D H Lawrence’s Rananim: another failed Utopia

During the First World War D H Lawrence wanted to found a society of friends with whom he could “sail away from the world at war and found a little colony.” He called it Rananim after hearing the Hebrew song Rananim Sadekim Badenoi (which unusually I can’t find on Google or Napster and can’t translate using Google translate). It would be in Florida, and its emblem would be a black phoenix.

Florida, the penniless Lawrence soon realised, was impractical and so he opted for Garsington in Oxfordshire, the home of his then great friend Ottoline Morrell. “I want you,” he told Ottoline, “to form the nucleus of a new community which shall start a new life amongst us, a life in which the only riches is integrity of character…We can all come croppers, but what does it matter? We can laugh at each other, and dislike each other, but the good remains….I hold this the most sacred duty–the gathering together of a number of people who shall so agree to live by the best they know, that they shall be free to live by the best they know…We will have no more churches. We will bring church and house and shop together.”

Lawrence even consulted a psychiatrist over the creation of Rananim. Garsington could become a “little society or body around a religious belief which leads to action.” He told Ottoline: “You must be president [and]…preside over our meetings…Garsington must be the retreat where we come together and knit ourselves together.” It would be “like the Bocaccio place where they told all the Decamerone.”

The Morrells tried to oblige, but the Lawrences (D H plus the intensely jealous and demanding Frieda) wanted much. So when Phillip Morrell told him that he’d have to foot the bill Lawrence raged “Enough, enough, while this thievery and abomination lasts, I would not have a moment of hired work done for me. Let us have it all left until there is some decency on the face of the earth again.”

And so the idea died until Lawrence, Frieda, and Dorothy Brett tried it at Sangre de Cristo in the mountains of New Mexico in 1924.

I wonder if I should read some Lawrence again. I read most of his novels as a teenager before I’d ever kissed a girl and loved them. I fear that now I might find the books embarrassing, but I should try–especially as I’m so taken with the biography of Ottoline Morrell, who appears in Women in Love and Lady Chatterley in Lady Chatterley’s Lover.



6 thoughts on “D H Lawrence’s Rananim: another failed Utopia

  1. The song is a musical version of Psalm 33 by S.S.Koteliansky qv. A more accurate transliteration is “Ranenu tsadikim ba’adonai” which means “Rejoice in the Lord O ye righteous”.

    In the original Hebrew it is רַנְּנוּ צַדִּיקִים בַּיהוָה


  2. I’d give his letters a go. I think he’s more focussed and the rants (‘jelly-boned swines’) are absolute gold. In one letter, and in terms of Rananim, he was so desperate to get away from modernity, war, industrialisation, and people he considers buying a boat and setting off sail. Given he lived most of his life on islands or overlooking the sea, this was a natural progression. If you’re on instagram check out @dhldigitalpilgrimage where I’m posting lots of images and info on Lawrence. There’s plenty of quotes from books and discussions of his ideas which might help you decide what book to read.


    • Thank you for these suggestions. I joke that I read most of D H Lawrence’s books before I’d ever kissed a girl, and I was worried that I would find them embarrassing when I reread them. But I reread “Women in Love,” and liked it very much despite its fascist overtones. I blogged on that.


  3. Pingback: Civilisation and Its Discontents. Sigmund Freud (1930) – Amita Basu

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