The impossibility of an island

Andrea Cortellessa

Modern political thinking was born bifid, thanks to two substantially different books which came out approximately at the same time. Niccolò Machiavelli’s The Prince (namely De Principatibus, 1513) was extremely realistic, whereas Sir Thomas More’s Utopia (namely Libellus vere aureus nec minus salutaris quam festivus de optimo rei publicae statu, deque nova insula Utopia, «A truly golden little book, no less beneficial than entertaining, of a republic’s best state and of the new island Utopia», 1516; such first edition, published in Leuven, was edited – as Carlo Ginzburg recalls – by Erasmus of Rotterdam, who had previously worked with More to edit Luciano’s Festivissima opuscola, the main source of inspiration for Utopia) was more of an idealist work. More wrote about Raphael Hythlodaeus’ journey, which led him to a fictional island realm, an ideal, peaceful society where the values of culture and tolerance governed human life.

By creating a term which then achieved great fame, namely Utopia, More recalled an ancient dream: that of a place which, albeit currently invisible, used to exist (in a distant past, according to most authors, or in an unspecified future, according to more modern ones). Pindar used to speak about the myth of the Fortunate Isles, whereas Plato – who had outlined prototypical political “utopias” in the Republic – gave voice to another legend which achieved great fame, namely that of Atlantis (Sir Francis Bacon called his Utopia “New Atlantis” in 1624), in Timaeus and the unfinished Critias. The myth of Atlantis is emblematic, as the “utopian” condition of mankind is described both as real and lost. As Umberto Eco said not long ago, Utopia is both an ou-tòpos, namely an unreal place (based upon an upside-down understanding of the actual state of mankind, to which the author constantly refers – as Jonathan Swift later did in Gulliver’s Travels, 1726-1735), and an ideally “good” one – namely a eu-topos. Such a place, according to many authors who criticised “real” societies (as Tommaso Campanella did with The City of the Sun, 1602), can be “good” only when considered as an alternative to “reality”: a place, separate from earth, where we lead our existence. Its location (also in less philosophical, more materialistic versions, such as Cockaigne, contained in Francesco Fulvio Frugoni’s Cane di Diogene, 1687-1689) is therefore an Island. Read how Gilles Deleuze explained the appeal of desert islands in a written work which was published only recently, despite being written in the 50s: «to dream of islands, whether with joy or in fear, is dreaming of pulling away, of being already separate, far from any continent, of being lost and alone – or to dream of starting from scratch, recreating, beginning anew».

It is no coincidence that such way of thinking (and writing) is typical of Great Britain’s literature, as such nation is the Island par-excellence. Indeed, Ginzburg has it that the fact that England, using Carl Schmitt’s categories, progressively went from being a continental power to a maritime one (after the Hundred Year’s War) must have been a by no means secondary source of inspiration for English authors: the French conquest of the Calais bridgehead in 1558 was the symbolical culmination of a political-military process which lasted a hundred years (and seems to have resumed, after having only momentarily stopped due to the traumatic events of the «Short Century», with the recent choice of leaving the European Union).

Shakespeare’s The Tempest (around 1611), one of the greatest masterpieces of English literature, saw the understanding of islands as Utopias transcend idealism (which considered them as upside-down realities, namely anti-Utopias, which are our “reality”) to enter the ambiguous realm which characterises this place of artistic and literary modernity. As Giovanna Mochi wrote, Prospero, the Magician-King of an Island «full of noises» (as defined by his semi-human servant Caliban), dreams of a perfect world, but such dreams are «denied and broken like the wand he snaps at the end of the play». Indeed, Shakespeare denies the a-problematic sign of the eu-tòpos: of course, Prospero’s island can be considered as a Utopia, but the same cannot be said from Caliban’s standpoint (Shakespeare shares such game of perspectives with a coeval of his, namely Cervantes. Postmodernism then made it its own through a number of “post-colonial” interpretations).

The prominent novel tradition, represented by Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719) – inspired by the real story of English sailor Selkirk, who spent 28 years on the Juan Fernández island, off the coast of Chile – gave rise to a whole literary sub-genre called Robinsonades, which depicted islands as an ideal space which is suitable for the attainable utopia of a capitalist self made man (until the new realistic cinematographic version by Robert Zemeckis called Cast Away, 2000, or the sci-fi one by Ridley Scott, called The Martian, 2015, came out). Deleuze’s text on desert islands bluntly reads that «it’s hard to imagine a more boring book, and it is sad to know that young people still read it» – which is quite difficult to disagree on. A less prominent tradition is worth praising, which uses the same image only to turn it upside-down in an ironic-perspectivistic (as in the case of Michel Tournier’s Friday or The Other Island, 1967, which tells the story from the standpoint of Robinson’s Caliban, namely Friday), sarcastic (as in J.M. Coetzee’s Foe, 1986, which tells the story of a castaway woman who reaches the Island and meets Robinson and Friday, only to find out they are very different from the original novel. Her side of the story is modified by writer Foe – which means «enemy») or even apocalyptic way (as in Golding’s Lord of the Flies, which I shall discuss later).

Swift spoke about Islands such as the flying one of Laputa so as to mock the “positive” claims of science and calculus, whereas, during the Age of Enlightenment, Bernardin de Sain-Pierre (1787) built upon Rousseaus’s bon naturel utopia (he clearly took inspiration from Robinson Crusoe when writing Emile, or On Education) in Paul et Virginie, where he placed two innocent lovers on the tropical island of Mauritius, only to show us the end of their paradise (the same happens in two great 20th-century rewritings: the Pink Beach episode on the Budelli Island in Michelangelo Antonioni’s Red Desert, 1964, and Un amore del nostro tempo by Tommaso Landolfi, 1965). The extreme proses of the Encantadas (1854), dedicated to the Galápagos islands, saw Herman Melville depict a desert, motionless landscape by focusing on the vitrified lava and volcanic ashes of a primordial wasteland, where only a few outcasts, gone crazy due to solitude, remain. Herbert G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896) sees Shakespearean Prospero become a mad scientist who rivals God by cruelly vivisecting animals, whereas Adolfo Bioy Casares’ The Invention of Morel (1941) shows another scientist – whose name hints to Wells’, albeit his invention is reminiscent of what Raymond Roussel imagined in in Locus solus, 1914 – who has placed a machine able to create illusionistic simulacra, and thus erase time, on an island (the film version of the apologue, made by Emidio Greco in 1974, shows the castaway come across Morel’s machine, as Prospero did in the original story, and destroy it, thereby ending the spell).

William Golding’s Lord of the Flies (1954) is an important reinterpretation of Defoe’s work, where «Utopia and Earthly Paradise turn into that Hell which has always loomed in some remote part of islands» (Giovanna Mochi). A group of British students, stranded on an unspecified Island in the Pacific Ocean after a plane crash, does its best to create the simulacrum of a society which recalls that of the adults they have left behind. However, we read about their regression to a state of violent superstition and mutual cruelty. In his text on desert islands, Deleuze criticised Friday, «happy with being a slave and too hastily disgusted by anthropophagy – every sane reader wishes to see him eat Robinson, at the end of the day». Golding made this collective dream come true, and thus showed us, as in vitro experiments, the Origins of Totalitariansim Hannah Arendt had already studied; he believed that «man produces evil as a bee produces honey». Golding’s book is undoubtedly powerful, but such ideological pattern, which merely turns Defoe and Rousseaus’s precondition upside down, is its limit. On the other hand, the most recent reinterpretations of the topic, which saw the light while postmodernism was declining, were based – as in The Tempest – upon an ambiguous interpretation.

Karl Marx criticised – not only in the Grundrisse and the Capital – the founding myth of the Robinsonades, namely the stereotype according to which «isolated hunters and fishermen» are self-sufficient cells of economic independence: Marx had it such understanding was shared by liberal economists such as Smith and Ricardo, whereas he believed that Robinson’s work was always the result of a social interaction (like his simple relationship with Friday, or his using objects and goods – such as the clock and the pen – which he had made independently after being stranded on the island; Ian Watt, a great Marxist critic, was the one who best developed such theory). Such “functional” criticism of individualism matched the “moral” one, typical of Christianity, made by another great British author, namely John Donne, who wrote the following in one of his devotional discourses (Meditation XVII, 1624): «No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as any manner of thy friends or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.» (the last passage was used by Ernest Hemingway as the title of his famous novel on the Spanish War: For Whom the Bell Tolls. No Man Is an Island is the title of a once equally famous essay by American pacifist activist and Catholic theologian Thomas Merton).

Clearly, the most recent interpretations – written during the crisis of the social and cultural models offered to modernity by Christian and Marxist epistemes – could no longer advocate the individualist fideism belonging to Defoe’s tradition. However, turning it upside down as Golding did was no longer acceptable either. Twenty years after Lord of the FliesConcrete Island (1974), saw an «utter demoraliser» – as James G. Ballard loved to define himself – take inspiration from the plot of Robinson Crusoe and show a successful architect, called Robert Maitland, get trapped on a large safety island after a car crash (a real obsession for the author of Crash). Such island, which is “literally a desert island” at the centre of a London motorway junction, is a solitary, dystopic place («maybe the nightmare of the asleep continent[1]»), full of car parts and memories of distant films and wars (another recurrent motif in Ballard), where Maitland meets two beings which are both disturbed and disturbing. Such beings are a spoof of Shakespeare’s Ariel and Caliban, and they take part in sadomasochistic role play games which recall the themes deepened by Golding. His impasse is due to the wild individualism he has cultivated (for instance by having two separate relationships with women who silently accept his absence) and observes in the likes of his (namely the drivers who run past the «island», ignoring his requests for help). Maitland therefore reaches a conclusion: «I am the island». However, the state in which he ends up being is but the literary extreme version of the lifestyle which he chose for himself, and serves him well. Once the other “inhabitants” are either expelled or eliminated, we see him «enjoy the feeling of being alone on the island[2]».

Although he started off as a (dystopic) science-fiction writer, his mature works, which he started writing in the 70s, saw Ballard prophetically anticipate as apologue the themes and dynamics which then became popular, in the doxa, with the sociological thinking of the following years and decades. In fact, (as in the case of Arendt and Golding) it was Herbert Marcuse’s One Dimensional Man, 1964, which enabled philosophy to first propose the diagnosis – of a liberal society based upon «repressive tolerance» which encourages individuals to wish for a single form of “freedom”, namely that of producing goods and services, thereby “isolating” them inside a cell full of cheap amenities –which Ballard made more extreme through his paroxysmal sarcasm. The tetralogy which marked the end of his career (Cocaine NightsSuper-CannesMillennium people and Kingdom Come, published between 1996 and 2006) saw him draw the political and urban conclusions of the “social program” implicitly included in Concrete Island. Indeed, he provided us with the cruellest and clearest contradiction of the securitarian paradigm imposed by those which Deleuze had already defined as «control societies» in the 90’s, building upon the themes developed by Focault. The residential village on the Costa del Sol described in Cocaine Nights is what urbanists started to call a gated community, an “island amidst concrete” colonised by rich English people with swimming pools, parabolic antennas and Jacuzzis, monitored day and night by closed-circuit cameras. However, Ballard’s anti-paradises are not devoid of the violence which, being obsessively feared from the outside, takes place in the inside as a natural, unstoppable reaction to the artificial stillness caused by economic and social privilege. Witness crime in Costa del Sol, which is encouraged for fun and ends up breaking loose; witness the smart city built on the hills near Cannes, ruled by a psychiatrist-Prospero who exposes the wildest dreams of his bored fellow citizens; witness the panic of middle classes, who live in fear of being excluded from the citadels belonging to higher-income families, so much that they commit acts of terrorism in Millennium people and riot inside the great shopping centres of Kingdom Come. There, one of the characters takes a copy of one of Francis Bacon’s (the painter, not the utopian) screaming popes, «as if recognizing himself in this demented pontiff who had glimpsed the void hidden within the concept of God» and shows it to another man: «“tell me again—what exactly is he screaming at?” “Existence. He’s realized there is no God and mankind is free. Whatever free means”».

Such parody of freedom – which the political propaganda of our time readily adopted – is the «crisis of bonds» of which Guido Mazzoni has recently spoken about. The average individual is ab-solutus, which means bereft of the religious, ideological and class relationships which led him to participate in modern mass movements, the aims of which transcended individual existence. Like Ballard’s Maitland, modern people have found out they are the island. Moreover, they have discovered something else: they like it. Now they are on their own, and as Mazzoni says, the compulsion to achieve pleasure introduced by what Jacques Lacan called «capitalist discourse», «now includes libertinism, an aristocratic prerogative to which bourgeoisie counterpoised solid moral discipline and an even more solid system of religious values during the years of its rise[3]». Such dynamic was described by Ballard with memorable, entertaining violence.

The ethics of «I don’t give a fuck», as Mazzoni used to say by rephrasing a sentence used in the manifesto-novel of this new, eternal ideology, reign supreme. The novel, called Elementary Particles, was written by Michel Houellebecq, and it came out in 1999. The metaphor contained in the title is taken from the job of one of the two main-character half-brothers, namely molecular biologist Michel Djerzinski, who suffers from terminal inaffectivity due to his having been abandoned as a child. He becomes an advocate (and an inconsistent follower) of a ferociously individualistic evolution of the species. Mazzoni, like many contemporary critics, tends to overestimate Houellebecq: indeed, he was not either the first or the most radical writer to depict this situation (the psychological mechanism underlying inaffectivity shows an embarrassing equivalence, proved by the pathos of the finale of Elementary Particles, which also looms over several parts of the following The Possibility of an Island. The low, cold language used by Houellebecq comes directly from the phenomenological experimentalism of the 60s, including Georges Perec’s masterpiece Things, 1965). Undoubtedly, his novels effectively describe contemporary reality as understood by the essayist: «capitalism disconnects: it requires interior life to be made up of heterogeneous segments […]: it requires the dull schizophrenia experienced by every 21st-century westerner, which also represents the psychological equivalent of consumption as a way of being alive[4]».

Thus, Houellebecq was almost bound to come across the ancient metaphor of the island in the following The Possibility of an Island. 2000 had seen him publish an exhibitionist photographic reportage set in the tourist island of Lanzarote, one of the Canary Islands, which is where the 2005 novel is set. Such novel can be considered as the sequel of Elementary Particles. The “elementary” evolution of mankind – so radically isolationist as to eliminate sex – is but a dream for Michel Djerzinski (who has visions of it from the future), but it becomes real for the autobiographic character of Daniel, who has a disenchanted, apocalyptic vision of existence and has achieved fame in the show-biz world due to the politically incorrectness of his Islamophobic, sexist comedy shows («like all clowns since the dawn of time, I was a sort of collaborator […]; I established clarity, I forbade action, I eradicated hope; my balance sheet was mixed»). As he is bored by the sexual encounters which used to be his only source of entertainment, Daniel ends up in Lanzarote (just like his author has confined himself to the Cabo de Gata-Nijar natural park, in Andalusia), where a vaguely New Age neo-religion called «the Elohimites» is gathering followers so as to free mankind from old age, suffering and death. The sect is obviously a scam, but it avails itself of the scientific advice of a biologist, who makes the Utopia of island-man come true thanks to the protocols of a new cloning model. Each human being, as soon as they start to age, ends their existence and transmits their memory to an autotrophic “successor” who passes it on to someone else when they start to age. The text is presented as the récit de vie of «Daniel 1», which is read and commented by his twenty-fifth “reincarnation”: in a land which is almost devoid of the conflicts that have characterised this anthropological revolution, a small number of hyper-technological humans who live hundreds of kilometers from one another keep at bay the wild older humans who live near the enclaves by use of electronic barriers and automatic weapons. Life in the enclaves goes on in «a condition of unlimited, indefinite stillness[5]» (which is a reinterpretation of the classic device which Wells used in The Time Machine, 1895, so as to counterpoise the Morlocks, namely man-eating wildlings, to the Eloj, namely asexual aesthetes). Read what the “heir” from the distant future, «Daniel 25», says: «as light fades, I watch the species disappear, without regret[6]». This way, he attaches a meaning to the conclusion his “predecessor” reached, namely «the general impossibility of things[7]» (which neo-humans will reinterpret as the «blatant neutrality of what is real[8]»). However, the novel ends in a contradictory way. After reading the last, self-loathing pages of Daniel’s account, «Daniel 25» decides to look for some «Marie 23» who has decided to leave her enclave (without hoping to find a possible, utopian «neo-human community»). The verses which inspire Marie to leave are the last words Daniel wrote before “handing himself over” and die: «There exists in the midst of time / The possibility of an island». Therefore, Houellebecq has it a further island can exist: by avoiding the conformity of the «life and death cycle» ensured by social isolation, one can head towards «a simple nothingness, a pure absence of content». Indeed, the first Daniel is in awe of an artist, namely Vincent Greilsamer (who incredibly becomes the prophet of Elohimites), who thinks that «everything is kitsch, if you like. Music as a whole is kitsch; art is kitsch; literature itself is kitsch. Any emotion is kitsch, practically by definition; but any reflection also, and even in a sense any action, the only thing that is not absolutely kitsch is nothingness».

The general impossibility of things is a devastating epilogue of a contradictory, albeit fascinating story about the wish – acknowledged by mankind since the dawn of time – for a different life. Such wish has always been perfectly represented by the Island. Undoubtedly, the kind of social life my generation managed to catch a glimpse of, the actual religion of others which modernity represented, sounds impossible, even undesirable nowadays. However – despite the extinction of mankind that post-contemporary authors such as Ballard and Houellebecq have insistently depicted –, given that the regressive fantasy of rebuilding a “continent” (or even the totality dream described by the «great stories» of the 20th century, as though the single continent of Pangaea, hypothesised by the continental drift theory, could be re-formed, thereby creating a single piece of land surrounded by water, namely an island) is no longer attainable, our generation is left with the need to hypothesise a way of living recalling an archipelago, such as that depicted by Maurice Blanchot when commenting on the fragmentary style of René Char. We are to be singular plural – using Jean-Luc Nancy’s words –, knowing that we are islands in a larger world: «Retreating the political means ontologically uncovering and denuding with-being[9]». People are not able to get rid of the personal hell of others, and there is no new mankind awaiting. Only nothingness awaits.



Thomas More, Utopia [1516], edited by Luigi Firpo, Naples, Guida, 1990; Tommaso Campanella, La Città del Sole. Questione quarta sull’ottima repubblica [1602], edited by Germana Ernst, Milan, BUR, 1996 (although the 1944 edition commented by Alberto Savinio is a must: Milan, Adelphi, 1995); William Shakespeare, La tempesta [1611], edited by Alessandro Serpieri, Venice, Marsilio, 2006; Francis Bacon, Nuova Atlantide [1614], edited by Giuseppe Schiavone, Milan, BUR, 2011; John Donne, Devozioni per occasioni d’emergenza [1624], edited by Paola Colaiacomo, Rome, Editori Riuniti, 1994; Francesco Fulvio Frugoni, Il cane di Diogene [1687-1689], reprint, Bologna, Forni, 2009; Daniel Defoe, Le avventure di Robinson Crusoe [1719], edited by Giuseppe Sertoli, Turin, Einaudi, 1998; Jonathan Swift, I viaggi di Gulliver [1726-1735], edited by Gianni Celati, Milan, Feltrinelli, 1997; Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emilio [1762], edited by Aldo Visalberghi, Bari, Laterza, 1953; Bernardin de Sain-Pierre, Paul et Virginie [1787], edited by Davide Monda, introduction by Martin Rueff, Milan, BUR, 2003; Herman Melville, Le Encantadas [1854], edited by Cristiano Spila, Lecce, Piero Manni, 2010; Karl Marx, Lineamenti fondamentali della critica dell’economia politica [1857-1858, 1939-1941 unpublished works], translated by Giorgio Backhaus, Turin, Einaudi, 1976; Id., Il Capitale. Critica dell’economia politica [1867-1910], edited by Delio Cantimori, Rome, Editori Riuniti, 1964; Herbert G. Wells, La Macchina del Tempo [1895], edited by Michele Mari, Turin, Einaudi, 2017; Id., L’isola del dottor Moreau [1896], translated by Rossana De Michele, introduction by Carlo Pagetti, Milan, BUR, 1995; Raymond Roussel, Locus solus, seguito da Come ho scritto alcuni miei libri [1914], edited by Paola Dècina Lombardi, Turin, Einaudi, 1975; Ernest Hemingway, Per chi suona la campana [1940], translated by Maria Martone Napolitano, Milan, Mondadori, 1996; Adolfo Bioy Casares, L’invenzione di Morel [1941], translated by Livia Bacchi Wilcock, introduction by Jorge Luis Borges, afterword by Michele Mari, Milan, Bompiani, 1994; Carl Schmitt, Terra e mare [1942], translated by Giovanni Gurisatti, with an essay by Franco Volpi, Milan, Adelphi, 2003; Hannah Arendt, Le origini del totalitarismo [1951], translated by Amerigo Guadagnin, introduction by Alberto Martinelli, with an essay by Simona Forti, Turin, Einaudi, 2004; Gilles Deleuze, Cause e ragioni delle isole deserte [unpublished work from the 50’s], in Id., L’isola deserta e altri scritti. Testi e interviste 1953-1974 [2002], edited by Deborah Borca, introduction by Pier Aldo Rovatti, Turin, Einaudi, 2007, pp. 3-9; William Golding, Il signore delle mosche [1954], translated by Filippo Donini, Milan, Mondadori, 1966; Thomas Merton, Nessun uomo è un’isola [1955], translated by the Benedictine nuns of the S. Paolo in Sorrento Monastery, Milan, Garzanti, 1956; Ian Watt, Le origini del Romenzo borghese. Studi su Defoe, Richardson e Fielding [1957], translated by Luigi Del Grosso Destreri, Milan, Bompiani, 1976; Herbert Marcuse, L’uomo a una dimensione. L’ideologia della società industriale avanzata [1964], edited by Luciano Gallino, Turin, Einaudi, 1999; Tommaso Landolfi, Un amore del nostro tempo [1965], Milan, Adelphi, 1993; Georges Perec, Le cose. Una storia degli anni Sessanta [1965], translated by Leonella Prato Caruso, preface by Andrea Canobbio, Turin, Einaudi, 2011; Michel Tournier, Venerdì, o il limbo del Pacifico [1967], translated by Clara Lusignoli, preface by Giuseppe Montesano, Turin, Einaudi, 2010; Maurice Blanchot, La conversazione infinita. Scritti sull’«insensato gioco di scrivere» [1969], translated by Roberta Ferrara, introduction by Giovanni Bottiroli, Turin, Einaudi, 2015; James G. Ballard, L’isola di cemento [1974], translated by Massimo Bocchiola, Milan, Feltrinelli, 2013; Alberto Manguel and Gianni Guadalupi, Dizionario dei luoghi fantastici [1980], Milan, Archinto, 2010; J.M. Coetzee, Foe [1986], translated by Franca Cavagnoli, Turin, Einaudi, 2005; Gilles Deleuze, Poscritto sulle società di controllo [1990], in Id., Pourparler 1972-1990 [1990], translated by Stefano Verdicchio, Macerata, Quodlibet, 2000, pp. 234-41; James G. Ballard, Cocaine Nights [1996], translated by Antonio Caronia, Milan, Baldini & Castoldi, 1997; Jean-Luc Nancy, Essere singolare plurale [1996], edited by Davide Tarizzo, with a dialogue by author Roberto Esposito, Turin, Einaudi, 2001; Ian Watt, Miti dell’individualismo moderno. Faust, don Chisciotte, don Giovanni, Robinson Crusoe [1996], translated by Maria Baiocchi and Mimi Gnoli, Rome, Donzelli, 1998; Michel Houellebecq, Le particelle elementari [1999], translated by Sergio Claudio Perroni, Milan, Bompiani, 1999; James G. Ballard, Super-Cannes [2000], translated by Monica Pareschi, Milan, Feltrinelli, 2000; Carlo Ginzburg, Nessuna isola è un’isola. Quattro sguardi sulla letteratura inglese, Milan, Feltrinelli, 2000; Michel Houellebecq, Lanzarote [2000], translated by Sergio Claudio Perroni, Milan, Bompiani, 2002; James G. Ballard, Millennium people [2003], translated by Delfina Vezzoli, Milan, Feltrinelli, 2004; Michel Houellebecq, La possibilità di un’isola [2005], translated by Fabrizio Ascari, Milan, Bompiani, 2005; Pierre Vidal-Naquet, Atlantide [2005], Turin, Einaudi, 2006; James G. Ballard, Regno a venire [2006], translated by Federica Aceto, Milan, Feltrinelli, 2006; Giovanna Mochi, s.v. Isola, in Dizionario dei temi letterari directed by Remo Ceserani, Mario Domenichelli and Pino Fasano, Turin, UTET, 2007 vol. II F-O, pp. 1230-4; Umberto Eco, Storia delle terre e dei luoghi leggendari, Milan, Bompiani, 2013; Guido Mazzoni, I destini generali, Rome-Bari, Laterza, 2015.

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