This little, just barely 135 pages strong book is one of the best books I´ve discovered in recent years. It is so touching and so lovely, so short-whiled and so gripping: It enables the reader to dream himself or herself away, makes you laugh out loud, makes you wonder – but it always makes you wanting to tun over to the next page, to the next island …
In this, the idea of writing a book about the fifty remotest islands of the Earth is a wonderful concept of its own. But it was the foreword that got me really into it and touched me deeply in my heart. German author Judith Schalansky, born 1980 in the Eastern Germany of the GDR, tells her story on how fascinated she became by atlases as a child. Knowing that she´d never be able to visit all these place, let alone a neighbouring country like Denmark or France, the atlas became a tool for dreaming. I was born in 1979. As well in the GDR, fully aware of the fact that we would never leave our small sphere. I know exactly what she was writing about – and was suddenly fully aware of the emotional extent of this book. Just wow!
What a lovely book – what a great adventure reading it!
Judith Schalansky allocated the subtitle: “50 islands I have never sat foot on. And never will.” A ingenious idea: On just one single page per island, painstakingly researched information and trivia to the islands, she tells a short, very short story for each island. Sometimes it´s the main geographical aspect of the island – like Volcanoes; sometimes cultural and historic aspects – like the descendants of Fletcher Christian of the BOUNTY on Pitcairn and sometimes it´s just a random, seemingly unspectacular fact, blossomed to prosaic height by Judith, characterizing the island best – like the mystical deaths of newborn children on St. Mary.
On the opposite page a nice drawing of the island, surrounded by pale blue water gives an impression of each. The peaks, the mountains, the bays and cowes, the small rivers and big vulcanos. The whole design, the feel of the surface, the smell of the high-class print makes reading about each island feel like being part of an expedition. Each page turned is a new adventure, each island visited is different from the one before. One can easily read through this book in a matter of hours – but one can come back to it and still find something new to enjoy.
The art of cartography/dreaming
This book is a marvel. The underlining idea and concept is just a masterpiece of journalism paired with the author´s ability to form sentences which are pure joy to read. She provides the reader with a journey, one thinks to be able to smell the salty air, feel the cold spray of icy water in one´s face or the burning sensation of a hot Equator´s sun on one´s arm.
This is the perfect gift to a sailor, a worthwhile read and truly a matter of transportation to boost one´s dreams. Reading this book brings together all the things I love about sailing: History, culture, ships and the sheer never ending variety of nature´s game. It also reminds me of the fact that there is so much out there to be re-discovered, to be experienced. What a wonderful little gem this book is!
You may also like to read these book reviews:
“Longitude” by Dava Scobel – how we learned to navigate precisely
“The Strange Voyage of Donald Crowhurst” – a must read!
Movie review: “Black Sails”: Pirates, Passion & Poetry