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“Christoph Ransmayr has written a curious novel that conveys the distancing, the numbness, of Arctic. . . . Ransmayr’s real protagonist is obsession itself, the call of the wild.”Los Angeles Times
The Terrors of Ice and Darkness
978-0-8021-3459-2 • $12.00 • Paperback • June 1996
A brilliant interweaving of journeys and voyages—geographical, historical, psychological—The Terrors of Ice and Darkness is the riveting account of a narrator obsessed with a certain Josef Mazzini, a young Italian “lost in the arctic winter of 1981” who is himself obsessed with the Imperial Austro-Hungarian North Pole Expedition of 1873: “At first it was nothing more than a game to try to reduce the circumstances of his disappearance to some sort of explanation, any explanation. But every clue yielded a new unanswered question. Quite involuntarily I found myself taking one step after the other. . . . Cumulus clouds mirrored in a shop window became calving glaciers, patches of old snow in city parks became great floes of ice. The Arctic Ocean lay at my window. Much the same thing must have happened to Mazzini.”
Painstakingly retracing Mazzini’s steps, the narrator simultaneously reconstructs the dramatic and fantastic story of the nineteenth-century journey, using actual letters and diaries of the members of that harrowing expedition. These documents—sometimes surprisingly poetic and moving—combine in the narrator’s imagination to evoke as never before the awful beauty of the world’s farthest northern reaches.
In a novel as crystalline as the polar ice, as penetrating as the arctic cold, Christopher Ransmayr spins an adventure tale both spellbinding and paradoxical in its subversive undermining of conventional notions of heroism and exploration.