The Chrysalids (Anglais) Poche – 30 avril 2010
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Revue de presse
Remains fresh and disturbing in an entirely unexpected way (Guardian) --Ce texte fait référence à une édition épuisée ou non disponible de ce titre.
Présentation de l'éditeur
This edition comes complete with:
- An Exam section to help prepare students for the new style CSEC English 'B' examination.
- Comprehensive, accessible notes and summaries to aid students' understanding.
- Activities to engage students with the text and develop their understanding of key ideas and literary appreciation.
- Background information to enhance students' appreciation of the social and historical context of the play.
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What most impressed me was the author's ability to set up atmosphere in the novel. I still to this day, after years between readings remember images I formed while reading the novel. Grass between the toes, the nuclear wastes, the way the children formed telepathic images etc...
One thing that I remember clearly is how the novel was like a breath of fresh air, clean and smooth. There are no frilly edges and there is no attempt by the author to make the book flashy. This makes the book pure and adds to the impact of the story.
As an overview, there are a group of children who are living in Eastern Canada after some type of holocaust (this is never much of a point in the book... no one has memories of it). Their society is strongly anti-mutant with a very strict set of rules as to what is "normal" and what isn't. All of this children are normal looking but are telepathic and form a click of just a small number.
The book is their story of growing up and existing in this paranoid and highly dogmatic society without being discovered and banished or killed.
A definite classic in Science Fiction circles.
Genetic variations and mutations, now commonplace (no doubt as a result of higher worldwide radiation levels), are seen as evil. "Deviant" crops and animals are burnt. Humans with even the most minor mutations from their highest religious ideal, a physical norm which the community calls God's "True Image", are labeled as blasphemies and are killed outright or banished to eke out their future existence in a wildly savage outlying area called "The Fringes".
When the community discovers that David and Rosalind together with a small group of other young people have developed the ability to communicate telepathically, they are forced to flee for their lives. They are re-united with their friend Sophie, earlier banished to the Fringes for the disgusting aberration of having six toes instead of the normal five. David's younger sister, Petra, able to communicate her thoughts with a power and at a distance far beyond any of the other children discovers the presence of others like them in a distant community who mount a campaign to rescue the children from their persecutors.
In "The Chrysalids", John Wyndham has mounted a vicious attack on religious fundamentalism, bigotry, intolerance and narrow-mindedness. Analytical readers will be mindful of the irony in the closing chapters as it is clear that the more advanced community is as repressive and intolerant as the community from which the children fled. Wyndham leaves us with the unresolved open question as to whether Man's evolution into a new species will perforce require the extinction of the remaining members of the previous species.
Wyndham's characters, his easy-going unforced and completely natural dialogue, his heartwarming portrayal of children at play, a mother's grief-stricken tragedy as she tries to protect her children from religious attack, and the faltering growth of love between young men and women will all remind classic science fiction fans of the pastoral easy reading style of Clifford D Simak, another giant of the genre.
If you've yet to savour "The Chrysalids", a perennial front runner in the field of soft science fiction, I can't think of a better time than right now. Highly recommended indeed.
I was surprised to see that it's marketed to the 9-12 age group. It's a very precocious pre-teen who would be able to get all the sociological, moral, philosophical and political implications of the plot.
The story is narrated by David Strorm, who's about 10 when it begins and around 18 or 20 at the end. David lives in Labrador, centuries after "God sent Tribulation" unto mankind. The 21st century reader soon realizes Tribulation was a nuclear conflict that lay waste to every Western country south of Canada and north of New Zealand. Pockets of humanity do survive in Africa and elsewhere, but all those survivor communities are totally isolated from each other because the radio-activity in what was the USA, Western Europe and the Soviet block precludes land or sea travel (though there is some limited navigation and trading) and communication.
The community David belongs to is a very strait-laced one, who insists on "purity" and conformity to the "True Image". Every deviation (i.e. mutation due to radiation) in either human, animal or plant is rooted out mercilessly. Plants and animals are burned, people get sent to the savage, untamed "Fringes". Physical deviation, that is. The powers-that-be don't realize that a group of children have developed telepathy. They look totally normal, but they're able to communicate with each other without words and over distances. They learn very early that "different is deadly" and protect themselves carefully but get betrayed by one of their own, who falls in love with a Normal and entrusts him with their secret, and also, unwittingly, by David's little sister Petra who's the most powerful telepath ever seen with powers that develop before she's old enough to learn control, the result being they have to flee into the Fringes.
Petra's power as a telepath comes in handy, she can send mental messages half-way around the world - more specifically to New Zealand (not "Sealand" as another reviewer misunderstood) to another group of survivors who have developed telepathy as a society and have been reinforcing the telepathic strain by careful breeding. I'll not give the ending away, but I will say that I always wanted to write a sequel to the book one day. I got so attached to some of the characters that I hate to let go of them.
This isn't just another "post-nuclear holocaust" story (there's been quite a number, including, among others, "Alas Babylon", "... For a Single Yesterday...", etc.). It's about more than mankind surviving a nuclear war and climbing back to civilization, it's about the kind of society that can be built in cases like this, about Did we learn anything from past mistakes?, about tolerance, about bigotry and narrow-mindedness and most of all about surviving in a society where to be different is a death sentence. The author, John Wyndham, dwells on the same theme from a different angle in his "The Midwich Cuckoos" which I have also reviewed, as has Zenna Henderson in her stories of "The People" (extra-terrestrials fleeing the destruction of their planet and trying to blend into Earth society despite their (to us) paranormal powers).
The plot is engaging, the suspense at the end kept me turning pages, the characters are endearing, the whole underlying questions are thought-provoking. It's a great book, for adults more than for children. It's regrettable that it has all but fallen into oblivion and also been relegated to kiddie lit shelves. It deserves a lot better. I give it full marks.
David are Rosalind try to teach Petra to hide her abilities. But Petra communicates to someone outside their area. In a place that none of the other children have heard of. A place where there are many people with the ability to communicate through thought-shapes. A place where the children would not be considered different or a Mutant. But by this time, David, Rosalind, Petra and the others are under suspicion. What happens next is an escape attempt through the Badlands and the Fringes.
This book is so far ahead of it's time. It denounces bigotry and religious fundamentalism. It shows what a world that supports intolerance would look like. And it isn't pretty. This book was great and has my highest recommendations!!