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Brother in Ice

by Alicia Kopf

A quirky and ambiguous book, which I enjoyed more than I thought I would. There is no conventional story: just notes about ice, Iceland and polar expeditions (which I like a lot), thoughts about the burden of family (her autistic brother), and diary excerpts about artwork and teaching. And of course her relationships with a boyfriend, her psychotherapist and others. Alicia herself stays elusive. Try this book and take tiny morsels at a time.

Extract

I often find myself getting stuck in this project. I see nothing before me, just white. Yet beneath it there are many things. The shrieking of seals. Was it the poles I wanted to talk about? Or is it just the image of the snow that fascinates me? Instability confusion, cold (it's hot), determination. Sensations that were the constant companions of the polar explorers, as well as those of us who work with the blank white page. Because I'm not interested in the polar explorers in and of themselves, but rather in the idea of investigation, of seeking out something in an unstable space. I'd like to talk about all that as a metaphor, because what interests me is the possibility of an epic, a new epic, without foes or enemies; an epic involving oneself and an idea. Like the epic that artists and writers undertake.
Some mountaineers have reached their highest peaks after a severe personal crisis, when they found themselves stuck at a dead end. That reminds me of the epic of remaining in the place where we are and enduring what life has dealt us. Yes, that is also epic: not fleeing but staying put -
Translated by Mara Faye Lethem

Parallels

Autonauts of the Cosmoroute by Julio Cortazar
Coffee and Cigarettes - the film
The Rifles by William Vollmann
 

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