Skip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.
Edit
Review: 'Skiing Into the Bright Open,' by Liv Arnesen, translated from the Norwegian by Roland Huntford
AP

Review: 'Skiing Into the Bright Open,' by Liv Arnesen, translated from the Norwegian by Roland Huntford

  • 0
{{featured_button_text}}
"Skiing Into the Bright Open," by Liv Arnesen, translated from the Norwegian by Roland Huntford.

"Skiing Into the Bright Open," by Liv Arnesen, translated from the Norwegian by Roland Huntford. (University of Minnesota Press/TNS)

NONFICTION: Liv Arnesen recounts her 1994 solo journey to the South Pole.

"Skiing Into the Bright Open" by Liv Arnesen, translated from the Norwegian by Roland Huntford; University of Minnesota Press (208 pages, $21.95)

———

There's something wonderfully perplexing about Norwegian adventurer Liv Arnesen's account of her solo ski journey to the South Pole. She did this in 1994, the first woman to do the trek unsupported. Her memoir, "Skiing Into the Bright Open," finally has been translated to English.

Amid sundry accounts of other great polar achievements, overwhelmingly by men, Arnesen tells her story almost effortlessly, even chummily, sidestepping the usual tone of turmoil.

It's as if she trusts a reader to grasp that, yes, skiing alone for 50 days in subzero cold is one of most difficult ventures on Earth. There, that's settled.

Instead of dwelling on tortuous meal prep, blinding landscapes and endless sastrugi (waves of snow), she tells us what she thought about while skiing. For example, "I often wondered what I would be when I grew up." (She is a wonderfully droll writer; she was 41 at the time.)

She recited a particular Norwegian poem as a mantra. She acknowledged having a religious experience, but only if religion "means leading people back into contact with their origins."

In perhaps an unintentional explanation for the book's tone, she described research by the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences. The blood of people who seek challenges that boggle mere humans contains extremely low levels of an enzyme that regulates the effects of stress on mental activity.

Because they don't feel stress as others do, they seek danger because they honestly enjoy the sensory stimulation. This desire is largely hereditary, but a challenging environment also plays a role. In other words, Arnesen noted with a conciliatory wink, "Norwegians have a clear advantage."

Arnesen's name may be familiar to Minnesotans because of her partnership with Arctic explorer Ann Bancroft, who grew up in St. Paul, and who wrote the book's foreword. In 2001, they were the first women to sail and ski across Antarctica, and continue to work together on various projects.

Arnesen's documented tenacity is what may leave some female readers feeling slightly perplexed, given the generous and genial tone of this memoir: Compared with accounts by such legends as Roald Amundsen, Robert Scott and Ernest Shackleton, Arnesen's story is not so much feminist as almost feminine. The book concludes with a six-page list of people who contributed to her success, from vice consuls and sleeping bag designers to Helge Hoflandsdal, "a helpful man at Asnes."

No doubt, she did benefit from all, but the root of Arnesen's success lies in a mind-set that eschews the macho and a fascination with what people can accomplish when taken up by an idea.

Steeped in the sufferings of the old polar explorers, she "was prepared for my own expedition to turn out just as badly," she wrote. "But on several occasions I had to stop and say to myself, 'But now I'm here and it's — quite fantastic!' "

———

Kim Ode is a writer in the Twin Cities and a former Star Tribune features writer.

0
0
0
0
0

Stay up-to-date on what's happening

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Most Popular

NONFICTION: An ornery, broken-down, used-up man and an ornery, broken-down, used-up dog find each other. "The Speckled Beauty" by Rick Bragg; Alfred A. Knopf (238 pages, $26) ——— Those of us with city dogs (what Rick Bragg calls "fancy dog people") might be aghast to read about the life of Speck, the rambunctious, mostly untrained, free-ranging and always-spoiling-for-a-fight rescue dog that ...

"Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol," a series that premiered on Peacock last week featuring ace symbologist Robert Langdon, represents another high point in the lucrative career of one of the bestselling mystery authors of all time. But it also serves as a clue in someone else's quest — that of his ex-wife, Blythe Brown. The show is among several projects embroiled in a court battle over the ...

Her new book, "The Beatryce Prophecy," sprang from a rediscovered draft that she had abandoned after the death of her beloved mother. MINNEAPOLIS — In August 2018, Kate DiCamillo was in the office of her Minneapolis home, sorting through a decade's worth of old papers and manuscripts, when she happened upon a stunning discovery — the first 40 pages of a long-abandoned, long-forgotten novel. ...

FICTION: A deeply moving story about an astrobiologist and his young son, anguished by the state of the planet. "Bewilderment" by Richard Powers; W.W. Norton (288 pages, $27.95) ——— As he did in his Pulitzer Prize-winning "The Overstory" — which the Financial Times called a "Great American Eco-Novel" — Richard Powers takes up the life of the natural world and its suffering at human hands in ...

"Inside Comedy: The Soul, Wit, and Bite of Comedy and Comedians of the Last Five Decades" by David Steinberg; Knopf (352 pages, $30) ——— Think of your favorite comic and your mind will likely not conjure the image of David Steinberg. There are many lists that exist ranking the “greatest” comedians of all time. Many of these have Richard Pryor as their No. 1. He was a close friend of Steinberg, ...

Here are the bestsellers for the week that ended Saturday, Sept. 11, compiled from data from independent and chain bookstores, book wholesalers and independent distributors nationwide, powered by NPD BookScan © 2021 NPD Group. (Reprinted from Publishers Weekly, published by PWxyz LLC. © 2021, PWxyz LLC.) HARDCOVER FICTION 1. Beautiful World, Where Are You. Sally Rooney. FSG 2. Forgotten in ...

MIAMI — When South Florida writer Brad Meltzer learned that a Pennsylvania school board had banned his books “I am Rosa Parks” and “I am Martin Luther King, Jr.,” he knew he couldn’t ignore it. “If you’re taking the lessons of Rosa Parks, you have to fight back,” said the creator of the Ordinary People Change the World series, which profiles historic figures including Abraham Lincoln, Frida ...

NONFICTION: A timely chance to think about freedom not as a state but a practice. "On Freedom" by Maggie Nelson; Graywolf Press (288 pages, $27) ——— Given that Maggie Nelson is known for expanding categories and defying the expectations of genre, it's little wonder, perhaps, that her latest book, the subtle yet wide-ranging "On Freedom: Four Songs of Care and Constraint," would take as its ...

FICTION: The second novel in Sarah Stonich's planned trilogy tells a tender tale of fishing, fresh air and grief. "Reeling" by Sarah Stonich; University of Minnesota Press (276 pages, $15.95) ——— After reading a Sarah Stonich novel, I want to go fishing. I want to sit in a boat at dawn and plop a surface Rapala between fallen logs and reel it in across calm water. In her latest novel, "Reeling" ...

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.

Topics

News Alerts

Breaking News

Breaking News (FlagLive!)