Silence: In the Age of Noise

Erling Kagge, trans. from the Norwegian by Becky L. Crook. Pantheon, $19.95 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-524-73323-0
Kagge (Under Manhattan), an explorer and publisher, provides 33 answers to three linked questions he poses to himself—“What is silence? Where is it? Why is it more important now than ever?”—in short, meditative essays. The book expands the concepts of silence and noise beyond their aural definitions and engages with modern culture’s information overload, need for constant connection, and cult of busyness. Kagge draws on his experiences as an explorer, including a solo sojourn to the South Pole and a climb up the Williamsburg Bridge, and on more mundane experiences such as his daily commute. He also takes inspiration from famous people as various as Seneca, Kierkegaard, Elon Musk, and Rihanna. An intentionally scattershot bibliography (“an attempt at listing those sources I can easily recall”) may frustrate those wishing to read further. Kagge writes accessibly and economically, supplementing the text with the occasional inclusion of art and photographs. He raises some intriguing ideas—regarding, for example, inequities in access to silence and the concept of silence as a luxury—that could benefit from more examination, but the format requires that he provide only minimal analysis. Great pleasure lies in Kagge’s creative investigations. The reader leaves more mindful of the swirl of distraction present in everyday life. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 06/12/2017
Release date: 11/21/2017
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