An African in Greenland (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – 24 Apr 2003
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About the Author
Alvarez is the author of numerous books and anthologies of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and criticism. He is also a frequent contributor to the New Yorker and the New York Review of Books and perhaps the only published poet ever to participate in the World Series of Poker.
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Top Customer Reviews
The reality of life in Greenland is not so glamourous, with meals of raw, bloody blubber in the middle of winter butchered only feet from the communal piss bucket in the front room and numerous drunken fights. But Kpomassie finds himself falling in love with this remote culture nontheless.
A wonderful adventure.
Born in French Togoland in West Africa, Kpomassie developed a passionate interest in Greenland after reading about it as a teenager. He left home shortly afterward in 1958 and, having little money, spent eight years working his way through Ghana, Senegal, France, Germany and Denmark before finally boarding a ship for his ultimate destination. It appears he was the first black African to visit Greenland, and his descriptions of his reception on arrival there are among the book's highlights.
Landing near the island's southwestern tip, he traveled slowly up the western coast, staying for long periods of time with friendly families who kindly took him in. He'd hoped to reach the town of Thule in the northwest, but made it only two-thirds of the way before deciding to return home to share his experiences with his countrymen. Though he never reached his final destination or got to live in an igloo like he'd planned, he enjoyed many other experiences such as driving a dogsled, seeing icebergs up close and fishing on the ice.
His descriptions of people and landscapes were impressive, bleak though they were at times. There were many scenes of poverty, squalor, boredom and heavy drinking among the locals. On the other hand, nearly everyone was very open and sharing with him. The writer was a good observer and often compared local practices with those of his own culture to find differences and similarities.Read more ›
Inspired by a book on the Eskimos, which he finds on the bookshelf of the local mission, he determines to go to Greenland; the next section of the book explains his lengthy journey across Europe, and the helpful people he met en route. Some years on, he finds himself in S Greenland, and here begins the main part of the tale, as he makes his way from the relatively westernized Julianehab to the north. Life becomes increasingly brutal, dirty and harsh as he enters the real Greenlandic world.
Highly readable and full of interesting facts: the criminal system; Arctic 'madness'; the dogs - who live a hard life, and can turn on humans and kill, and who are another source of food for the Greenlanders. The author compares the native beliefs in spirits which have a parallel with those in Africa.
And, above all, vivid descriptions of the place, such as his first experience of the Northern Lights:
"Suddenly looking up, I saw long white streaks whirling in the wind above my head. It was like the radiance of some invisible hearth, from which dazzling light rays shot out, streamed into space, and spread to form a great deep-folded phosphorescent curtain which moved and shimmered, turning rapidly from white to yellow, from pink to red...the wind shook it gently like an immense transparent drapery ...Its movements were now regular as an ocean swell, now hurried, jerky, leaping and tumbling like a kite."
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I ordered this book after a friend recommended to me and I was not disappointed.
The author Tete-Michel Kpomassie seems like a very charismatic and humorous man with a... Read more
Many obvious ironies occur as Tete-Michel Kpomassie, a young man from Togo in West Africa, makes a journey of discovery to Greenland. Read morePublished on 8 April 2014 by Mary Whipple
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