cannot think anymore, they are brainwashed and they cannot even decide what “morale” is. The Big Brother “watch you” with his “eye” and if you don’t follow his rules you are out, like the protagonist who tried to go against the system but he was arrested and tortured. This end shows perfectly the repression and the censorship of the totalitarian government where people are not allowed to express their thoughts and feelings otherwise they are eliminated or brainwashed; is this Life!? no! This is not Life! This is DYSTOPIA and I think that the third definition fits best the concept of what dystopia is: “antithesis of utopia”, “society characterized by an oppressive social control”. That is why the passage of Paul Auster is defined dystopic: it represents a society where the government submits people, that are brainwashed and led to think that the “great Sea Wall” is the best solution in order to “save the country by the enemy”. But who really is “the enemy”??? I think, that Humanity at all is The Enemy: on one hand we have the government, the system and power that are enemies because they influence human being and prevent them from expressing who they really are ;on the other hand mans are enemies themselves because they permitt their own brainwashing, they don’t fight against the system, they are afraid by the consequences of their thoughts and actions and making this, they permit the consolidation of the regime, that can reinforce the basis of its dehumanizing policy, that make all people submitted to the power, teaching them what is wrong and what isn’t, the morale, making them all like machine, that works for the wellness of the system wiping off the real essence of people.

    Paul Auster expresses very well these concepts in the passage using simple words but full of meanings, using phrases that catch readers’ attention. Lots of expressions caught my attention and stopped me from reading, for example “ just because you are able to get in, that does not mean you will able to get out”, “ every time you think you know the answer to a question , you discover that the question makes no sense” : in my opinion even these two phrases represent what dystopia is: a condition in which you are able to enter but not to exit, it is a sort of cage in where you live every day but you cannot exit and communicate with the outside and above all you must respect The System rules, it watches you from the outside and if don’t behave, speak, fell and think following the system morale, you will cut out from it and eliminated : “ the government doesn’t like it when people make up stories; it’s bad for morale….”

    -Martina Nadal-

  8. anonimo says:


    In my opinion the first definition of dystopia is the one that fits better the extract we read, but I would like to add something to this definition in reference to the text.

    By reading these lines I find out, of course, that dystopia is a place where thing are going bad, but it is also a place where people think (after a process of brainwashing) that all is going well.

    I think that the best word to represent this extract is not dystopia, but anti-utopia.

    People are ‘obliged’ to think that this wall is being built to save them, to protect them against enemy attacks, and they believe in power; but this is not the case: the wall is built to confine the people in the city!

  9. anonimo says:

    the definition i like most is the first because it describes simply and concisely the dystopian world: it’s all we won’t desire for our future. but the third definition present the difference between dystopia and anti-utopia and i think in this case the governament pretends to be good and brain-washes all the citizen, saying that all the system does to them is for their safe and their best.

    this passage remind me of george orwell’s 1984. i was really impressed by that book and this passage makes me feel the same: disgusted and puzzled.

    i cannot imagine a world so degradated and also i cannot imagine to believe so firmly and gullibly to a system so totalitarian and fake.even other works of orwell gave me the same feelings: for example “animal farm”

    in my opinion the definition of paul auster’s dystopia is:

    a world ruled by a totalitarian regime tha dominates and governes all the citizen. this system pretends to be good and makes the citizens believe it: in some way we can affirm tha the regime control their brains and it can promote all kind of disposition because they won’t protest. simple people, living in poverty because of the regime and being poor in their culture always because of it, believe that all the rules of the system is made to give a positive changement. they cannot give theri opinion, just because the system has denied all the idea and the culture: no dialogues and so no protests

    giacomin elena

  10. anonimo says:

    It could seem repetitive but as soon as I read this passage George Orwell’s “1984” came back in my mind. The kind of society described in both “1984” and “In the Country of Last Things” is an extremely controlled and influenced by the government one. Paul Auster writes about a society, which tends to be standardized: the most of people will do the same job, eat the same food, sleep in the same room, BELIEVE in the same things; the words they can’t say will be progressively forgiven (as we already see with “airplane”) and they are not aware of what is happening to them. What the government says is absolutely true and can’t be discussed; there’s no dialogue, people only have to listen and obey and they’re happy in doing it; they’re brain-washed, but they don’t know it. Their government is a sort of God and even if (differently from Orwell’s “1984”) it often changes and each time things change, it seems as if they delete what the previous government did and said in order to follow completely the new one. The extract which best fits the concept of Dystopia is the third one: this society is characterized by an oppressive social control (in this passage the “armed police guards” for example) but even the second extract fits with it, especially when deals with the “diminished quality of life” and “degradation of values”; these are in my opinion two key points. We see people working all day long in order to get something to eat and a roof over their heads, thing that used to happen many years before; moreover these people won’t be able to have a social life and a family, perhaps they won’t even know the meaning of the word “love”. In “1984”, for example, people decided to get married only in order to procreate; perhaps in Auster it is the same, even because there wouldn’t be time to fall in love with someone.

    I read this passage even in Italian and I must say it is different: the words chosen by Auster render this oppressed state of mind much better; the rhythm is even different: the answers of the man are direct, he doesn’t think about what he will let come out of his mouth, words go out quickly, he somehow speaks as a robot and Auster perfectly renders this.

    Maiutto Jessica

  11. PaulAuster2008 says:

    Dear All,

    If on the one hand some of you are doing a great job (you reread your comments before posting them to make sure there are no typos or major grammar mistakes) on the other hand there are some of you who write their posts just because “they have to”, just because it is part of the assignment: this implies that your posts are dotted with typos, “made up words” (interference with the Italian language) and grammar mistakes that make the understanding of your comments really difficult. So please, some self-assessment will help you understand if this “mild” reprimend is addressed to you or not. A blog is not meant to look perfect, it can’t be perfect, but I would love you to do your best and not “throw” things there just to say “I did my homework”.

  12. anonimo says:

    This passage reminds me both George Orwell’s 1984 and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451: in both books there is an authoritarian government that controls the population and decides what they have to do. In particular in George Orwell’s 1984 the government spies twenty-four hours a day the population in such as a way to control them better. In this passage the government (that no-one knows) gives the order to build a wall and people do that.

    This passage reminds me Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 because in both case the population are so brain washed by the government that seems they don’t think. They don’t have a personality and spend their life in front of a screen: in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 people can’t read books and think that books are “evil” things when they had never seen one, and in the passage of Paul Auster people don’t know the existence of planes.

    I think that the best definition for the extract is the third; in particular this passage seems to be a dystopia where all the population is oppressed by an authoritarian government. In this extract the government is afraid about foreign people, so decides to build, well, decides that population had to build a wall to defend their territories, in exchange for a “place to live and warm meal a day.”

    What I really appreciate in this definition is the difference between dystopia and anti-utopia because I have also read Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. The world that Huxley imagines it is very different from that is describes in Orwell’s 1984: the majority of the population is unified under The World State, an eternally peaceful, stable society, in which goods are plentiful and everyone is happy. In this society all is based on the principles of mass production, also the human reproduction. All members of society are conditioned in childhood to hold the values that the World State idealizes: constant consumption is the bedrock of stability.

    While I was reading these two books, I find also a different atmosphere: while in Orwell’s 1984 there is a deep and oppressed atmosphere, in Huxley’s Brave New World all is easy, simple and the atmosphere is “light”.

    Federica Battistin

  13. anonimo says:

    The connection between this passage taken from ‘In the Country of Last Things’ and Orwell’s ‘1984’ is quite obvious. Both are dystopian novels, where the population is dominated by a totalitarian regime that controls every minute of the people’s life. In both novels there is the element of war, a war that doesn’t really exist and that is only an excuse invented by the government to justify some of the activities imposed to the people (in ‘1984’ the continuous production of goods that weren’t actually distributed among people; in Auster’s novel it is the building of a sea wall that will become the citizen’s prison); in both books people are totally brainwashed, they can think no more, they are convinced that the government’s decisions are good and everything else is bad, they don’t have their own ideas any more, they have lost their personality, they have all the same identity. Another common element is the presence of a character who thinks by himself/herself that tries to escape (in ‘1984’ there is W. Smith who attempts to fight against the oppressing regime; in this passage the girl wants to escape from that place because she knows that something’s going wrong).

    Among the definitions of dystopia, the one that in my opinion fits best the passage is the third one, because it is the most detailed. This excerpt highlightes the essence of what a dystopian society is: people who belive blindly in what the goverment says, who are happy to work the whole day only for one warm meal a day, who are afraid of getting into trouble if they say something that doesn’t suit with what the regime imposes. ‘The goverment doesn’t like it when people make up stories. It’s bad for morale.’: this quotation makes us understand that the government is almost considered as a human being, constantly present in people’s mind.

  14. PaulAuster2008 says:

    Federica C., you referred to the building of the wall as something absurd and as just a waste of time. I think this wall stands for so many different things, all of which obviously bear negative connotations. You have great insight, it is always a pleasure reading your comments.

    Francesca, thanks for reminding us of the terrible “wall” in Padoa. I had not thought of it myself. Terrible walls divide human beings as if they were different because they come from different countries, or have different political or religious views, or different economic power. Yet, the walls that should scare us most are the invisible ones, because they are the hardest to detect and demolish.

    Carla you refer to the weary and gloomy existence of people under a totalitarian regime. I think Auster does not refer to a specific political regime, his dystopic vision is of a society where people are not free, but controlled and limited in their actions. This control could come from religion, politics, economy, the media, etc.

    Laura, I like the expression “living on the edge of the razor”, yet I did not grasp your whole post, there are a few things that are not clear to me.

    Ilaria, as you can see from my posts, I read the messages of all the students, but it is almost impossible for me to reply to you all. So the fact that I did not reply to you directly that does not mean that I have not read or appreciated your posts, quite the contrary. It is that I pick and choose the posts according to their contents. Some posts are similar so I do not reply to them all. You are too many so I cannot reply to you all individually. Do remember that this blog is extra work for me, it is not part of my teaching position, I do it on a voluntary basis and in my free time. However, I do appreciate that you asked for my feedback, this means that you are working seriously on Paul Auster and you take pride in what you are writing. Next time I will certainly make sure I will answer your post and give you feedback. 🙂

    Eugenia some critics distinguish between dystopia and anti-utopia. Can you tell me in what way you are using these two terms? You say that in dystopic novels characters think that what the system is demanding and imposing is meant for their own good. Well, I would say that on the one hand there are some characters that fit the system perfectly because they do not question it, but on the other hand there are characters that question the system and fight it back.

    Jessica you pointed out something interesting and relevant, that is the different impact of certain works when transtaled into Italian. You know that a writer should always be read in his/her original language. This is not possible for everybody, since lots of people would not be able to read P. Auster in English. In class we will certainly work on contrastive analysis: comparing the original version with the corresponding translation in Italian.

    Federica B. if you happen to have some spare time watch the films “1984”, “Fahrenheit 451” and “The Island”. You will certainly love them. You seem to have read a lot about dystopian literature, so please, in class, try to share your knowledge. It is true that in “1984” there is more darkness and in “Brave New World” more light, but light is tricky, it may conceal more terrible black spots (so to say) than darkness itself! Light can dazzle you and make you see what is not there.

  15. anonimo says:


    This extract reminds me Orwell’s novel “1984”. All people are controlled by the government, by the Big Brother that drives the main actions and thoughts.

    Their life is like a theatre and they are puppets, obliged to do what the government wants.

    Even “In the Country of Last Things” people are manipulated by rich people, by authoritarian and totalitarian society.

    For me the third definition is the most clear and complete.

    A dystopia is a fictional society, characterized by an oppressive control. This definition contains the first definition because if we are controlled “not all is well”, and we are not free.

    In the novel “in the Country of Last Things” Paul Auster think that a dystopia is a society with a totalitarian government, and this government is linked to the figure of a door without exit.

    A society that catch you, make you a brain wash, and when you turn back you cannot see anymore what you saw before.

  16. anonimo says:

    The first thing that came up in my mind after reading the passage, was the Berlin Wall. I think that the moment of the construction of the Wall that broke a nation in two different blocks was similar to the scene described in the excerpt. That Wall was going to divide the same city in two, and I imagine that day with soldiers watching nobody could escape and people working to do a job they couldn’t even imagine the consequences, a Wall built to prevent people to go out, it was going to become a world where “entrances do not become exits”, as in the story.

    The best of the three definitions, in my opinion, is the first one, simple and complete, a sort of summary of the third one, which has got extra information. The first definition is also the one that fits better the excerpt.

    MY DEFINITION OF DYSTOPIA: After what I have read in the passage a dystopian world could be a world where people act in a way they wouldn’t act in normal life, a world where they are controlled they are submissive. But I think that in all kind of dystopia must be present an aspect of utopia, in the story it is represented by the girl , who doesn’t want to believe this world, and she can’t be compared to the other men, she is different, in a good way.

    I think in the passage are present aspects of dystopia, an example is the city, New York, which is completely destroyed, a city that today represents a myth of wellness and modernity, and this is only a piece of the story, so we don’t know what happened to the rest of the world. I think this aspect is very dystopic.

    Riccardo Bagattin

  17. anonimo says:

    i choose the third definition of dystopia because I think it perfectly explanes the comparison between this passage and the book written by George Orwell(1984).Another reason is that this sentence:”a Dystopia has the opposite of what one would expect in a Utopian society.” resumes the concept of Dystopia and explain his sense in the easier words.I think that this passage contains all the distopic qualities that we can find in the sentence that i have mentioned before;an exemple of what i am saying is this passage:”What about an airplane? I said. What’s an airplane? he asked, smiling at me in a puzzled sort of way, as though I had just told a joke he didn’t understand. An airplace, I said. A machine taht flies through the air and carries people from one palce to another. That’s ridiculous, he said, giving me a suspicious kind of look. There’s no such thing. It’s impossible.”in this case, in fact, the man answer to the protagonist like someone that is talking with a crazy person,because he is differet from othr people because he want to escape from the island.


  18. PaulAuster2008 says:

    Denise was referring to characters in dystopian novels as puppets in the hands of the System, a system which controls them. I am curious to know whether you ever feel like being moved around by a puppeteer. Can you share some of your experience? No need to sign your posts, you can remain anonymous.

  19. anonimo says:

    This passage is not so different from some pages of 1984, mostly because of the sense of absolute faith in the government of one of the characters, and also because the people don’t doubt about the government orders. About the definitions of dystopia, I prefer the last one, because it is more precise and define also the concept of anti-utopia, that is not so obvious. In this extract it is quite easy to understand the Paul Auster conception of dystopia: if people has lost their critical sense and believe without any doubts in a government, person but also a religion, that could become a dystopia. It is impossible to realize because every time (luckily) some people don’t lose their sense of freedom and independence, but, although is impossible to deceive everyone for ever, but is possible to deceive enough people for enough time.

    (I am sorry for the delay, I will complete all posts as fast as I can)

    Damiano Verardo

  20. MicheleDB says:

    I think the better definitions is the first, because it defines the word utopia not only in the society but also in its completeness.

    however surely the definition that more approaches to this extract is the third (dystopia and anti-utopia). it gives a lot of details that we meet “in the country of last things”, as “an appressive social control”, an “authoritarian government”.

    This passage is certainly dystopic, you notice it during the dialogue and from the description made by the narrator. Some sentences are clealry referred to that sense of anguish, of enclosure at the external and at the foreigner, of lack of freedom that endure for all the extract.

  21. anonimo says:

    Il commento del 16 Novembre 2008 – 09:32

    è mio: francesco marson

  22. anonimo says:

    There isn’t a better definition for “dystopia” than an other. I didn’t know what dystopia is since you mention it during a lesson. I think that a good definition is the third because is compete and it looks like a definition taken from a dictionary. The others are somehow a introduction to the new word: they just give you and idea of what dystopia is. I think that dystopia is “everything, except utopia”.

    I mean, in our world there aren’t tyrants, wars or bomb attacks everywhere. But everyday there is an attack in the poor countries because of wars; everyday there’s a tyrant that hurts people; everyday a war ends but another begins. I think that a dystopian world isn’t so utopian (sorry for the pun).

    However I think that our society is an expression of dystopia, perhaps not strictly but it is.

    For what concern what the passage remind me, I remembered, first of all, a book that I read some time ago which was “Il bar sotto il mare” written by Stefano Benni. The last scene of this book tells about a man that cannot get out of this place under the sea. He is entrapped and he doesn’t know how to get out. Finally he understand that the only way of succeed in getting out is to tell a story.

    I think that everyone is entrapped in the society in a different way and they have to find some ways to free their selves. The same thing is for the man in “The country of last things”: he is trying to find his way. The man of the crew is the one who hasn’t already become conscious that the society is using him only for is personal interest.

    Elena Poles

  23. PaulAuster2008 says:

    Dear Damiano,

    Most people can’t question the “System” when they live under a totalitarian regime. Perhaps they could, but they don’t because they run the risk of being killed. Then there are those who risk their lives to oppose an unjust system, but most times they are too few and powerless. Literature could and can play a paramount role. If you are raised in a totalitarian regime you are brainwashed, you are told/taught what the system wants you to know/learn. Literature can breach those limits and open up worlds otherwise kept hidden from you.

    Dear Elena,

    Thanks for the reference to Stefano Benni. I read the book myself and watched its theatrical representation. I loved both. As to your considerations, well, I do agree with you that we are all somehow trapped in/by something/someone. Yet, there is the power of awareness that can awaken us and lead us out of the “cage”. One of these powerful tools of self-awareness is certainly reading/literature. The more we read, we more we are asked to think. Without thinking there is no living (living to be read with a capital L, thus Living!) If my point is not completely clear, please don’t hesitate to ask for further clarifications.

    See you soon.

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