Monday, April 7, 2014

The Unromantic Side of Adventure

Last week, we discussed at length how we would find a “diary-style” book less exciting than a narrative that took liberties with the “truth.” Even after reading In the Land of White Death, I would still say that is true- I found this book less exciting than most of the other books that we have so far read for this class. However, one thing that I found successful about this style (and I acknowledge that he is clearly writing with the intent for someone else to read this, however it still has a diary feel to it) is how honestly it portrays the less than pleasant aspects of adventures. One thing that I found myself noticing when reading other books for this class, was how the less pleasant things were often glossed over, or at least that as an armchair adventurer they were easier for me to gloss over. For example, Herzog’s description of having his toes cut off was presented quite humorously, and I found myself forgetting that this was a man who was having his toes cut off and seeing them thrown off a train. I thought that Erasmus’ comment about ailments in The Voyage of the Narwhal summed this phenomenon up quite well: “unromantic ailments, never mentioned in Zeke’s tales” (66). The comment about “unromantic” stuck with me, and I thought it explained it well- you don’t talk about the unromantic side of things, and if you do, you make it funny or somehow romanticize it. In its diary-style entries however, In the Land of White Death did not gloss over the unpleasant, unromantic qualities. Though disgusting, I appreciated how Albanov included details such as how they had run out of soap “long ago” and their “faces were as filthy as [their] worn clothing” (25) and that they spent each evening picking lice out of their furs (90). While unpleasant to read, and also not the most exciting, I greatly appreciated (what felt like) the more authentic, less romanticized narrative. (I do acknowledge that, as we discussed in class, all narratives are somehow "slanted.")

1 comment:

  1. I agree with your sentiments about the authenticity of Albanov's narrative. Although I was already thoroughly entwined by the story itself, the journal quality of the writing without any embellishment seemed to make it more real and more relatable. I could literally put myself in every situation, which for me made the novel very exciting and much more exciting than it would have been had it been, as you said, a romanticized narrative.
    I had a similar experience reading Simpson's Touching the Void as the journal-like entries of that novel were very similar. In that novel, I was also very connected with the very real nature of the writing, which made me really enjoy that narrative because of the connection it gave me to the protagonists. However, in that novel, it was perhaps too effective because when Simpson first seriously damaged his knee and every time he hurt it thereafter, I would literally twinge because of how real his writing made his injury feel to me. However, that aside, it was still a great narrative, which I attribute to the authenticity of his writing.