Review of A woman in the polar night, by Christiane Ritter, translated by Jane Degras and with an introduction by Lawrence Millman
Like many other first-time Arctic explorers Austrian Christiane Ritter (1897–2000) claims to have been inspired by the reports of others. In her case she decided to travel to Spitsbergen after reading the diaries written and sent to her by her husband Hermann, who had spent three winters there as a hunter–trapper. A woman in the polar night, Ritter’s eloquent account of her experiences while overwintering with him in Gråhuken on Wijdefjorden in the mid-1930s, also has the form of a journal. Apart from an introductory chapter sketching the background of her journey, and underscoring her own complete ignorance of what she had in store, it is written mainly in a continual present tense. This allows the reader to follow her evolving perspective on life in the Far North – as well as on European culture viewed from a distance that gradually becomes mental as well as geographical. The book is therefore full of firsts: from “the first glimmerings of the relentless nature of the Arctic”, to her first experience, towards the end of her stay, of sharing her husband’s “hunting fever”.
(Published: 14 October 2011)
Citation: Polar Research 2011, 30, 9801, DOI: 10.3402/polar.v30i0.9801
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 Unported License.
Authors retain copyright of their work, with first publication rights granted to the Norwegian Polar Institute.