Benjamin Lytal writes:

Towards the end of his best-known book, Arctic Dreams (1986), after chapters on migratory routes, ice, and musk oxen, Barry Lopez recounts the legend of Saint Brendan, the sixth-century Irish monk who sailed north with his brethren in a leathern boat. The monks see an iceberg – ‘a crystal pillar’ – and row towards it, though it takes three days to reach, finally threading a tunnel in the berg that, in the setting sun, seems ‘like the eye of God’. Lopez has much to say about the arrogance, racism and barbarism of Europeans, but he emphasises the goodness of a few: ‘these impeccable, generous, innocent, attentive’ monks, who were, ‘one must think, the perfect travellers’.

(LRB 15 August 2019)

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