THE TERRORS OF ICE AND DARKNESS by Christoph Ransmayr

THE TERRORS OF ICE AND DARKNESS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Ransmayr's first novel, originally published in 1984 in Germany, is released now in the US after his second novel and American debut, The Last World (1990). As in The Last World, Ransmayr here depicts a journey to the edge of the known globe. Where Last World took the form of a search for Ovid out into the hinterlands of classical civilization, Terrors follows a narrator to the North Pole, the last unconquered territory of 20th-century exploration. Ransmayr's narrator becomes fascinated with Josef Mazzini, a missing author who enjoys ``playing a game with reality'' in his writing: after he has written an adventure story, he does historical research to see whether it has a precedent, convinced that whatever he fantasizes about must have happened in the past. Mazzini has become obsessed with the North Pole and seems to have found ``proof'' of his fantasy of an exploration there in the Austro-Hungarian North Pole Expedition of 1872. Absorbed by a journal from the 1872 adventure, Mazzini sets out for the region himself, never to return. Perplexed by the disappearance of Mazzini, Ransmayr's narrator is drawn into the lore of North Pole expeditions. Unfortunately, neither Mazzini nor his overseeing narrator actually does much above the level of extended musings and historical homework. Of course the trip Mazzini makes is primarily a psychological one, but his personality, along with that of the narrator, is so thinly defined that Terrors fails to charge up a sustained inquiry into a complex psychic state. For all the internal gadgetry, Ransmayr's story fails to circumnavigate a single, compelling character. In the end, a chilly academic exercise.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-8021-1152-1
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Grove
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1991