Lost Horizon (novel)

Lost Horizon (novel)

infobox Book |
name = Lost Horizon
title_orig =
translator =

image_caption = Dust-jacket from the first edition
author = James Hilton
illustrator =
cover_artist =
country = United Kingdom
language = English
series =
genre = Fantasy, Adventure Novel
publisher = Macmillan
release_date = 1933
media_type = Print (Hardback & Paperback)
pages =
isbn = NA
preceded_by =
followed_by =

"Lost Horizon" is a 1933 novel by English writer James Hilton. It is best remembered as the origin of Shangri-La, a fictional utopian lamasery high in the mountains of Tibet.

Plot summary


Hugh Conway, a veteran member of the British diplomatic service, finds inner peace, love, and a sense of purpose in Shangri-La, whose inhabitants enjoy unheard-of longevity. Among the book's themes is the allusion of the possibility of another cataclysmic world war brewing, as indeed it was. It is said to have been inspired at least in part by accounts of travels in Tibetan borderlands, published in the "National Geographic" by the explorer and botanist Joseph Rock. The remote communities he visited, such as Muli, show many similarities to the fictional Shangri-La. One such town, Zhongdian, has now officially renamed itself as Shangri La (Chinese: Xianggelila) because of its claim to be the inspiration for the novel.


The origin of the eleven numbered chapters of the novel is explained in a prologue and epilogue, whose narrator is a neurologist.

This neurologist and a novelist friend, Rutherford, are given dinner at Tempelhof, Berlin, by their old school-friend Wyland, a secretary at the British embassy. A chance remark by a passing airman brings up the topic of Hugh Conway, a British consul in Afghanistan, who disappeared under odd circumstances. Later in the evening, Rutherford reveals to the narrator that, after the disappearance, he discovered Conway in a French mission hospital in Chung-Kiang (probably Chongqing), China, suffering from amnesia. Conway recovered his memory and told Rutherford his story, then slipped away again.

Rutherford wrote down Conway's story; he gives the manuscript to the neurologist, and that manuscript becomes the heart of the novel.

In May, 1931, during the British Raj, owing to a revolution, the 80 white residents of Baskul are being evacuated to Peshawar. In the airplane of the Maharajah of Chandrapore are Conway, the British consul, age 37; Mallinson, his young vice-consul; an American, Barnard; and a British missionary, Miss Brinklow. The plane is flown instead over the mountains to Tibet. After a crash landing, the pilot dies, but not before telling the four (in Chinese, which Conway knows) to seek shelter at the nearby lamasery of Shangri-La. The location is unclear, but Conway believes the plane has "progressed far beyond the western range of the Himalayas towards the less known heights of the Kuen-Lun" (i.e. Kunlun).

The four are taken there by a party directed by Chang, a postulant at the lamasery who speaks English. The lamasery has modern conveniences, like central heating, bathtubs from Akron, Ohio; a large library, a grand piano,a harpsichord,and food from the fertile valley below. Towering above is Karakal, literally translated "Blue Moon," a mountain more than convert|28000|ft|m high.

Mallinson is keen to hire porters and leave, but Chang politely puts him off. The others eventually decide they are content to stay: Miss Brinklow, to teach the people a sense of sin; Barnard, because he is really Chalmers Bryant, wanted by the police for stock fraud, and because he is keen to develop the gold-mines in the valley; Conway, because the contemplative scholarly life suits him.

Conway is given an audience with the High Lama, an unheard-of honor. He learns that the lamasery was constructed in its present form by a Catholic named Perrault from Luxembourg, in the early eighteenth century. The lamasery has since then been joined by others who have found their way into the valley. Once they have done so, their aging slows; if they then leave the valley, they will age quickly, and die. The High Lama reveals that he is Perrault.

A seemingly young Manchu woman, Lo-Tsen, is another postulant at the lamasery; she does not speak English but plays the harpsichord. Conway and Mallinson fall in love with her.

In a later audience, the High Lama says that he is finally dying, and that he wants Conway to lead the lamasery. Meanwhile, Mallinson has arranged to leave the valley with porters, and Lo-Tsen, who are five miles (8 km) outside. He cannot travel the dangerous five miles (8 km) by himself. Conway agrees to go along.The last we hear of Conway is that he's trying to make his way back to Shangri La,the elusive monastry under "Blue Moon".

Literary significance & criticism

The book, published in 1933, caught the notice of the public only after Hilton's "Goodbye, Mr. Chips" was published in 1934. "Lost Horizon" subsequently became a huge success and in 1939 was published in paperback form, as Pocket Book #1. President Franklin D. Roosevelt named the Presidential hideaway in Maryland after Shangri-La. (It has since been renamed Camp David.)

The book has been made into two films:
*Lost Horizon (1937), directed by Frank Capra
*Lost Horizon (1973), directed by Charles Jarrott (musical version)

Another very different film with the same title "Lost Horizon (2000)" has the original Spanish title "La Cabecita rubia", and is the work of Argentinian director Luis Sampieri. It has been compared to Fellini's "La strada".

The book served as the basis for the unsuccessful 1956 Broadway musical "Shangri-La".

Hilton's novel was adapted for BBC Radio 4 in three hour-long episodes.

The novel is said to be a loose basis for the film .

The novel is highly referenced in the book "Deadeye Dick" by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

External links

* [http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks05/0500141h.html Lost Horizon, by James Hilton] , full text online at [http://gutenberg.net.au Project Gutenberg Australia]
* [http://www.losthorizon.org/ Website dedicated to the novel and derivative works]
* [http://www.sfsite.com/~silverag/hilton.html Review by Steven Silver]
* [http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/english/doc/2005-09/24/content_480493.htm Clues to real Shangri-La point to China]

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