Scan­di­na­vians: In Search of the Soul of the North

Robert Fer­gu­son

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews Adult Nonfiction / Comics & Graphic Novels -

The Over­look Press Hard­cover $35 (448pp) 978-1-4683-1482-3

Scan­di­na­vians en­gages with the ex­plorer’s spirit that still sheaths the north lands in ro­mance.

Robert Fer­gu­son’s Scan­di­na­vians is a work that is cer­tain to de­light cu­ri­ous ad­ven­tur­ers as it cap­tures rich cul­tural his­to­ries with in­fec­tious aplomb.

Over drinks with a new friend, Robert Fer­gu­son dis­closes that he in­tends to jour­ney across Scan­di­navia, end­ing in the heart of its melan­choly. His du­bi­ous table­mate won­ders how he’s so cer­tain that he’ll find the land’s spirit in such a spe­cific di­rec­tion. Though Fer­gu­son seems some­what im­per­vi­ous to the cri­tique at the time, that ex­change comes to char­ac­ter­ize his book: he is al­ways cer­tain that, in his love for it, he un­der­stands the North; yet his trav­els in it, and in­ter­ac­tions with records of it, con­tin­u­ally re­veal some­thing new.

There’s a magic to this lengthy and un­usual text that re­sists strict cat­e­go­riza­tions. It is both a trav­el­ogue and a cul­tural his­tory, both an in­gath­er­ing of facts and an ode. Early chap­ters trace the march of Chris­tian­ity across a land once dom­i­nated by Vik­ings and myths; a mid-book break in­tro­duces a full drama, with Ib­sen tak­ing cen­ter stage. Roy­als both weak and strong take na­tions through strange his­tor­i­cal turns; vi­o­lence when norms are de­fied proves bru­tal. Re­cent acts of ter­ror­ism are here, too, but they come to feel an ab­surd fit within the land that Fer­gu­son draws out.

The sever­ity and beauty of the re­gion’s land­scapes—from long, dark winters, to strik­ing fjords that proved the per­fect trap for Nazi ships—are also teased out in the text. Fer­gu­son’s af­fec­tion for his set­ting is al­ways ap­par­ent, whether he’s snap­shot­ting his wife in a communal mo­ment atop an an­cient burial mound, or re­call­ing Den­mark’s ab­so­lute, con­ge­nial re­fusal to bend its prin­ci­ples to suit Nazi whims. Cul­tural odd­i­ties per­vade, from a doomed North Pole ex­pe­di­tion

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.