- Last Places: A Journey to the North by Lawrence Millman
Sphere, 256 pp, £5.95, February 1992, ISBN 0 349 10225 2
In ancient times, the civilised peoples of the Mediterranean Basin and the Middle East contemplated with curiosity and usually with horror what lay to the north – or rather, what they assumed on the basis of rumour, myth and theory lay to the north. For a Greek or an Arab, most of Europe north of the Alps seemed uninhabitable by normal human beings. As late as the late Middle Ages, the Arab scholar Quazwini was eloquent about what he had heard of winter in Rum (probably eastern Europe): ‘Winter in Rum is an affliction, a punishment and a plague; during it the air becomes condensed and the ground petrified; it makes faces to fade, eyes to weep, noses to run and change colour; it causes the skin to crack and kills many beasts. Its earth is like flashing bottles, its air like stinging wasps; its night rids the dog of his whimpering, the lion of his roar, the birds of their twittering and the water of its murmur, and the biting cold makes people long for the fires of Hell.’
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