The Utopians

Anna Neima

21 July 2022
320 pages


'Fascinating and richly documented . . . Few books manage to be so informative and so entertaining.' – Sunday Times

Santiniketan-Sriniketan in India, Dartington Hall in England, Atarashiki Mura in Japan, the Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man in France, the Bruderhof in Germany and Trabuco College in America: six experimental communities established in the aftermath of the First World War, each aiming to change the world.

Anna Neima's The Utopians is an absorbing and vivid account of these collectives and their charismatic leaders and reveals them to be full of eccentric characters, outlandish lifestyles and unchecked idealism.

Dismissed and even mocked in their time, yet, a century later, their influence still resonates in progressive education, environmentalism, medical research and mindfulness training. Without such inspirational experiments in how to live, post-war society would have been a poorer place.

'Thanks to Neima’s rigorous research, each chapter offers something new.' Spectator

'Neima ranges with impressive confidence across the world'. Literary Review

Fascinating and richly documented . . . This is Neima’s first book, and should not be her last. She writes with a novelist’s eye for detail and clearly revels in the eccentrics she has to chronicle — Gurdjieff selling sparrows painted yellow, for example, to fund his trek from Russia to France. Few books manage to be so informative and so entertaining.
[Neima] offers an original perspective on the entire period and a new way of navigating its artistic and ideological upheaval . . . Fascinating . . . by showing how a global crisis can lead people to question tradition and reshape society, the subject remains important to this day.
[Neima] ranges with impressive confidence across the world . . . pleasingly non-judgemental and avoids laborious analysis. Reading this book is perhaps the most delightful way to indulge in elite communism in the 21st century, other than being recruited to a Californian tech start-up.