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Poet, artist, visionary and author of the unofficial English national anthem ‘Jerusalem’, William Blake is an archetypal misunderstood genius. His life passed without recognition and he worked without reward, mocked, dismissed and misinterpreted. Yet from his ignoble end in a pauper’s grave, Blake now occupies a unique position – an artist that unites and attracts people from all corners of society, and a rare inclusive symbol of English identity.
Blake famously experienced visions, and it is these that shaped his attitude to politics, sex, religion, society and art. Thanks to the work of neuroscientists and psychologists, we are now in a better position to understand what was happening inside that remarkable mind, and gain a deeper appreciation of his brilliance. His timeless work, we will find, has never been more relevant.
In William Blake vs the World we return to a world of riots, revolutions and radicals, discuss movements from the Levellers of the sixteenth century to the psychedelic counterculture of the 1960s, and explore the latest discoveries in neurobiology, quantum physics and comparative religion. Taking the reader on wild detours into unfamiliar territory, John Higgs places the bewildering eccentricities of a most singular artist into context. And although the journey begins with us trying to understand him, we will ultimately discover that it is Blake who helps us to understand ourselves.
John Higgs’s book lets in a glittering stream of revelatory light — THE TIMES
Rich, complex and original, Higgs takes us to places that even Blake himself might have found surprising — TOM HOLLAND, author of DOMINION
A true user’s guide to the imagination, and one of the best books on Blake I have ever read — DAVID KEENAN, author of MONUMENT MAKER
Absolutely wonderful! This book managed to make Blake’s mind and mythology understandable to me at last – for that I am truly grateful — TERRY GILLIAM
I have read many books about Blake over the years, but this feels like the only one that remotely bottles the magic; with this book Higgs has reached a completely new level. — FORTEAN TIMES
The best book on Blake in seven decades — MARIA POPOVA, THE MARGINALIAN
This is an alchemical dream of a book, a compelling, observant and deeply profound insight into William Blake, his life and work, his endurance and inspirations. John Higgs has recorded a life beyond myth. It is a beautiful book, his writing glittering with Blake’s visions, soulful creativity and resilience — SALENA GODDEN, author of MRS DEATH MISSES DEATH
Higgs’s mission, to return to the cockney visionary and his essential strangeness, is Blakeian in its singularity. — FRANCES WILSON, NEW STATESMAN BOOKS OF THE YEAR 2021.
A wonderful adventure in politics, art and spiritualty — JOHN KELLY, IRISH TIMES BOOKS OF THE YEAR 2021
Higgs’s writing is consistently clear and confident…rightly and persuasively emphasizing the primacy and power of the imagination in Blake’s work. It was fun to witness Higgs’s cogs turning, to hear his thoughts ricocheting against the walls of his internal archive of affinities, allusions and absorptions. — NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW
For a thought-provoking and very accessible introduction to Blake, his work, and the complex mytho-poetic cosmology that he created, I can’t recommend John Higgs’ recent WILLIAM BLAKE VS THE WORLD highly enough. One of the best Blake explainer books I’ve read. — GARETH BRANWYN, BOING BOING
John Higgs’s work is always revelatory and WILLIAM BLAKE VS THE WORLD is no different. It is a dynamic book that makes Blake vivid and relevant but which also tells us a great deal about all human imagination. The subject is not only Blake, it is ourselves — ROBIN INCE
You are not obliged to accept every one of the interpretations of Blake offered by John Higgs, but any careful reader must acknowledge the calm and the clarity of this spirited overview. Here is a guide who deserves to be seen as a contemporary Virgil, leading us around the circles of an inexhaustible theory of everything — IAIN SINCLAIR
William Blake Vs The World is a primer for the future — THE SPECTATOR
Higgs […] handles the complexities of Blake, particularly the later Blake, with adroit confidence, and in doing so he offers a crisp, ambitious and thoroughly contemporary introduction — THE TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT
This book is AMAZING and is blowing my mind — TRACEY THORN
John Higgs brings William Blake to life as a decidedly modern figure in this thoughtful and entertaining book, a timely reminder that we could all do with cracking open our minds to the mystical and visionary as a counter to our age of algorithmically-determined, bitter discourse and high-tech overload — LUKE TURNER, author of OUT OF THE WOODS
Higgs has a miraculous ability to unlock hitherto impenetrable cultural icons. He takes us on a breathtaking and joyous ride through the many wonders of Blake’s creations, expertly weaving in philosophy, quantum physics and popular culture. Astounding — CHRIS ATKINS, author of A BIT OF A STRETCH
A bold, original and dazzling journey through the complex ideas and mythological landscapes of one of Britain’s greatest – and most misunderstood – visionaries — DAVID BRAMWELL, co-author of THE ODDITORIUM
Invaluable and timely… Higgs’s book greatly contributes to our contemporary appreciation of Blake. — SUNDAY BUSINESS POST
John Higgs has managed to wrest Blake from the hands of the academics and return him to the people, where he belongs. He shows us just how relevant Blake’s vision is in this time of crisis and confusion, and how crucial it is for all of us to try to see the world the way Blake saw it — CJ STONE, author of FIERCE DANCING