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I May Be Some Time: Ice and the English Imagination Paperback – July 30, 1999
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“. . . a high-cultural history, both passionate and intricate . . . Breathtaking.” ―The Boston Globe
“An engaging, elegant, often majestic work of cultural history.” ―The Philadelphia Inquirer
“Thoughtful, suggestive and oddly fascinating.” ―Men's Journal
From the Publisher
"Francis Spufford's account of the early expedition to the Arctic and the Antarctic...is thoughtful, suggestive and oddly fascinating." --Men's Journal
"An engaging, elegant, often majestic work of cultural history." --The Philadelphia Inquirer
"I May Be Some Time is a high-cultural history, both passionate and intricate...breathtaking" --The Boston Globe
"I May Be Some Time is a truly majestic work of scholarship, thought and literary imagination." --Jan Morris
Top Customer Reviews
Mawson, Scott, Shack, Cherry-Garrard, and Lashly. So those trudging first person narratives that caught your attention have given over to the Huntford style management critic, you got that. And here with Spufford you arrive at the analytical pole. This is not a discussion of technique nor tactics but from the South Center you can look in all directions at religion, music, poetry, myth, media; and the very power of precedence to both push and pull men.
Here is the geography that makes otherwise hard practical men simply and ultimately spiritual; the deserts frozen or not, hold horizons of nothing that fill mens' heads with everything.
Beyond this is to dream and hallucinate; try a little
Vollmann. Enjoy the ride.
PS. The last chapter of this book is worth its price; 48 pages of the best in the language on Scott and his men.
It will make you cry.
At a sublime level this book is about the power of ideas to shape imperial ambitions. Romance about the Arctic distorted perceptions both of reality in England and in the far-off lands of the North. The concept of the sublime in the works of Edmund Burke and Samuel Coleridge found themselves deployed to explain the inspiration and terror of the Arctic ice and the environment of the cold. Arctic explorers transmogrified the sublime into a nostalgic identification of the Poles with the best of the human imagination. Conquest of the Arctic in Spufford's estimation might be equated with virtue and destiny. It propelled the British Empire into an unending quest for knowledge about the Polar region.
Spufford's argument is quite useful, but it tends to downplay what I view as the critical component of English exploration of the Arctic, the quite mundane and practical desire to find a water route around the Americas to foster trade with Asia. The search for the Northwest Passage had motivated English Arctic expeditions since the sixteenth century and while imagination certainly aided in sustaining those efforts in the face of failure, there was a clearly understood and delineated rationale for undertaking them that had little to do with the sublime and philosophies. A fascinating account nonetheless, that requires serious consideration by anyone seriously interested in the history of Arctic exploration.