Kauffmann follows in the footsteps of the 18th century sailor Yves-Joseph Kerguelen, who gave his name to the archipelago he discovered in the Indian Ocean. When he made his discovery, Kerguelen was convinced he had found Hell. He did not go ashore and it was left to Captain Cook two years later to name its grey beach and to describe the towering black arch that astounded sailors for hundreds of years. While he was working in the Lebabnon as a journalist in 1985, Jean-Paul Kauffmann was kidnapped and not released until 1988. Although the subject is never mentioned, it lies just beneath the surface of his writing.
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(217mm x 155mm x 22mm)
The Harvill Press
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Country of Publication:
UK Kirkus Review »
Voyage to Desolation Island offers the reader the excellent value of three tales in one. Firstly it is a travelogue to one of the most remote and lonely places on earth, Kerguelen Island. For Kaufmann who had recently spent three years as a hostage in Beirut to choose to undertake such a journey in itself appears remarkable, though a certain logic silently unfolds in subtext. Secondly, it offers a history of the island and its visitors, from their disgraced discoverer Yves-Joseph Kerguelen, who claimed the islands in the name of France but never set foot ashore, to present-day scientific expeditions. And finally, woven into the other stories is the author's metaphysical quest to discover meaning in the barren landscape. Kauffmann is a man with a romantic imagination, matched with an equally romantic turn of phrase. Nor is he averse to the inclusion of a Biblical quotation on the slightest pretext. At times, however, he attempts to spice up the action with excessive conjecture. Nonetheless, a history of one of the few remaining natural places on earth and travelogue of an extraordinary man in extreme conditions. This has much of interest to capture the reader. (Kirkus UK)
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Author Biography - Jean-Paul Kauffmann
Jean-Paul Kauffmann was born in 1944. A journalist, he was kidnapped in Beirut in May 1985 and was not released until May 1988. He is currently the editor of L'Amateur de Cigare. His The Dark Room at Longwood, in Patricia Clancy's translation, won the Scott Moncrieff Prize for 2000.