In the Land of Temple Caves
Frederick Turner
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Buy *In the Land of Temple Caves: From St. Emilion to Paris's St. Sulpice - Notes on Art and the Human Spirit* online

In the Land of Temple Caves: From St. Emilion to Paris's St. Sulpice - Notes on Art and the Human Spirit
Frederick Turner
Counterpoint Press
304 pages
April 2004
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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You donít have to be an artist, or even a fan of art, to be emotionally and spiritually moved by this beautiful and enthralling book, In The Land of Temple Caves. For author Frederick Turnerís goal is only to ask the question: what is the purpose and impact of art upon the human soul? To answer that question, he takes us, the lucky reader, on an unforgettable journey into some of the oldest temple caves in Southwest France, where the art of the primitives calls out to the modern soul with a message that transcends time.

I first looked at this book as just a sort of ďtour guideĒ through the various prehistoric caves of the lush ďcountry of the caves," but was so stunned to find, upon reading, that this was not at all what I had thought. Instead, I became privy to a very personal, yet very universally human journey back into the past that was almost as exciting as being there in person. The authorís travels and insights became, profoundly, my own.

It was the horrific events of 9/11 that spurred Frederick Turner to undertake his own personal journey into the mysterious and awe-inspiring caves, and into the deep, deep past, of France to see for himself the drawings and creations of the first humans. By doing so, he hoped to gain some greater insight into the human spirit, and to try to understand the capacity for darkness that exists alongside the light within the human heart. Visiting a number of well-known and lesser-known caves, we get to see through the authorís eyes as he first comes face-to-face with the messages of the past. His awe at the incredibly intelligent and structured art of the prehistoric humans becomes our awe as he describes in detail the power of seeing first art, first creativity, first fear, first kill, first longing, first magic.

Turnerís journeys also take him into some more modern settings where art depicts the horrors of inhumanity, as well as a most intriguing visit to a village in France where a widescale massacre occurred at the hands of the Nazis. Upon seeing the remaining vestiges of the brutality and carnage, we weep as the author asks if art can ever explain such horrors. Some of the most moving and enjoyable parts of the book occur outside of the caves, as the author introduces us to friends and strangers, each with their own intricate story to tell.

There are no pictures in this book of the great cave paintings of horses and mammoth and bear, and at first I was disappointed until I realized that this author had the power to make me see everything in full detail. His style is warm and lush, his descriptions filled with the very essence of what he experienced, and in the end I was glad not to have had photographs to get caught up in, for I might have missed the real magic present in the authorís own reverence and perception. I may never be blessed enough to actually visit these amazing caves, but with this book I feel as though I already have.

In The Land of Temple Caves is a book I wonít soon forget, a treasure that left me with a distinct feeling of awe at the power of art to shape humanity, today even as it did thousands upon thousands of years ago. This ended up not being a book about art and cave drawings and ancient paintings at all, but a truly spiritual experience about our constant desire to know and connect with the force of life, and to express our deepest fears, desires and insights in the only way we really can. Art.

A breathtakingly beautiful book.

© 2004 by Marie D. Jones for Curled Up With a Good Book

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