Fiction by Robert Nichols

With Exile, Robert Nichols concludes his innovative utopian tetralogy, Daily Lives in Nghsi-Altai. Thus far, we have peered at this imaginary central Asian land through the eyes of exploring Westerners and the inhabitants themselves, learning the ways of both city dwellers and country folk. We have come to see Nghsi-Altai––a technologically “advanced” communalized country within a “primitive” social and religious matrix-no longer as a paradox but as a civilization in balance. Yet even a balanced civilization must pay its price. A “population lottery” is held––and the Harditts, the village family of the earlier books, begin their arduous journey into exile. Moving through the countryside and regions of Nghsi, they join a growing caravan under the guidance of shamans. A carnival troupe playing in the villages is encountered along the way, and a last glimpse is seen of William Morris, William Blake, and the Cuban filmmaker Santiago Alvarez––the original Western “discoverers” now become shadowy entertainers. The three biomes––farmland, forest, and industrial belt––are soon left behind. The caravan plunges into a limbo swamp, “the kingdom of decay.” With magical powers of vision conferred upon them by the shamans, the Harditts and other emigrés view the processes of nature––the continual breakdown and re-creation––and are stripped of clan and ancestral village attachments. The final stage of their own recycling is by boat: under the mountain, through the cataract, and out––“into America.”

Paperback(published Nov, 01 1979)

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Portrait of Robert Nichols

Robert Nichols

20th century American beat poet