The Devil’s Atlas: An Explorer’s Guide to Heavens, Hells and Afterworlds by Edward Brooke-Hitching - review by Diane Purkiss

Diane Purkiss

No Need to Bring a Coat

The Devil’s Atlas: An Explorer’s Guide to Heavens, Hells and Afterworlds

By

Simon & Schuster 256pp £25 order from our bookshop
 

What is the point of an atlas in a world of Google Earth and Google Maps? Like the encyclopedias appropriated by magical realists, the atlas is now the domain of the armchair browser, offering the chance to go to places that never existed. In this world of mental exploration, Edward Brooke-Hitching is a delightful and indispensable guide. He has already taken us to the libraries of madmen, to the sky and, in his Phantom Atlas, to shadowy places. Now he invites us to join him on a journey to hell and to heaven.

The book is full of surprises, opening with the news that hell has, in fact, frozen over, if we are willing to accept that Hell is actually a small town in Michigan. Artists and writers have for centuries agreed that hell is other people. My inner introvert responds to

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