Synopses & Reviews
An amazing journey through myth and history in search of a lost world
To the ancients, Thule was a land beyond the edge of the maps, a northerly dreamland. It was a mystery for thousands of years, long thought to be an icy Eden, a place of exquisite beauty and unequaled purity. The lost world of Thule captured the imagination of poets, artists, explorers, and, most recently, writer Joanna Kavenna, who set out on a harrowing and exhilarating voyage of discovery. Her journey took her to Shetland, Iceland, Norway, Estonia, Greenland, and Svalbard-into the Arctic wilderness, over frozen seas and ice mountains-in search of this most haunting of northern places.
As she travels, Kavenna finds traces of earlier writers and seekers: Richard Francis Burton, William Morris, Anthony Trollope, and Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen. But she comes to discover that a darkness also inhabits Thule. She finds ice-bound relics of the cold war. She unearths the story of the Thule Society, an offshoot of the Nazi party, devoted to the "purity" of the Nordic peoples. Part diary, part detective trail, The Ice Museum is a wonder voyage through landscape and myth, reminiscent of Lucy Jago's The Northern Lights and Barry Lopez's National Book Award-winning Arctic Dreams.
"The fourth-century B.C. Greek explorer Pytheas claimed to have sailed six days from Scotland and discovered a land he named Thule. From Pytheas's brief, oft-disputed account of a land of short winter days where the sea turned into a viscous mass sprang an entire mythology of a magical, northern realm hidden beyond the edges of civilization. Kavenna's discursive book takes a thoughtful stroll through the different myths of Thule, examining how it became symbolic of everything from the Victorians' lost Arcadia to a polluted fantasy of racial purity for the proto-Nazi Thule Society. Kavenna, who's written for the Guardian and other British papers, follows the mark of Thule from the beer halls of Munich to the imagined Thules of the Shetland Islands, Iceland, Greenland and beyond. While frequently rhapsodic in regard to the epic landscapes, Kavenna resists the urge to attach too much import to her travels, not forcing the mythological on the everyday (unlike many Thule hunters, including fantasist Richard Burton). Although Kavenna's voyages don't solve the mystery as such, they provide fodder for a bracing account of humankind's dream of exploration and of the explorers 'determined to discover, to shade in the blanks on the maps.'" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
A suspenseful history of a unique intersection of poetry and geography. (San Francisco Chronicle
A beautiful prose poem to an elusive idea. (Chicago Tribune)
a wonderful mixture of the exact and the fanciful (The New York Review of Books)
The author set out on a harrowing and exhilarating voyage of discovery from Shetland, Iceland, Norway, Estonia, Greenland, and Svalbard in search of this most haunting of northern places, the mysterious lost world of Thule.
A legend, a land once seen and then lost forever, Thule was a place beyond the edge of the maps, a mystery for thousands of years. And to the Nazis, Thule was an icy Eden, birthplace of Nordic purity. In this exquisitely written narrative, Joanna Kavenna wanders in search of Thule, to Shetland, Iceland, Norway, Estonia, Greenland, and Svalbard, unearthing the philosophers, poets, and explorers who claimed Thule for themselves, from Richard Francis Burton to Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen. Marked by breathtaking snowscapes, haunting literature, and the cold specter of past tragedies, this is a wondrous blend of travel writing and detective work that is impossible to set down. RVIEW: Thule, real or not, is ripe and beguiling material for a literary and geographic adventurer, and Kavenna is formidable on both fronts. . . . Highly cerebral, erudite, refreshing. (The New York Times Book Review
About the Author
Joanna Kavenna has written for The New York Review of Books, The Observer, The Daily Telegraph, The London Review of Books, The Guardian, and The Times Literary Supplement, among other publications. She currently holds a writing fellowship at St. John’s College, Cambridge.