I can’t go with you . Spring 1897: Anna Charlier farewells her fiancé Nils, the explorer, as he sets off to conquer the world. She will endure many years of waiting and the unknown, will marry and move continents, but will never be able to forget.
Summer 1930, Svalbard, Norway: a walrus-hunting boat sets sail for White Island, one of the last lands before the North Pole. The melting ice has revealed terrain that is usually inaccessible. As they move across the island, the men discover bodies and the remains of a makeshift camp. It is the solution to a mystery that has hung in the air for thirty-three years: the disappearance in July 1897 of Salomon August Andre´e, Knut Frænkel and Nils Strindberg as they tried to reach the North Pole in a hot air balloon. Among the remains some rolls of negatives are found and one hundred images are retrieved.
Based on these lunar-like black-and-white photographs and the expedition logbook, He´le`ne Gaudy retraces and reimagines this great adventure that was blown off course, weaving in the painfully beautiful love affair of Nils and Anna. From the conquest of the skies to the exploration of the poles, this haunting and brilliant award-winning novel, set in the ethereal landscape of the Arctic, reflects on the human need to discover, describe, conquer and ultimately shrink the world.
For readers of Anna Funder, Maggie O’Farrell, Eleanor Catton and W.G. Sebald.
Winner of the François Billetdoux 2020, longlisted for Le Prix Goncourt and shortlisted for Le Prix Joseph Kessel.