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BOOK LIST: Best Books Set In Antarctica by Jesse Blackadder

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Jesse Blackadder, author of 'Chasing the Light: a Novel of Antarctica' shares her favourite Antarctic books:

Kim Stanley Robinson’s 1971 novel 'Antarctica' is considered one of the most prominent far southern genre novels of recent decades, and it certainly was an early influence on me, provoking my fascination with Antarctica. Apparently an eco-thriller set in an unspecified but near future, Antarctica engaged with and challenged many of the conventions of Antarctic literature, reflecting on the glory and foolishness of the heroic era explorers, introducing other cultural perspectives through the character Ta Shu, a Chinese poet who is part of the Artists and Writers’ Programme (his poems and reflections on the feng shui of Antarctica are scattered through the text) and exploring questions of becoming indigenous to Antarctica. Among the many things happening in this novel, women play a central role throughout, working in all aspects of Antarctic life.

Elizabeth Arthur’s 1995 novel 'Antarctic Navigation' follows the journey of a woman who sets out to reenact Scott’s sledging journey to the South Pole. Like Robinson’s novel, it’s epic in nature, and powerfully elicits Antarctica, while raising fascinating and absorbing questions about the nature of life, science and reality. I still can’t believe that I won’t meet its main character Morgan one day.

Leslie Carol Roberts has written a lyrical history of aspects of Antarctic life in her non fiction work The Entire Earth and Sky, which would have been a husky’s breakfast of facts and thoughts, were it not for her skill as a poetic writer. Thanks to that, it’s a stunning meditation on the ice.

We have some fabulous Australian books of Antarctica including Robyn Mundy’s The Nature of Ice, which matches a contemporary story of a photographer in Antarctica with Mawson’s journey; Karen Vigger’s The Lightkeeper’s Wife, which weaves stories from present to past; L A Larkin’s recent thriller Thirst, Craig Cormick’s In Bed with Douglas Mawson which recounts his journey on Aurora Australis and his conversations with Mawson’s ghost, and Tom Griffith’s work of history Slicing the Silence, to name just a few.

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