On The Beach, Part One

by Gethin Thomas June. 05, 2021 315 views

"On The Beach" is a post apocalyptic novel by Nevil Shute, written in 1957. It is a brilliant, although dystopian story with no happy ending, and a warning about the looming threat of all out nuclear war, prevalent at that time.

Dystopian- A dystopia (from Ancient Greek δυσ- "bad, hard" and τόπος "place"; ) is a fictional community or society that is undesirable or frightening. It is often treated as an antonym of utopia, a term that was coined by Sir Thomas More and figures as the title of his best known work, published in 1516, which created a blueprint for an ideal society with minimal crime, violence and poverty.

It has inspired two films, only one of which I have seen, the original one, made in 1959. It also inspired an opera by Philip Glass "Einstein on The Beach". It is worth reading the book, as it is still relevant today and seeing the original film if you can find it. The later film I cannot vouch for.

It is also worth hearing the Glass opera, or at least extracts as it is a bit of a commitment in time otherwise. The 1978 recording was held to 165 minutes in order to fit onto four LP records, i.e., the opening scene's repeats were considerably shortened. The 1993 recording encompassed 200 minutes, freed by the technology of the compact disc, although it was released on three CDs instead of the original's four. It was originally intended to be five hours in length, to give it that really dystopian, end of the world feel. To give you that feel, here are the lyrics for Kneeplay Part Five.

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I suppose after five hours of that, the idea is that an all out nuclear war starts to look attractive. Seriously though I am actually a big fan of most of his work and actually once saw him perform live.

LP. records were enormous black discs that held comparatively, by today's standards, tiny amounts of information, most of it crackly and hissy. They were fragile and easily damaged, even if you got one home that wasn't already of poor quality. They were stored in paper envelopes which you slid on an off, guaranteeing that whenever you got the disc out or put it away that it collected extra static, extra dust and extra hisses and crackles. If you were very lucky the miniscule and also fragile stylus, that carved it's way around the groove on the disc would jump without warning, adding to the randomness and stress of the whole music listening process.

Aficionados of LP collecting would compete to spend ever more vast amounts of money on specialist machinery of outlandishly complex appearance, to play the discs on, in the vain belief that it sounded better after the upgrade. This is an example of ideology denying reality, or cognitive dissonance.

Today, as the young become more ideologically driven and less involved with reality, LP's are making a comeback. To our generation the LP only symbolises disappointment. That disappointment you got when hoping against hope that this latest disc you had just spent your life savings on would be different to all the others and would only supply the music, without the sound effects of an old man shuffling about in a large tray of gravel. Maybe this is the real reason that young people all seem to be so angry, upset or depressed, while having the gift of the entire known universe at their fingertips.

When I saw my first CD on TV that was it for the LP.

But I digress.

This sight below, struck me in relation to the title of the book, with it's "Aftermath of Pandemic" feel.

Surprisingly and gratifyingly this blue glove is not a fair representation of what can be found on this beach. It is relatively free of litter and plastic especially given the fact that the water it faces is the busiest shipping lane in the world as well as one of the narrowest. It doesn't mean that we should not be vigilant though.

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