Chapter 4 James Hilton 157
James Hilton In this chapter I will examine the quest of Hugh Conway, the protagonist of James Hilton’s Lost Horizon (1933), to achieve an expansive sense of space and time in a “magic mountain” environment, in an ambience of luminescent harmony and radiant tranquility. Conway seems destined to develop and fulfill this quest in the extraordinary sanctuary of Shangri-La, a unique world beyond the constraints and tribulations of mortality, representing a relatively timeless space pervaded by a quietly dynamic sense of aesthetic and intellectual serenity and vitality. I will show that Hilton’s protagonist, Conway, affirms a Bergsonian life- philosophy in his quest for a sanctuary and for a sense of continuity with the world of Shangri-La. One essential aspect of Bergson’s thought, which is important for Conway, is the emphasis on duration as a free creation. This characteristic is stressed by G. Poulet, for example, in the following statement: There is no longer any opposition between moment and duration; no longer any trace of deterministic fatalism; but in place of the hiatus between the actual feeling of existence and the profundity of existence, there is the possibility of a mutual communication, of a relationship between the moment and time; and in place of a determinism of cause and effect, the feeling that any moment can be realized as a new moment, and that time can always be freely created from the present moment forward. (35) Conway epitomizes in his character and life-strategy the diffusion of the opposition between moment and...
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