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The Ice Museum: In Search of the Lost Land of Thule Paperback – 23 Feb 2006
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a]a wonderful mixture of the exact and the fanciful ("The New York Review of Books")
From the Inside Flap
Under the snow, the ice land is an anonymous world, the trees
stripped of colour. The sun trembles above the horizon, casting shadows on
the snow, waiting to sink into darkness again. When darkness comes, the ice
shines under a bright moon. The frost breath of the wind makes me blink;
the frigid air rips at my lungs. The fjord is frozen; the trees are silver
splinters. It is almost dark, though the day is hardly half way through.
I was travelling through northern lands, compelled by the endless
indeterminacy of a myth: the land of Thule - the most northerly place in
the ancient world.
Before the regions north of Britain were mapped, there was a dream of a
silent place, a land near a frozen ocean. Thule was seen once and never
found again. It became a mystery, an Arctic Atlantis.
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Top Customer Reviews
Kavenna writes engagingly and combines her scholarly treatment of the development of the myth of Thule with a novelist's sense of place and plot. Aspects of the book reminded me of Peter Hoeg's "Miss Smilla's Feeling For Snow", not so much for the snow and ice or even the location of Greenland's Thule Air Base but for the sense of atmosphere when Kavenna meets an eccentric scientist in Hampstead which is very reminiscent of Miss Smilla's encounter with Andreas Fine Licht.
If I have one criticism it is that, at times, it seems as if Kavenna has stretched a concept beyond its natural limits in order to write a full-length book. At least two of the countries visited could not have been Thule because Pytheas could not have reached them in four days from Britain. The chapter on Estonia, however well written, is, as Kavenna is only too aware, a dead-end and other chapters focusing on the Nazi fetish for an Aryan northern identity have little if anything to do with the location of the land itself. However, these chapters are best justified, I think, as an explanation of the pollution of myth for political purpose. The book concludes under the shadow of a threat greater than that facing the world in the 1930sh, namely how man's ambivalent relationship with the world has led to the prospect of irreversible damage. While not making light of this threat, Kavenna's description of the beautiful icy wilderness provides ample inspiration to save it.
Like so much travel writing, 'The Ice Museum' is more of a journey about an idea than just a place - very much in the tradition of Chatwin or Thubron.
Kavenna is fascinated by the mythical nation of Thule, first described by the Greek Explorer Pytheas. Thule was a northern land, where the sun never sat and where sailing one day to the north took you to where the sea was frozen. The author is tired of living in London, feels the need to escape and decides to follow her fascination of the north and the legend of Thule.
Kavenna journeys to the many places that have been identified as Thule, the North of Scotland and the Shetlands, Nansen the explorer's Norway, perhaps more predictably Iceland and Greenland but also to Estonia and to Berlin where the founder of the early 20th century Thule society claimed to have been the first Nazi, Thule representing the purity of the Aryan race.
We meet some fascinating characters. We follow the lives of some of the great Arctic explorers, meet staff who remember the Nazis in Berlin, the first President of independent Estonia who used Thule as a metaphor for a Soviet Free Estonia. We meet those who inhabit some of the most northern settlements and learn about their constant struggle to survive. And we visit the US airbase on Thule in Greenland and also some of the Inuits who were moved into further, inhospitable lands, to make way for the airmen.Read more ›
Engaging sharing the awe and wonder of the north
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is one of the most irritating books I have ever read. I was always taught that if you can't say anything nice about something or someone, say nothing - so I can only agree... Read morePublished on 17 Nov. 2010 by David Renwick Grant
My friend gave me The Ice Museum as a present last year, and I loved it - it is a very beautiful, poetic account of travelling in the north, and I very much enjoyed the portraits... Read morePublished on 11 Jun. 2007 by Kirsti
Kavenna's book has been almost consistently hailed as a major work of its kind. I strongly disagree and would argue that it is marred by embarrassingly stereotyped observations and... Read morePublished on 19 April 2007 by Peter Fjagesund
This book is absolutely fantastic. I could not stop reading it. The descriptions of the various places visited are highly atmospheric and compelling. Read morePublished on 6 Mar. 2005
This is a truly stunning book. It tells the story of a voyage to the far North, and cleverly yet unobtrusively mixes travel writing with adventure, history, and memoir. Read morePublished on 27 Feb. 2005