Books  Natural History  Biography, Exploration & Travel 

Travelling Passions: The Hidden Life of Vilhjalmur Stefansson

Biography / Memoir

By: Gisli Palsson

374 pages, b&w photos

University Press of New England

Hardback | Dec 2005 | #164642 | ISBN: 1584655100
Availability: Usually dispatched within 1 week Details
NHBS Price: £31.50 $41/€36 approx

About this book

Vilhjalmur Stefansson has long been known for his groundbreaking work as an anthropologist and expert on Arctic peoples. His three expeditions to the Canadian Arctic in the early 1900s, as well as his groundbreaking work in northern anthropology, helped create his public image as a heroic, Hemingway-esque figure in the annals of twentieth-century exploration. But the emotional and private lives of Stefansson the man have remained hidden--until now.

Much new evidence of these other lives has recently been discovered, allowing Gisli Palsson to retell Stefansson's story. Love letters between Stefansson and his fiancee Cecil Smith, forgotten for decades, turned up in a New Hampshire flea market. The clever fieldwork of a private detective and a simple Web search led Palsson to Smith's daughter by another man and her insights on Stefansson's first love. Stefansson's relationship with his informant and guide, Fanny Panigabluk, turns out to have been much more than a professional partnership: together they had a child, Alex, whose descendants Palsson interviewed in Canada's Northwest Territories. And Stefansson's field diaries are a marked contrast to his published works, revealing lengthy and elegant essays, insightful commentary on Inupiat society, and drawings. The diaries show a Stefansson who was much more than the familiar brash adventurer; he was also a careful, observant, and gifted anthropologist. Above all, Vilhjalmur Stefansson was a study in contrasts.

In this remarkable new work, Gisli Palsson draws a clear, vivid, and in many ways unexpected, picture of the mythical Stefansson, while remaining careful not to apply modern sensibilities to the life and motivations of a man from such a different time. Travelling Passions is translated for the first time from the bestselling Icelandic-language edition.

Much has been written before about Stefansson's life, but Palsson's work places it in a new context... The outcome is much more than an account of the life history of this 'famous Icelander,' it becomes a contribution to the complex history of the exchanges between Western masculinity and colonial power with the cultural and natural environment of northern regions. - Olafur Rastrick, Saga "Palsson's book is a masterpiece. It leaves the reader with sufficient space for reflection which is an important asset." - Kristjan Johannson, Dagblai"

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GISLI PALSSON is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Iceland and formerly was Professor at the University of Oslo. His research focuses on environmental change, the social implications of biotechnology, Arctic expicration, and inuit genetic history. Among his many books is Writing on Ice: The Ethnographic Notebooks of Vilhjalmur Stefansson (UPNE, 2001).

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