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The Idea of North


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About the Author

Peter Davidson is Fellow of Campion Hall, University of Oxford. He has taught at the universities of Aberdeen, Leiden and Warwick. He is the author of a book of essays about northern culture, Distance and Memory (2013), a collection of verse, The Palace of Oblivion (2008), and The Last of the Light: About Twilight (also from Reaktion).


The north is roamed in fascinating, suggestive fashion ... Davidson is as interesting writing about snow sculptures and 17th-century paintings of the Arctic as he is about Auden, and his reading of the imaginary land of Zembla in Nabokov's Pale Fire as an eternal, symbolic north is highly evocative ... a lovely book The Guardian From the Old Norse sagas to the fairytales of Hans Christian Andersen, from the films of Bergman to the paintings of Eric Ravilious, from Nabakov's Zembla to Simon Armitage's Yorkshire, [Davidson] finds that the north is a breeding ground for ghosts, a place of exile and punishment, the antithesis of the human. Yet its bleak landscapes have inspired poetry of great beauty: ice, crystal, diamond and glass all blur in recurring images ... Davidson never lets his learning cloud his enthusiasm for this wide and protean subject and his writing shares the awe of the poets who preceded him on this journey. The Observer Beside being a discriminating critic, Davidson has an arrestingly personal voice ... The Idea of North is one of those books that have you making a long list of references you want to follow The Independent a delightful work ... beautifully written ... an esoteric but important gem; original treasure from the north The Herald (Glasgow) A gifted prose writer Scotland on Sunday There are indeed a lot of norths to cover, and the charm of the book is it exhaustiveness, zooming into a variety of touchstones to show how they've influenced global culture in sly, often surprising ways ... Davidson's north is an enormous, challenging land: humbling, shifting, austere, empty, fragile, desolate, desolating, marginal, authentic - a place, as Davidson perfectly puts it, forever suffused with "absolute, difficult beauty." Ruminator Review (USA) An interesting meditation TLS A truly stunning assessment of the concept of "north" in literature, legend, history and the psyche of "Northern" people ... Davidson writes with an incredible sense of place Aberdeen Evening Express Mesmerising cultural history ... Davidson's style achieves a lyric expression of phrase. In several passages of personal recollection ... he achieves a marvel of descriptiveness that is moving as well as expressive The Scotsman

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