We are about to penetrate an imaginary land in central Asia. Nghsi-Altai––a place no better or worse than the United States, merely its opposite. Consider this: a country with an advanced, ecologically balanced technology but a rigid, even "primitive" social organization, where a communalized political structure exists in harmony with a priestly yet mystical religion. It is as if the Industrial Revolution had come to northern India in the ninth century or, in our own time, Bakunin and Kropotkin had gained control of the First International and the anarchists of Catalonia had won the Civil War in Spain. Here, then, is the setting of Arrival, the first book of Robert Nichols's sequence of four novels, Daily Lives in Nghsi-Altai. Three visitors from the West––a novelist, a visionary, a revolutionist, filmmaker––move through this seemingly kaleidoscopic world. Landscapes and livelihoods, ceremonies and manufactures are not so much described as progressively discovered, as each explorer in his own way comes to familiarize himself with the alien society of Nghsi-Altai. Call it what you will––adventure or utopian literature, science-fiction perhaps––Nichols's tetralogy is not novelistic literature in the conventional sense but rather an extended improvisation, anecdotal in the telling, compelling in its ideas, exuberant in its humor. Further volumes in this series will be issued periodically by New Directions.
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