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Pocket Atlas of Remote Islands: Fifty Islands I Have Not Visited and Never Will Flexibound – November 12, 2014
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"(a) cartographical gem" -The Wall Street Journal - Great New (Armchair) Travel Reads
"This beautifully illustrated atlas reveals that cartography and the creative imagination have always intersected, spurred on by human wanderlust."-NPR's 2010 Favorites pick
"...absolutely magical." -Conde Nast Traveler- CNTraveler.com
"An utterly exquisite object: atlas as Wunderkammer and bestiary, bound in black cloth and sea-blue card...makes a magnificent case for the atlas to be recognised as literature, worthy of its original name - theatrum orbis terrarum, "the theatre of the world". -Robert Macfarlane, The Guardian (UK)
"'Paradise is an island. So is hell.' Or so says Judith Schalansky in the introduction to her charming, spooky and splendid Atlas of Remote Islands."-The New Yorker's Book Bench
"The first five times (or so) that I paged through the Atlas of Remote Islands: Fifty Islands I Have Never Set Foot On and Never Will, I fell deeply in love with the book... Each of author and artist Judith Schalansky's maps--hand-drawn in shades of gray, black, white, and brilliant orange on cadet blue paper--transported me to a, usually, remote island..." -NationalGeographic.com
"Last night I devoured the most beautiful book... It's wonderful: it's like Borges' eccentric encyclopedias. It is, in a word, great."-Caustic Cover Critic blog
About the Author
Judith Schalansky was born in 1980 in Greifswald near the Baltic Sea. She studied Art History and Communication Design and works and as a freelance writer, editor and book designer in Berlin. Her book Atlas of Remote Islands was the winner of the prize for the most beautiful German book of the year in 2009. In 2012 she won the same prize for her novel The Giraffe’s Neck (Bloomsbury 2014). Her books have been translated into more than 20 languages. The asteroid 95247 Schalansky was named after her in 2011.
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Some of those texts deal with one or more aspects of history (for example, Napoleon's death on St. Helena). Others, relating to islands that are indigenously inhabited, are anthropological in nature. Some of the texts are imaginative, poetic descriptions of the island (author Judith Schalansky, per the cover of the book, has never visited any of the fifty islands). And some contain stories that are mysterious and otherworldly -- as odd as anything on "The Twilight Zone" (or whatever might be an analog from the last forty years of television, about which I am blissfully ignorant).
I strongly suspect, however, that these texts are not factually reliable, and I doubt that Schalansky intended them to be so. A post-modern aura pervades the book. For example, in her Preface (entitled "Paradise is an island. So is hell."), Schalansky writes, "Only when a place has been precisely located and measured can it be actual and real. Every map is the result and the exercise of colonial violence." Sorry, I am too old for that. And that postmodernism extends to a cavalier disregard for scrupling between fact and fiction: "What is unique about these tales is that fact and fiction can no longer be separated: fact is fictionalized, and fiction is turned to fact." Thus, one must read Schalansky's tales with the same attitude as one reads Defoe's "Robinson Crusoe" -- an exotic tale that may be loosely based on fact. (The loose factual underpinnings for "Robinson Crusoe" were the four years a Scottish sailor named Alexander Selkirk spent marooned on the uninhabited island Más a Tierra; fittingly, Más a Tierra, since re-named Robinson Crusoe, is one of the fifty islands in the book.)
I nonetheless assume that the basic information for each island, as contained on the first page devoted to that island, is accurate. If indeed that is the case, nineteen of the fifty islands are uninhabited. One island (Tromelin, in the Indian Ocean) has only four residents. Another (Bear Island, in the Arctic Ocean) has nine. The island with the largest population, 6,804, is Brava (in Cape Verde in the eastern Atlantic). The most recently discovered, by an Austro-Hungarian North Pole expedition in 1874, is Rudolf Island in the Arctic Ocean.
Perhaps the most striking thing about POCKET ATLAS OF REMOTE ISLANDS is its design. Author Schalansky (she was born in East Germany, by the way) is a trained graphic designer, and the original German edition of the book won the annual award of the German Arts Foundation for the most beautiful book of 2009. In addition to ordinary black type on a cream-colored page the book also employs the colors orange and turquoise. There is no e-book edition (it is hard to conceive how there could be one), and the paper edition -- whether hardcover, paperback, or "flexibound" -- will surely be one of the most attractive books in your library.