No firm footing

New forms of anthropological attention
by
January–February 2021, no. 428
Buy this book

The Book of Unconformities: Speculations on lost time by Hugh Raffles

Pantheon Books, $47.99 hb, 400 pp

No firm footing

New forms of anthropological attention
by
January–February 2021, no. 428

Undertaking fieldwork in Iceland, anthropologist Hugh Raffles was combing a beach when he noticed, and became transfixed by, a ‘large rectangular black stone’. So transfixed, in fact, that he decided to take it back to New York. On his return to his car, everything was in chaos. The alarm went off, piercing the tranquil landscape; the ‘door open’ icon flashed, despite all the doors being closed. Raffles began to drive, but the alarm and blinking light were unceasing. So he pulled over, gently placed the stone by the side of the road and drove on in relieved silence. Upon hearing this story, his Icelandic friends laughed knowingly. ‘Everything is alive,’ they said. Later, poring over archival material, Raffles discovered that the coastline on which his brush with the supernatural had occurred was known for causing chaos with ships’ navigational instruments, ‘perhaps because of high levels of magnetite grains in the basalt’.

Dan Dixon reviews 'The Book of Unconformities: Speculations on lost time' by Hugh Raffles

The Book of Unconformities: Speculations on lost time

by Hugh Raffles

Pantheon Books, $47.99 hb, 400 pp

Buy this book

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