August 2018 Non-Fiction Reaktion Books

The Waterless Sea: A Curious History of Mirages Christopher Christopher

Hardback | Aug 2018 | REAKTION BOOKS | 9781780239323 | 184pp | 210x148mm | GEN | AUD$44.99, NZD$54.99

Mirages have long astonished travellers and beguiled thirsty desert voyagers. Chinese and Japanese poetry and images depicted mirages as the exhalations of clam-monsters. Indian sources related them to the `thirst of gazelles', a metaphor for the futility of desire. From the late eighteenth century to the present, mirages became a symbol of `Oriental despotism', a malign, but also enchanted, emblem. But the mirage motif is rarely simply condemnatory. More commonly it conveys a sense of escape, of fascination, of a desire to be deceived.

The Waterless Sea is the first book devoted to the theories and history of mirages. Christopher Pinney navigates a sinuous pathway through a mysterious and evanescent terrain, showing how mirages have impacted politics, culture, science, and religion, and how we can continue to learn from their sublimity.