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Paradise Lust: Searching for the Garden of…
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Paradise Lust: Searching for the Garden of Eden

by Brook Wilensky-Lanford

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A popular book about various more-or-less eccentric types who have tried to pinpoint the physical location of the Garden of Eden. Earlier ideas are dealt with briefly, but the bulk of the book is about late nineteenth and twentieth century ones.

Genesis provides only one clue to where Eden is supposed to be, namely that there arises a river which divides into four, namely the Pishon, the Gihon, the Tigris, and the Euphrates. Nobody knows which the first two might be, but the latter pair is famous enough, so identifying the spot should be easy enough - except than the Tigris and the Euphrates arise quite separately in the Armenian highlands rather that splitting off from a common source.

The more prosaic of the various scholars, visionaries, and amateurs Wilensky-Lanford covers have, in effect, assumed that the author really meant where the rivers converge, not diverge, and so placed Eden in southern Iraq, where the two rivers join to form the Shatt al-Arab. The Pishon and Gihon are assumed to be lesser rivers, canals, or wadis in the area. This naturally fits well with the nineteenth century discovery that much of Genesis has older parallels in Mesopotamian literature. The wilder thinkers among them have found Eden in all sorts of places, including the North Pole, Ohio, and the Tarim basin. The modern Tigris and Euphrates in Turkey and Iraq are, obviously, not the same as the antediluvian ones that flowed out of Paradise. A couple accept that the rivers are the same and that it's their origin that is meant, and happily ignoring the common origin part, put the Garden in the Armenian highlands.

I noted some errors and apparent confusions on Wilensky-Lanford's part, but nothing that really affects any point she's making. It's a pleasant read featuring a number interesting and mostly little-known characters.
  AndreasJ | Oct 25, 2016 |
This book had the potential to be a great story. Unfortunately the author seemed to be confused as to whether academics or laypeople are her target audience. I am not an academic so the constant and overwhelming use of quotation marks was a distraction that even the best story line could not overcome (and frankly, the story line wasn't that great either). I tried my best to give the author a fair shot but gave up after 4 chapters. Very disappointing. ( )
  buchowl | Oct 28, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0802119808, Hardcover)

It seems that ever since mankind was kicked out of the Garden of Eden for eating the forbidden fruit, we’ve been trying to get back in. Or at least, we’ve been wondering where the Garden might have been. St. Augustine had a theory, and so did medieval monks, John Calvin, and Christopher Columbus. But when Darwin’s theory of evolution permanently altered our understanding of human origins, shouldn’t the search for a literal Eden have faded away? Not so fast.

In Paradise Lust, Brook Wilensky-Lanford introduces readers to the enduring modern quest to locate the Garden of Eden on Earth. It is an obsession that has consumed Mesopotamian archaeologists, German Baptist ministers, British irrigation engineers, and the first president of Boston University, among many others. These quixotic Eden seekers all started with the same brief Bible verses, but each ended up at a different spot on the globe: Florida, the North Pole, Ohio, China, and, of course, Iraq. Evocative of Tony Horwitz and Sarah Vowell, Wilensky-Lanford writes of these unusual characters and their search with sympathy and wit. Charming, enlightening, and utterly unique, Paradise Lust is a century-spanning history that will take you to places you never imagined.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:50 -0400)

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Contending that the search for a literal Garden of Eden has not faded with progressive understandings about evolution, a survey of modern quests to discover Eden's location reveals how the same biblical verses have inspired efforts in numerous regions.… (more)

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