Books

Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

The Terrors of Ice and Darkness

by Christoph Ransmayr

“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

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 240
  • Publication Date June 17, 1996
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-3459-2
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $12.00

About The Book

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.

Tags Literary

Praise

“[Ransmayr’s] handling of the archives and his narrative of the polar expedition, his vivid description of the Arctic itself, might easily have come from a good imaginative historian: a Barbara Tuchman, say, or a J.C. Beaglehole. As a result, this is to some extent a book of information about difficult travel in one of the bleakest places on earth. . . . Most important of all, the novelist strips away the spurious glamour that usually attaches itself to the idea of hard traveling.”—New York Times Book Review

“Ransmayr has taken a sort of speculative freedom that a more traditional narrative might not allow. If we do not—cannot, perhaps—have the interior life of the commanders and crew, we receive by way of balance an elaborate and frequently lyrical meditation on the metaphysics of exploration.”—Times Literary Supplement (London)

“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 wil

d.”—Los Angeles Times

“A rousing trek to the Arctic, [The Terrors of Ice and Darkness] is also a subversive speculation—philosophical, psychological, and linguistic—on nature’s (and man’s) icy heart of darkness.”—The Boston Phoenix

“A nameless and largely invisible narrator recounts the 1981 disappearance of one Josef Mazzini, whose fascination with a 19th-century polar expedition has pulled him north, to the furthest arctic settlements. Accounts of the two journeys intersect and diverge, challenging the notion of history as linear, seducing the reader with startlingly detailed descriptions of polar exploration. . . . This aggressively intelligent narrative transforms the polar regions into unusually fertile ground.”—Publishers Weekly

“Fascinating, consummately crafted . . . Ransmayr’s language is every bit as artful as [Michael] Ondaatje’s, and he has a firmer grasp of narrative suspense. Best of all, he has latched onto a story device that catches the reader right up in his Arctic obsessions. . . . The terror and the lure of the Arctic become one and the same thing in his hands. He conjures them up in their full, seductive glory.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“A brilliant interweaving of journeys and voyages . . . Spellbinding and paradoxical in its subversive undermining of conventional notions of heroism and exploration.”—Bookwatch

“One of the German language’s most gifted young novelists.”—Library Journal