Backwards for "nowhere". A name I use to mean "some non-specific fictitious place". Popularized by Samuel Butler in his 1872 novel of the same name; also used by Lin Carter in a couple of his popcorn fantasy novels. The name shows up in John Woo's film, Face/Off (Erewhon prison).

On the Utopia/Dystopia scale, Erewhon is firmly in the dystopic end, but by no greater degree than Butler's own Victorian England. Rather than pointing out perils, like 1984 or Brave New World; rather than imagining an ideal society, like Ecotopia or Walden Two, Butler simply satirizes Western society by reversing the respective social treatments of misfortune and moral failure.

Health and success are accorded all the status of moral virtue, while misfortune and illness are harshly punished in Erewhonian courts of law. This gives various reversals and substitutions in common dramas: one woman feigns dipsomania as a cover for her chronic illness, a fraud victim is fined for misplaced trust. I have to wonder what the Erewhonian parallel to The War on Some Drugs would look like... Zero Tolerance For Pimples In Schools, maybe.

Butler plays "mad doctor" with complex ideals (virtue, beauty, progress, fortune, society, piety, economy, etc.) all in a way that ridicules our own common prejudices and facades. Bound up with a ribbon of romance, the result is a fun, illuminating work well worth rereading.


(Revised Edition from Project Gutenberg)

By: Samuel Butler

This is also the name of a climb in Dalkey Quarry just outside of Dublin. The climb is rated E2 5c. It involves making some crimpy moves up a blank wall until you get your right hand in a shallow bore hole scar. Once established on this hold you move up and to the left for the top edge of the cliff and finish. No protection.

I just wanted to point out that "erewhon" is NOT "backwards for nowhere", erewhon is backwards for nohwere. Eh? So I'm anal when it comes to language.

However, Erewhon is an anagram of nowhere; just one of the numerous language games Butler plays in the work. Nowhere in Latin is utopia, which is why Sir Thomas Moore chose the word for the title of his famous work, which has become a part of the lexicon for an ideal society (or nowhere).

Obviously Mr. Butler wished to associate his satire with the utopian literary tradition.

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