Lost Horizon is a novel by English writer James Hilton. The book was turned into a film, also called Lost Horizon , in by director Frank Capra. It is best remembered as the origin of Shangri-La , a fictional utopian lamasery located high in the mountains of Tibet. Hugh Conway, a veteran member of the British diplomatic service, finds inner peace, love and a sense of purpose in Shangri-La , whose inhabitants enjoy unheard-of longevity. The prologue and epilogue are narrated by a neurologist.
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Cigars had burned low, and we were beginning to sample the disillusionment that usually afflicts old school friends who have met again as men and found themselves with less in common than they had believed they had. Rutherford wrote novels; Wyland was one of the Embassy secretaries; he had just given us dinner at Tempelhof—not very cheerfully, I fancied, but with the equanimity which a diplomat must always keep on tap for such occasions.
It seemed likely that nothing but the fact of being three celibate Englishmen in a foreign capital could have brought us together, and I had already reached the conclusion that the slight touch of priggishness which I remembered in Wyland Tertius had not diminished with years and an M. Rutherford I liked more; he had ripened well out of the skinny, precocious infant whom I had once alternately bullied and patronized.
The probability that he was making much more money and having a more interesting life than either of us gave Wyland and me our one mutual emotion—a touch of envy.
The evening, however, was far from dull. We had a good view of the big Lufthansa machines as they arrived at the aerodrome from all parts of Central Europe, and towards dusk, when arc flares were lighted, the scene took on a rich, theatrical brilliance.
One of the planes was English, and its pilot, in full flying kit, strolled past our table and saluted Wyland, who did not at first recognize him.
When he did so there were introductions all around, and the stranger was invited to join us. He was a pleasant, jolly youth named Sanders. Wyland made some apologetic remark about the difficulty of identifying people when they were all dressed up in Sibleys and flying helmets; at which Sanders laughed and answered: "Oh, rather, I know that well enough.
Don't forget I was at Baskul. Sanders made an attractive addition to our small company, and we all drank a great deal of beer together. About ten o'clock Wyland left us for a moment to speak to someone at a table nearby, and Rutherford, into the sudden hiatus of talk, remarked: "Oh, by the way, you mentioned Baskul just now.
I know the place slightly. What was it you were referring to that happened there? Sanders smiled rather shyly. Most impudent thing I ever heard of. The blighter waylaid the pilot, knocked him out, pinched his kit, and climbed into the cockpit without a soul spotting him. Gave the mechanics the proper signals, too, and was up and away in fine style. The trouble was, he never came back. May, 'thirty-one. We were evacuating civilians from Baskul to Peshawar owing to the revolution—perhaps you remember the business.
The place was in a bit of an upset, or I don't suppose the thing could have happened. Still, it DID happen—and it goes some way to show that clothes make the man, doesn't it? Rutherford was still interested. The Indian Survey people had been using it for high-altitude flights in Kashmir. That was the queer part about it. Of course, if the fellow was a tribesman he might have made for the hills, thinking to hold the passengers for ransom.
I suppose they all got killed, somehow. There are heaps of places on the frontier where you might crash and not be heard of afterwards. Sanders looked surprised. Rutherford nodded. Then he said: "It was never in the papers, or I think I should have read about it. How was that? Sanders looked suddenly rather uncomfortable, and even, I imagined, was on the point of blushing. Or perhaps it doesn't matter now—it must be stale news in every mess, let alone in the bazaars. It was hushed up, you see—I mean, about the way the thing happened.
Wouldn't have sounded well. The government people merely gave out that one of their machines was missing, and mentioned the names. Sort of thing that didn't attract an awful lot of attention among outsiders. At this point Wyland rejoined us, and Sanders turned to him half-apologetically. I'm afraid I spilled the Baskul yarn—I hope you don't think it matters? Wyland was severely silent for a moment.
It was plain that he was reconciling the claims of compatriot courtesy and official rectitude. I always thought you air fellows were put on your honor not to tell tales out of school.
I was at Peshawar at the time, and I can assure you of that. Did you know Conway well—since school days, I mean? Rutherford smiled. He had a most exciting university career—until war broke out. Rowing Blue and a leading light at the Union and prizeman for this, that, and the other—also I reckon him the best amateur pianist I ever heard. Amazingly many-sided fellow, the kind, one feels, that Jowett would have tipped for a future premier. Yet, in point of fact, one never heard much about him after those Oxford days.
Of course the war cut into his career. He was very young and I gather he went through most of it. Didn't do at all badly, got a D. Then I believe he went back to Oxford for a spell as a sort of don. I know he went east in 'twenty-one. His Oriental languages got him the job without any of the usual preliminaries. He had several posts. Rutherford smiled more broadly. History will never disclose the amount of sheer brilliance wasted in the routine decoding F.
It was evident that he did not care for the chaff, and he made no protest when, after a little more badinage of a similar kind, Rutherford rose to go. In any case it was getting late, and I said I would go, too. Wyland's attitude as we made our farewells was still one of official propriety suffering in silence, but Sanders was very cordial and he said he hoped to meet us again sometime. I was catching a transcontinental train at a very dismal hour of the early morning, and, as we waited for a taxi, Rutherford asked me if I would care to spend the interval at his hotel.
He had a sitting room, he said, and we could talk. I said it would suit me excellently, and he answered: "Good. We can talk about Conway, if you like, unless you're completely bored with his affairs. I said that I wasn't at all, though I had scarcely known him. But he was extraordinarily kind to me on one occasion. I was a new boy and there was no earthly reason why he should have done what he did.
It was only a trivial thing, but I've always remembered it. Rutherford assented. And then there was a somewhat odd silence, during which it was evident that we were both thinking of someone who had mattered to us far more than might have been judged from such casual contacts.
I have often found since then that others who met Conway, even quite formally and for a moment, remembered him afterwards with great vividness. He was certainly remarkable as a youth, and to me, who had known him at the hero-worshipping age, his memory is still quite romantically distinct. He was tall and extremely good-looking, and not only excelled at games but walked off with every conceivable kind of school prize.
A rather sentimental headmaster once referred to his exploits as "glorious," and from that arose his nickname. Perhaps only he could have survived it. He gave a Speech Day oration in Greek, I recollect, and was outstandingly first-rate in school theatricals. There was something rather Elizabethan about him—his casual versatility, his good looks, that effervescent combination of mental with physical activities.
Something a bit Philip-Sidney-ish. Our civilization doesn't often breed people like that nowadays. I made a remark of this kind to Rutherford, and he replied: "Yes, that's true, and we have a special word of disparagement for them—we call them dilettanti.
I suppose some people must have called Conway that, people like Wyland, for instance. I don't much care for Wyland. I can't stand his type—all that primness and mountainous self-importance. And the complete head-prefectorial mind, did you notice it? Little phrases about 'putting people on their honor' and 'telling tales out of school'—as though the bally Empire were the fifth form at St. But, then, I always fall foul of these sahib diplomats. We drove a few blocks in silence, and then he continued: "Still, I wouldn't have missed this evening.
It was a peculiar experience for me, hearing Sanders tell that story about the affair at Baskul. You see, I'd heard it before, and hadn't properly believed it. It was part of a much more fantastic story, which I saw no reason to believe at all, or well, only one very slight reason, anyway.
I daresay you can guess that I'm not a particularly gullible person. I've spent a good deal of my life traveling about, and I know there are queer things in the world—if you see them yourself, that is, but not so often if you hear of them secondhand. And yet He seemed suddenly to realize that what he was saying could not mean very much to me, and broke off with a laugh.
Der verlorene Horizont. Roman.
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Shangri-La, das letzte Paradies
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