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Silence
Cover of Silence
Silence
In the Age of Noise
What is silence?

Where can it be found?
Why is it now more important than ever?
In 1993, Norwegian explorer Erling Kagge spent fifty days walking solo across Antarctica, becoming the first person to reach the South Pole alone, accompanied only by a radio whose batteries he had removed before setting out. In this book. an astonishing and transformative meditation, Kagge explores the silence around us, the silence within us, and the silence we must create. By recounting his own experiences and discussing the observations of poets, artists, and explorers, Kagge shows us why silence is essential to sanity and happiness—and how it can open doors to wonder and gratitude.
(With full-color photographs throughout.)
What is silence?

Where can it be found?
Why is it now more important than ever?
In 1993, Norwegian explorer Erling Kagge spent fifty days walking solo across Antarctica, becoming the first person to reach the South Pole alone, accompanied only by a radio whose batteries he had removed before setting out. In this book. an astonishing and transformative meditation, Kagge explores the silence around us, the silence within us, and the silence we must create. By recounting his own experiences and discussing the observations of poets, artists, and explorers, Kagge shows us why silence is essential to sanity and happiness—and how it can open doors to wonder and gratitude.
(With full-color photographs throughout.)
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Excerpts-
  • From the book Whenever I am unable to walk, climb or sail away from the world, I have learned to shut it out.

    Learning this took time. Only when I understood that I had a primal need for silence was I able to begin my search for it—and there, deep beneath a cacophony of traffic noise and thoughts, music and machinery, iPhones and snow ploughs, it lay in wait for me. Silence.

    Not long ago, I tried convincing my three daughters that the world's secrets are hidden inside silence. We were sitting around the kitchen table eating Sunday dinner. Nowadays it is a rare occurrence for us to eat a meal together; so much is going on all the other days of the week. Sunday dinners have become the one time when we all remain seated and talk, face-to-face.

    The girls looked at me sceptically. Surely silence is . . . nothing? Even before I was able to explain the way in which silence can be a friend, and a luxury more valuable than any of the Louis Vuitton bags they so covet, their minds had been made up: silence is fine to have on hand when you're feeling sad. Beyond that, it's useless.

    Sitting there at the dinner table, I suddenly remembered their curiosity as children. How they would wonder about what might be hiding behind a door. Their amazement as they stared at a light switch and asked me to "open the light."

    Questions and answers, questions and answers. Wonder is the very engine of life. But my children are thirteen, sixteen and nineteen years old and wonder less and less; if they still wonder at anything, they quickly pull out their smartphones to find the answer. They are still curious, but their faces are not as childish, more adult, and their heads are now filled with more ambitions than questions. None of them had any interest in discussing the subject of silence, so, in order to invoke it, I told them about two friends of mine who had decided to climb Mount Everest.

    Early one morning they left base camp to climb the southwest wall of the mountain. It was going well. Both reached the summit, but then came the storm. They soon realized they would not make it down alive. The first got hold of his pregnant wife via satellite phone. Together they decided on the name of the child that she was carrying. Then he quietly passed away just below the summit. My other friend was not able to contact anyone before he died. No one knows exactly what happened on the mountain in those hours. Thanks to the dry, cool climate 8,000 metres above sea level, they have both been freeze-dried. They lie there in silence, looking no different, more or less, from the way they were last time I saw them, twenty-two years ago.

    For once there was silence around the table. One of our mobile phones pinged with an incoming message, but none of us thought to check our phones just then. Instead, we filled the silence with ourselves.

    Not long afterwards, I was invited to give a lecture at St. Andrew's University in Scotland. I was to choose the subject myself. I tended to talk about extreme journeys to the ends of the earth, but this time my thoughts turned homewards, to that Sunday supper with my family. So I settled on the topic of silence. I prepared myself well but was, as I often am, nervous beforehand. What if scattered thoughts about silence belonged only in the realm of Sunday dinners, and not in student forums? It was not that I expected to be booed for the eighteen minutes of my lecture, but I wanted the students to be interested in the subject I held so close to my heart.

    I began the lecture with a minute of silence. You could have heard a pin drop. It was stock-still. For the next seventeen minutes I spoke about the silence around us,...
About the Author-
  • ERLING KAGGE is a Norwegian explorer, author, publisher, and father of three teenage girls. He was the first person to walk alone on the South Pole, and he was also the first to reach the "three poles"—North, South, and the summit of Mount Everest. He has written six books on exploration, philosophy, and art collecting, which have been translated into several languages.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    June 12, 2017
    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.

  • Kirkus

    October 15, 2017
    A slender investigation into the idea of silence and its importance to those who dwell in the ceaseless noise of the modern world. Norwegian explorer and publisher Kagge (A Poor Collector's Guide to Buying Great Art, 2015, etc.), the first person to reach all of the Earth's "three poles"--the North Pole, the South Pole, and the summit of Mount Everest--should be an expert on silence; he once spent more than 50 days trekking alone, without radio contact, to the South Pole in Antarctica, "the quietest place I've ever been." A dinner conversation with his family and a lecture on the topic provided the author with the impulse to write this book, which consists of 33 attempts to answer a series of questions: "What is silence? Where is it? Why is it more important now than ever?" Drawing from his personal experiences, as well as conversations with artists, poets, athletes, philosophers, and musicians, Kagge challenges readers to grapple with the concept, inside of which, he contends, "the world's secrets are hidden." Interspersed with the short chapters are images, including photographs taken by the author during his expeditions and works by artists including Ed Ruscha and Catherine Opie. Despite its philosophical nature, the book is aimed at a general readership, and, befitting the subject matter, the narrative has a meditative quality. Kagge explores his subject from many different angles--not simply as the absence of sound but as a matter of human perception, a force both external and internal. Though they contain no startling revelations, his reflections provide a thoughtful approach to a topic of import to many who live in "the age of noise." An eloquent and persuasive argument for the significance of silence, in all of its forms, from an author who has explored the limits of the human experience.

    COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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In the Age of Noise
Erling Kagge
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