An entertaining and informative voyage through cultural fantasies of the North, from sea monsters and a mountain-sized magnet to racist mythmaking
People have perennially projected their fantasies onto the North as a frozen no-man’s-land full of marauding Vikings or as the unspoiled landscape of a purer, more elemental form of life.
Bernd Brunner recovers the encounters of adventurers with its dramatic vistas, fierce weather, exotic treasures and indigenous peoples—and with the literary sagas that seemed to offer an alternate (“whiter” and “superior”) cultural origin story to those of decadent Greece or Rome, and the moralistic “Semitic” Bible. The Left has idealised Scandinavian social democracy. The Right borrows from a long history of crackpot theories of Northern origins. Nordic phenotypes characterised eugenics, which in turn influenced America’s limits on immigration.
The North, Brunner argues, was as much invented as discovered. A valuable contribution to intellectual history, full of vivid documentation, Extreme North is an enlightening journey through a place that is real, but also, in fascinating and very disturbing ways, imaginary.