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Travelling Passions
Stefansson, the Arctic Explorer
Gísli Pálsson




Dartmouth College Press
2005 • 396 pp. 146 illus. 6 x 9"
Biography / Anthropology


$35.00 Hardcover, 978-1-58465-510-7

For sale in the US and its dependencies only


“Much has been written before about Stefansson’s life, but Pálsson’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.” —Ólafur Rastrick, Saga

The new biography of Iceland’s famed explorer and anthropologist.

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 Gísli Pálsson to retell Stefansson’s story. Love letters between Stefansson and his fiancée 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 Pálsson 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 Pálsson 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, Gísli Pálsson 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.

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Reviews:

Pálsson's book is very well-researched . . . an excellent read from start to finish." Polar Record

"The book is meticulously and thoroughly researched. Palsson was able to examine hundreds of Stefansson's private letters, and he conducted interviews with people who either knew or knew quite a bit about Stefansson, visited many of Stefansson's old stomping grounds, and read every published and unpublished document he could find relating to his subject. In addition to a comprehensive
bibliography, the book contains interesting photographs, a chronology, and detailed citations. The author makes a considerable effort to provide contexts for the events and people he discusses . . . This is a significant contribution
to the growing literature on the private lives of anthropologists who otherwise are known to the general public only through their own writings."
Current Anthropology

Endorsements:

“Pálsson’s book is a masterpiece. It leaves the reader with sufficient space for reflection which is an important asset.”—Kristján Jóhannson, Dagblai



Author Photo

GÍSLI PÁLSSON 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 exploration, and Inuit genetic history. Among his many books is Writing on Ice: The Ethnographic Notebooks of Vilhjalmur Stefansson (UPNE, 2001).






Sun, 5 Oct 2014 14:28:47 -0500