North

Inventing the North

An icy no-man's land: from long, bright midsummer days to never-ending winter darkness. Indigenous Sami in colourful clothing pulled by reindeer sleds across the tundra. Deep-red Swedish log houses and children with straw-blonde hair. A polar bear, alone on a jagged ice floe. The North: a backdrop for our global climate challenges.

Until the modern era, perception of the North was mostly negative. The decisive turn in attitude came in the second half of the 18th century, when British, German and French writers began to take an interest in the Old Icelandic sagas, the epic of Ossian, and Viking heritage. Many Romantics turned away from sources of classical antiquity towards an indeterminate North. Also, the sublime beauty of the Scottish highlands, Iceland, and Scandinavia was recognized, helping to make these places travel destinations.

This book shows how this change in attitude played out in travel journals and writing about the North-South dichotomy. Adoration of the North and its people reached its zenith in Germany when the Nazis appropriated it for their ideology.

Inventing the North offers a wide range of encounters and storylines with a lively attention to detail, written in a compact and often surprising narrative. While this popular history of ideas focuses primarily on Scandinavia, Iceland, Scotland, and North America, it also touches on the Arctic and Russia.

250 pages, several photos and vintage illustrations.
Germany: Galiani Berlin, 2019