Tété-Michel Kpomassie was a teenager in Togo when he discovered a book about Greenland—and knew that he must go there. Working his way north over nearly a decade, Kpomassie finally arrived in the country of his dreams. This brilliantly observed and superbly entertaining record of his adventures among the Inuit is a testament both to the wonderful strangeness of the human species and to the surprising sympathies that bind us all.
About the Author
Born in Togo, Kpomassie subsequently left his native Africa and traveled to the north of Greenland in a journey that lasted ten years. An African in Greenland, an autobiography that chronicles his journey, was awarded the Prix Littéraire Francophone International in 1981, and its English translation was one of The New York Times’ Notable Books of the Year in 1983. Kpomassie has written numerous articles and short stories for French publications.
Al Alvarez is the author of Risky Business, a selection of essays, many of which first appeared in The New York Review of Books.
James Kirkup (1918–2009) was a prolific English poet, translator and travel writer. He became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1962.
Table of Contents
|Part 1||The Python God|
|1.||The Snake in the Coconut Tree||5|
|2.||The Sacred Forest||20|
|4.||First Steps in Europe||58|
|Part 2||The Call of the Cold|
|1.||A Spirit from the Mountains||75|
|3.||Fishing for Sea Wolf||115|
|4.||The "Polar Hysteria" of the Arctic Autumn||140|
|1.||Sisimiut, the Gateway to the North||151|
|2.||Mitti of Ilulissat||173|
|3.||My Host, Thue||191|
|4.||A Greenland Christmas||210|
|Part 4||A True Greenlander|
|1.||Of Dogs and Men||237|
|2.||The Boy Who Killed a Fly||251|
|4.||"Your Place Is Here with Us"||292|
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This unique and highly entertaining travelogue begins in the west African country of Togo in the late 1950s, as the teenage author recuperates from a near fatal illness. Kpomassie, an avid reader, is enthralled by a book that he discovers at the town's evangelical bookshop, The Eskimos from Greenland to Alaska, with its descriptions of vast territory devoid of trees, eternal cold, hunters clothed in animal skins, and a society that valued the child above all else, which contrasted sharply with Togo's elder dominated society and its numerous tropical forests, blistering hot beaches, and dangerous snakes. He soon decides that his destiny is to travel to Greenland, instead of fulfilling his father's promise to entrust him to the healers that saved his life.Kpomassie slowly makes his way to Greenland via the countries on the west African coast, France, Germany and Denmark, aided by relatives and benefactors who are impressed with and fond of the soft spoken but determined young man. He finally arrives in the southern Greenlandic town of Julianehåb, eight years after he left Togo, and is warmly welcomed by the town's Inuit and Danish inhabitants, who are entranced by the gentle black giant. Kpomassie's descriptions of the different cultures in Greenland, the people he meets, and the unique if not exactly palatable cuisine are entertaining, often warm and humorous, and always evocative and pointedly descriptive. He becomes disenchanted with the culture of southern Greenland, and slowly travels to the even more isolated northern regions, in order to seek the true Inuit people that he read and dreamed about.An African in Greenland is an improbable and unforgettable work of travel literature, which is easily my favorite in this genre. I suppose that my ultimate compliment is that it made me eager to accompany Kpomassie to Greenland, despite its brutal climate and horrid cuisine.
AN AFRICAN IN GREENLAND is the most remarkable travel journal I have read in a very long time. As a boy in Togo, Kpomassie was injured and while recovering read a book on Greenland that seized his imagination. This book recounts the events that led to this early obsession with Greenland, his efforts to reach the country and his travels in Greenland once he arrived. Kpomassie is a charming and honest narrator. He is at once perceptive, wry and compassionate in his account. He describes his travels and interactions with various cultures with an almost anthropological detail and yet he never forgets the people he meets are human, wonderfully flawed perhaps, but human nonetheless. He turns his critical eye on his Togolese upbringing, his time in France, Germany and Denmark and ultimately Greenland. He never neglects to mention his own foibles, in his interactions in the lives of those he meets. (How could he not since he was the first African most of the Greenlanders had seen.) The story is also tinged with sadness for the loss the customs and rituals Kpomassie had hoped to witness in Greenland, the combined poverty and generosity of the people and the inevitable sorrow of ending a journey. It is a fascinating study of Greenland but also a study of a man pursuing a dearly held dream and that is what makes it such a satisfying read.