The Discovery of Slowness

Sten Nadolny, Author, Ralph Freedman, Translator Viking Books $19.95 (325p) ISBN 978-0-670-80468-9
Brutal stuggleagainst Arctic ice, enveloping seas off the coast of Australia, the death ships of Napoleon's navyis etched here upon a canvas of the contemplative and methodically slow thought of John Franklin, whose brain sends no signals to speak or move until it has fully conceptualized a situation. From boyhood John's slowness has been phenomenal, allowing him to hold a rope taut for hours, his arm upright, and gather superhuman strength in the process. The sea, volatile but profoundly changeless, is his precise home; to be the captain of a ship is his goal from the time he is ten. He becomes an expert navigator and learns the function and capacity of every sail, spar and sheet. By age 14 Franklin is a midshipman, at 29 a captain at last. His progress is strewn with naval battles, exploration of unknown coasts and experiences of starvation and mutinyadventures that are conveyed with spellbinding skill. Finally his most compelling dream is realized and he leads a first and then a second expedition to the still and silent Arctic. Fame and riches follow; at age 60 he again sails to the Arctic, where he dies. This remarkable, superbly translated novel derives from the life of the real 19th century explorer John Franklin, who bestowed the name ""District of Franklin'' to the northern archipelago above Canada. (October)
Reviewed on: 09/30/1987
Release date: 10/01/1987
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