There's an almost Oriental strain in some modern German art (literature, film, painting) that's fascinated by (and presumably extracting a lesson from) physical exaggeration or diminution, the idiotic or synesthetic or the null--the Kaspar Hauser story, The Tin Drum, the recent Perfume, and here: Nadolny's fictional re-narration of the life of 19th-century English Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin, a man Nadolny portrays as a sort of metabolic throwback to Eden's unhurry, someone who simply lived more slowly and fractionally than everyone else. Whether on board a ship or in bed (""In her armpits, fine, delicate little hairs shimmered in the light. That down had the strongest effect; it did much for John. Big things were set in motion. 'I feel like a sine curve; everything is constantly rising'""), Franklin sees the details in the world as enormous--allowing a special dispensation to take everything in with unreal dispassion. Battles and heroisms and braveries swirl about Franklin, yet he is largely untouched; the book's last sections--Franklin in the Arctic--finally find a corollary landscape to the man's glacial dignity--and it's here that Nadolny's book takes on interest (but then it's the rare Arctic narrative that doesn't). Self-consciously stately to a fault, Nadoiny's effort comes off as more intellectual willfulness than fictive vigor--and, in passing, it's another example of the slightly creepy contemporary German celebration of anti-sensation, the near-anesthetic.