A young Dutch geologist travels to the far north of Norway in the first half of the twentieth century with more experienced Norwegians as his companions. He hopes to acquire crucial aerial photographs of the region he is to visit, and to gather material for the thesis that will make his name by proving that craters were formed by meteorites and contain extra-terrestrial ‘Issendorfite’.
The photographs fail to materialise and he sets off with no idea at all of what he is up against.
Alfred moves from tragedy to tragedy, eaten alive by mosquitoes and falling into rivers, injuring himself and suffering from insomnia and a growing sense of inadequacy as his companions resort to carrying his load when he lags behind and commits error after error. The final drama is bleak and the final gift of his over-protective mother appropriately comic.
The entire tale is told with Willem Frederik Herman‘s deadpan humour in this translation by Ina Rilke of a Dutch classic.