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Kabloona: Among the Inuit (Graywolf Rediscovery) Paperback – September 1, 1996

4.8 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

In this 1941 volume De Poncins relates his 15 months spent among the Inuit people of the Arctic. He is initially appalled at their uncivilized lifestyle but eventually morphs from a "Kabloona" (a white man) to an Eskimo. A good volume for public and academic sociology collections.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From The New Yorker

No other book about the Far North is written with so much sympathy, vividness and dramatic imagination.

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Product Details

  • Series: Graywolf Rediscovery
  • Paperback: 362 pages
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press (September 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1555972497
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555972493
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,617,885 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By TERRY R. OBRIEN on December 3, 2004
Format: Paperback
I looked up at the bookshelf over my computer and spotted the battered 1941 edition of Kabloona that has been in my family for 40 years since I first read it in the village of Coppermine (now Kugluktuk) when I was a 12 year old boy in 1961. I decided to do an AMAZON.com search to see if anyone else knew of this marvel that had so enchanted me as a child, and found the site you are now visiting.

We were much more civilized in the Coppermine of 1961 than the same village the author had visited 20 years earlier. We had electricity, and communication with the outside world by a Morse code key at the Department of Transport office, plus we had a scheduled visit by a single-engine Otter every two weeks. It was a magical time for me (adults found it a difficult time, but they simply did not understand things)

The book Kabloona gave me insight into the minds of the people around me. We were a community of 200 Inuit (Eskimos) and 35 whites. The whites had as many of the amenities of civilization as they could garner, but the Inuit lived much as described in De Poncin's book.

I was enthralled by the awesome hunters with their dog sleds and their magnificent huskies, not show dogs or racing dogs, but working dogs that made the difference between life and death. The men would bring back the carcasses of seal and caribou, and the furs they had trapped. The women sewed the furs into beautiful garments that kept man, woman and child warm in intolerably hard winters. It was also the women's job to butcher the carcasses, which they did with incredible speed and skill using only the ulu, or woman's knife. I regularly witnessed the activities of this way of life. De Poncin described all this in his book, but he also gave me insight into the underlying culture I was immersed in.
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Format: Paperback
My good friend and I were talking a while back after I had watched the movie The Fast Runner, which he had recommended. Talk got around to my deciding to send him my old childhood copy (out of print, I believe) of Peter Freuchen's Book of the Eskimos, and his deciding to send me his old childhood copy of Kabloona. Neither of us had ever heard of the other's book. I must say, as much as I've always liked Freuchen, I got the better of the deal!

What a wonderful book. So well written, such nice storytelling, so enjoyable, refreshingly honest, and unexpectedly insightful. It is haunting. It really is in a class by itself, although I have trouble putting my finger on exactly why this is so. All I know is that I did not want it to end, as I'm sure the author did not want his time in the North to end. And, like him, I don't think it will be the same if I go back and try it again. And I know I also had a strange feeling throughout which only later I identified as a form of envy, envy for the experiences this man had and for his ability to experience them so deeply. I've seldom felt envy mixed with awe and admiration like this before.

Of all the book, I was most deeply moved by his account of the priest out in the middle of nowhere who had survived and kept warm in incredible cold merely through the power of faith and prayer. Humbling.

A man comes out of nowhere, lives these experiences, writes this incredible book, and disappears back into nowhere. Amazing. Read it.
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Format: Paperback
Gontran de Poncins's "Kabloona" is a classic of Arctic adventure, to be ranked alongside Farley Mowat's "People of the Deer," Harold Horwood's "White Eskimo" and parts of Peter Freuchen's "Vagrant Viking." A French aristocrat with a genuine yearning for adventure, de Poncins made his way to North America just prior to the last war. By stages, he managed to go right up into latter day Nunavut, some of the highest inhabited Arctic territory in Canada's north. Yet he didn't stop there. Putting himself into the hands of an Eskimo hunter who happened to be heading off onto the sea ice, he underwent an extraordinary odyssey lasting the winter through, in which he camped with the Eskimos in their winter igloos.
de Poncins takes us into the very private, very communal world of these northern people. Private because, for Europeans, entering this strangely illuminated landscape was even then almost an impossibility. de Poncins admits that his initial impression was overshadowed by the nausea which sprang immediately into being as he tried to deal with the strange mixture of smells in the igloos. Most Europeans would not pass that first test and many an estimate of Eskimo culture has been biased by just such an affront to a sensitive olfactory centre. Yet once he had passed this initial barrier, a process which he says took some time, he found himself in a world unlike any other he had experienced or imagined. It is into this ageless community that he takes us for a very privileged glimpse of the last of the true ice-dwellers.
Although a French national, de Poncins chose to remain in North America and he wrote his text about the Inuit in English, in collaboration with a friend. Not much is known about the author's life thereafter, as he did not publish much other work, but like G. B. Edwards's solitary yet wonderful book about life on Guernsey, "The Book of Ebenezer Le Page," this one book by de Poncins is a major accomplishment.
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Format: Paperback
It's been years since I read "Kabloona" by gontran de poncins. I don't remember the specifics of the book (I'm going to read it again, soon). What I do remember is the lingering humanity of the people. The hard life they lived. The culture shock between my life and theirs. I remember the mirror they held before me, forcing me to question our idea of "progress," "civility," and "modern man". Books such as "Kabloona" and "Black Elk Speaks" by John G. Neihardt and "Mutant Message" by Marlo Morgan tells us more about our roots as a species than many of the great thinkers and philosphers who speak in the abstract and grandeur of modern man. You read a book like this and you must pause and reflect, look deeper into yourself and the rushing stream you were born into. Step back and look at life from a different perspective. It can be life-altering or at the very least a stunning revelation.
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