The imagined north

I’ve felt weirdly silenced for the past few days while this blog was down – am sincerely hoping the tech problems are fixed for good now. Meanwhile I’ve been writing a paper, an outline, a research proposal, and reading for light relief Peter Davidson’s

. It’s a cultural history that does what it says on the cover, a lovely book. It has many wonderful passages but the most quirky, I suppose, was the revelation about the economic significance of beaver pelts in the exploration and staking of claims in Canada. The highly desirable fur led to ever-expanding hunting of the creatures, which in turn prompted fighting between different tribes as well as competing imperial explorers. “The pursuit of ever more distand beavers thus become the impetus both for mapping and for the creation of empires, indigenous and colonial.”

[amazon_image id=”1861892306″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Idea of North (Topographics)[/amazon_image]

It set me thinking about what else I’ve read about norths. I have a treasured signed copy of Seamus Heaney’s

. There’s Paul Morley’s
about the north of England. Ted Hughes and Faye Goodwin’s
, ditto but more poetic. Charles Nevin’s
, ditto, in a very different way. Elizabeth Bowen’s novel

Moving to a wider geographic stage, Jill Ker Conway’s memoir,

by Wade Davis about George Mallory and Everest, Francis Spufford’s brilliant (like all his books)

I’m sure there must be others. As Davidson says, there is something so simply evocative about the phrase: “To the North.”


5 thoughts on “The imagined north

  1. As well, there’s Glenn Gould’s remarkable radio documentary, “The Idea of North”, produced in 1967 for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, which later became Part #1 of his Solitude Trilogy.

  2. Other books about the north of England worth investigating are Up North by Charles Jennings, Manchester, England by Dave Haslam, All points North by Simon Armitage, Pies and Prejudice by Stuart Maconie. My favourite book about the north is Racing Pigs and Giant Pigeons by Harry Pearson which despite the title is simply brilliant.

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