Yuri Rytkheu: Сон в начале тумана (A Dream in Polar Fog)

The latest addition to my website is Yuri Rytkheu‘s Сон в начале тумана (A Dream in Polar Fog). Rytkheu is from Chukotka, the far north-eastern part of Russia. The novel opens in 1910. A ship is trapped in the ice and they try to use explosives to free themselves. John MacLennan, a Canadian, is injured and has to be taken overland to a doctor. However, a nearby tribe has a native doctor who cures his gangrene but when they return the ship has managed to free itself and left. John has to overwinter but is so impressed with the Chukchi way of life, he decides to say there. We follow his life there with problems, tragedies, disasters and, above all the threat to their way of life from whites, with their wholesale destruction of the animals, and, towards the end, the hunt for gold and the Bolshevik Revolution. Rytkheu tells an excellent story, sympathetic, of course, to the Chukchi way of life but showing their faults as well.

Christoph Ransmayr: Die Schrecken des Eises und der Finsternis (The Terrors of Ice and Darkness)

The latest addition to my website is Christoph Ransmayr‘s Die Schrecken des Eises und der Finsternis (The Terrors of Ice and Darkness). The book is about Arctic exploration and tells the story of several actual historical expeditions, including, in particular, the Austro-Hungarian North Pole expedition. It also recounts the story of the fictitious half-Austrian, half-Italian, Josef Mazzini who is determined to follow in the footsteps of the Austro-Hungarian North Pole expedition in the contemporary period. We know from the beginning of the book that he does not succeed while the Austro-Hungarian North Pole expedition does. I found the stories of the historical expeditions – others are recounted in less detail – more interesting than Mazzini’s story, even if his obsession, which matches that of the leaders of the previous ones, is interesting. Incidentally, Ransmayr is not the only German-speaking novelist to write about the Arctic. Sten Nadolny‘s Die Entdeckung der Langsamkeit (The Discovery of Slowness) is about the Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin.