A sharply observed, occasionally overwritten collection of essays on the interrelationships of man and nature, of soul and place.
Born in Britain and raised in Canada, Hoffman now lives in and often writes of the Balkans, near the Prespa Lakes, a region of natural splendor and deep political divisions. He and his partner “were led to this Greek village by a book. Having read a glowing review of it in a bird-watching magazine, we bought the book on the off chance that we might someday visit the region it described. But it took only a single evening of leafing through its pages, reading passages aloud, and looking at photographs to reach a decision of far greater import…it captivated us from the start.” An impetuous romantic, the author also came to love that particular place, and here, he shares that love, as well as his love of books about places, for he seems to connect with nature from a particularly literary perspective. He writes of “the resonance of place,” “the environmental vicissitudes of place,” and the feeling that “there are no clean, easy lines that connect ourselves to a place, as if we were joining up a question with its answer in a beginner’s language book.” More compelling than such grand pronouncements and conceptual conceits are the specifics of experience and detail, the wonder Hoffman finds in this seemingly insignificant woods, in the cry of this bird or the stateliness of that tree, and the exhilaration he feels as he experiences life as part of the natural world: “The places where I can look up or out, either at the vast ceiling of cloud and sky, or the disappearing horizon, and feel more or less the same thing: the inconsequential scale of our lives. Paradoxically, it is in those places that I feel most alive, experiencing a wild and shuddering depth to existence.”
A deeply felt book that will lead readers to other books that inspired it.