SI­LENCE IN THE AGE OF NOISE

ERLING KAGGE

Trail (UK) - - Base Camp - Pb Penguin/Vik­ing Re­view by Si­mon In­gram

Erling Kagge prob­a­bly isn‘t as fa­mous here as he should be, but you get the sense he prob­a­bly doesn‘t care. A Nor­we­gian, he was the first in his­tory to reach the ‘three poles‘ – that is to say Ever­est, the North and South Poles – and once spent 50 days in to­tal si­lence dur­ing a solo po­lar trek with his ra­dio bro­ken. In this beau­ti­ful lit­tle book, he med­i­tates on si­lence as a con­cept: why we need it, why you should want it and why we‘re los­ing it. Cen­tral is Kagge’s take on what he calls the age of noise: to­day’s nor­mal life, a time of con­stant dis­trac­tion, in­ter­rup­tion and oc­cu­pa­tion. It is a beau­ti­fully ren­dered rea­son­ing that me­an­ders in no small way into phi­los­o­phy, given colour and res­o­nance with the au­thor’s own rec­ol­lec­tions of the ex­plo­rations he has been a part of and the ex­pe­ri­ences that led him to write this book. Hill­walk­ers and moun­taineers will find a lot to chew on here, sim­ply by be­ing the kind of folk who purely by their choice of hobby choose to ex­tract our­selves from the melee of mod­ern liv­ing and its ad­dic­tive trap­pings. The book also dis­cusses the con­di­tion­ing of those in this world – and Kagge counts him­self as one – to ‘look cease­lessly for fresh pur­poses that draw our at­ten­tion out­wards, away from our­selves’ and be un­will­ing to sim­ply ex­ist qui­etly in one’s own com­pany; the flip­side of which Kagge calls ‘ex­pe­ri­en­tial poverty.’ His take is bang up to date – he talks of smart­phones, so­cial me­dia, dig­i­tal TV – which makes its res­o­nance more valid. And it will res­onate, who­ever you are: over 33 short chap­ters Kagge es­sen­tially tack­les the ques­tion of si­lence‘s place in the mod­ern world by ap­proach­ing it from a range of view­points and styles. His voice re­mains strong and com­pan­ion­able through­out, whether quot­ing 17th cen­tury philoso­phers, re­call­ing a mo­ment on his Antarc­tic cross­ing – "the qui­eter I be­came, the more I heard” – or his at­tempts to pass on his learn­ings to his teenage daugh­ters. By turns deeply per­sonal and yet ap­pli­ca­ble to ev­ery hu­man be­ing on the planet, like si­lence it­self this is a rare and cov­etable thing: a sim­ply ex­tra­or­di­nary book any­one with a smart­phone or a so­cial me­dia ac­count would do well to read – and heed.

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