Roger Smith reviews a book that praises silence in the great outdoors.
This review was first published in the February 2019 issue of The Great Outdoors.
This is not a new book, but it has a new edition and is very much worth bringing to readers’ attention. The full title is Silence in the Age of Noise, and few could argue that we live in an increasingly noisy world where silence is very difficult to experience.
Erling Kagge offers ways to find an inner silence, based partly on his own experiences – including a solo crossing of Antarctica during which he spent 50 days with no contact with the outside world at all. It takes an exceptional person to not only survive that but actually to relish the silence and use it as a strength.
Erling believes we can all do this to varying degrees, and he provides plenty of material from other writers and philosophers to support his case. He quotes a fellow Norwegian, the poet Rolf Jacobsen: The silence that lives in the grass/on the underside of each blade/and in the blue space between the stones, and notes how in Japan “silence forms an important part of conversation”.
Erling believes that “silence itself is rich. It is exclusive and luxurious. A key to unlock new ways of thinking” and he ends the book by noting that “I had to use my own legs to discover this, but I now know it is possible to reach silence anywhere. You have to find your own South Pole.”
Look around you. All you see is people on their phones or listening to music players. It is an age of noise, and we need the blessing of inner silence more than ever. This short volume, so lovingly prepared, will help you find it.
Silence by Erling Kagge is published by Penguin (£8.99)