Skating to Antarctica: A Journey to the End of the World

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9780060957964: Skating to Antarctica: A Journey to the End of the World

So writes Jenny Diski of the parent she has neither seen nor heard from since 1966, the year her father died.

In search of an escape from her suicidal sexually abusive parents, Diski spends her teenage years in the oblivion of heavy drug use and psychiatric wards. As an adult she finds a new haven: the boundless, blank iciness of Antarctica where everything "is colored white and filled with a singing silence."

This blistering account interweaves the story of the author's journey to the end of the earth, her daughter's search for Diski's missing mother, and Diski's own search of her memory-hardened heart.

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Review:

"I am not entirely content with the degree of whiteness in my life. My bedroom is white: white walls, icy mirrors, white sheets and pillowcases, white slatted blinds. It's the best I could do."

Jenny Diski's obsession with the cool purity of white began early in life, when as a small child, she was taken for weekly skating lessons at the local ice rink. Between practicing figure eights, she would watch the Zamboni move across the ice scraping away the pitted, blade-scored surface: "It was all taken away in minutes and underneath was pure, untouched surface again, gleaming milky white, virgin, immaculate ice." This gleaming, immaculate ice stands in stark contrast to Diski's dark and emotionally fraught home life with two abusive parents. Skating to Antarctica is an unusual blend of travel essay and personal memoir, one that uses the phases of a physical journey to trace the trajectory of the inner life. Both journeys begin for Diski when her 18-year-old daughter Chloe decides to search for the maternal grandmother she has never met. It has been 30 years since Diski last saw her mother, and she has no desire to find her; is it merely coincidence that she books her passage to Antarctica shortly after Chloe begins the hunt?

Weaving painful memories of a childhood spent entangled in her parents' vicious sexual psychodramas and an adolescence in and out of mental wards into an account of her slow journey south, Diski imbues both voyages of discovery with a resonance that comes largely from twinning these tales. Like all polar travelers, she has the experiences of Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton before her; instinctively she rejects the "heroism" of Scott's pointless death in a blizzard, embracing, instead Shackleton's pragmatic rescue of his stranded crew. "The will to live was not strong in my family," Diski writes near the end of her book; Skating to Antarctica, however, is proof that this apple at least fell far, far from the tree.

About the Author:

Jenny Diski has written seven novels, a volume of short stories, and a collection of essays. She lives in London.

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