Steinbeck took five years to write this short novel, and it was a flop commercially. It is, however, an ambitious, serious and successful work. As the title suggests, the book examines the pagan urges and yearnings concealed by modernity. Steinbeck, who had a lifelong interest in Eastern religions, highlights the power of nature over over our self-obsessed species; and the narrative pivots on the paradoxical conflict between the desire to control nature, and our yearning to worship it. Here we meet real, breathing characters in a setting you can feel and smell. This is literature of the first order.
I put the book down, wiser and more alive.