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THIS COLD HEAVEN: Seven Seasons in Greenland Paperback – 1 Jul 2008
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'A passionately written account…It could well be one of the last portraits of a land and a way of life that is about to be lost forever.' The Times
'Beautifully written…her book is a celebration of place and people that makes almost nostalgic reading as the planet warms, icebergs melt and the Inuit – and seals and polar bears – wonder how long their way of life will last.’ Financial Times
‘A lyrical but marvellously unsentimental account.’ John Burnside
‘Her enthusiasm is infectious and her indomitable determination to make a record of a culture under threat is admirable.’ Evening Standard
From the Inside Flap
For the last decade, Gretel Ehrlich has been obsessed by an island, a terrain, a culture, and the treacherous beauty of a world that is defined by ice. In This Cold Heaven she combines the story of her travels with history and cultural anthropology to reveal a Greenland that few of us could otherwise imagine.
Ehrlich unlocks the secrets of this severe land and those who live there; a hardy people who still travel by dogsled and kayak and prefer the mystical four months a year of endless darkness to the gentler summers without night. She discovers the twenty-three words the Inuit have for ice, befriends a polar bear hunter, and comes to agree with the great Danish-Inuit explorer Knud Rasmussen that "all true wisdom is only to be found far from the dwellings of man, in great solitudes." This Cold Heaven is at once a thrilling adventure story and a meditation on the clarity of life at the extreme edge of the world. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
It also is a tribute to a landscape and the people who live within it. Who seem to manage well to live in autonomous interdependency with harmony and respect and gratitude.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Ehrlich is a wonderful writer who knows how to turn a phrase. But...but....but--why I am only giving this three stars? It's because I felt the book was too much of a good thing. While the stories of the people she met and the Inuit ways are fascinating, do I really need to read 356 pages of how beautiful the ice was over and over and over and over? How many times do I have to hear that "ice is chaos", "ice is time", "the ice was like newly shampooed hair", "the sun was like a flashlight", "the ice was like broken dishes", etc. This gets tiresome very fast. Enough already! I get it-the ice is beautiful and it's cold. Too much of the same thing and too many metaphors detracts from the power of the whole. I wish Ehrlich would have put the metaphor-theasurus away for at least two consecutive pages.
I'm sure that to Ehrlich all of her endless trips across the ice are individual, but to me, they all sound the same. She could have cut out the descriptions of about 10 of the trips she made on the ice, which would have cut the book by 50-100 pages, and had a much more powerful account. Although I loved most of the book, I finally couldn't wait for it to end. She made something that was fascinating into an account that was, ultimately, boring and endless.
This is not a "been there, seen that, got the T-shirt" travel book -- Erlich is drawn to Greenland no fewer than seven times, in various seasons, and she lives with the people in traditional housing (including tents on the ice). She encounters the brutality of bureaucracy as well as the incredible hospitality of the Inuit -- and at the same time she does not shrink from the pervasive alcoholism and domestic violence that are a sad feature of northern life, nor does she neglect to mention the impact even in Greenland of the growing pollution in "the south" (i.e. North America). Her thesis is essentially Romantic in a philosophic sense . . . subsistence living was/is hard but authentic. The coming of modernity, with its internet connection, TV, store-bought goods, etc., has removed both the means and the incentive for a life of integrity. She leaves it to the reader to see the Greenlandic experience as paradigmatic of the wider world.
Read this book - it will lift your heart and trouble your mind, and leave you wanting more.
I recommend this book to anyone who loves beautifully written adventures. They are here.