Silence: In the Age of Noise

Erling Kagge

I thought this book would be a slam dunk for me, written around the questions: What is silence? Where is it? How do we create it? Erling Kagge is a Norwegian explorer who in 1990 became one of the first people to travel to the North Pole unsupported. For that expedition he had a partner, but three years later he spent fifty days walking alone across Antarctica to reach the South Pole, this time completely on his own and without even radio contact. He’s had some time to think about silence, and his experiences from journeying across remote, uninhabited expanses are compelling. Unfortunately they are only superficially covered.

Silence is essentially a book of vignettes around the theme, and the brevity of each entry requires the reader to fill in its own silences to reach the depth it set out to unearth. It’s a nice jumping off point for further meditation, but I expected more substance.

Kagge runs one of the biggest publishing houses in Norway, and this book is an attractive product — well-designed with a lovely metallic cover and photographs from Kagge’s expeditions, as well as full-color art by the likes of Catherine Opie and Ed Ruscha.