After Ithaca: Journeys in Deep Time by Charlotte Du Cann
ISBN 9781896559834 / 256 pages / A Greenbank Book
A pile of seeds, a tuft of wool, a vessel of water, a closed box
What happens when the heroes disappear, when the battle for the city is over, when you return to the island and find a box in your hands? There was an instruction once that told us why the box should never be opened. But you don't believe those stories anymore. You always open the box.
After Ithaca is a non-fiction work – part memoir, part essay, part travelogue – that follows a real life journey of descent in a world on the tip of crisis. It is set in the Peruvian rainforest, in the backrooms of Suffolk towns, in Japan, in France, Australia, in the desert borderlands, in borrowed houses and Occupy tents, in kitchens and burial chambers, underneath a lemon tree on an abandoned terrace…
The book revolves around the four initiatory tasks of Psyche, set by Venus, the goddess of love and justice: four territories that map this search for meaning and coherence in a time of fall. Each chapter starts with a memory of place as a clue to the investigation: the recovery of a relationship with wild nature, with being human, a kind of archaeology for the pieces of self that lie missing beneath a broken storyline, like the sherds of a pot.
It is a personal story and also a social story, about the relinquishment of a certain world, that looks at writing as an existential practice: showing how myth can be a techne for finding our lost voice, our medicine of how to put a crooked thing straight.
How to pull ourselves out of the wreckage, and start again.
Charlotte Du Cann is a writer, editor and co-director of the Dark Mountain Project. She also teaches collaborative non-fiction, and radical kinship with the other-than-human world.
In 1991 she left her life as a London features and fashion journalist with a one-way ticket to Mexico. After travelling for a decade, she settled on the East Anglian coast to write a sequence of books about reconnecting with the Earth. The first of these 52 Flowers That Shook My World – A Radical Return to Earth was published in 2012 by Two Ravens Press.
Charlotte has published five works of non-fiction, ranging from a collection of essays about food and society, Offal and the New Brutalism (Heinemann) to the travelogue, Reality Is the Bug That Bit Me in the Galapagos (Flamingo). More recently, she has written about activism, myth and cultural change for the New York Times, the Guardian, Noema and openDemocracy. She co-founded the grassroots newspaper Transition Free Press and edited Playing for Time – Making Art as if the World Mattered (with author Lucy Neal), a handbook about community arts practice (Oberon Books). She is presently working on a collective Dark Mountain book about the ancestral solar year called Eight Fires.
About the Dark Mountain Project
The Dark Mountain Project is a network of writers, artists and thinkers whose work attempts an honest response to the crises of our time: climate breakdown; social and political unravelling; the death of the myths of endless growth and human exceptionalism; ecocide and mass extinction. The project was founded in 2009 with the publication of Uncivilisation, a literary manifesto which called for a new kind of ‘uncivilised’ writing and artwork that tells new stories for an age of endings. Each year they have published two anthologies for subscribers, as well as offering a variety of workshops and live events.
From its origins in the United Kingdom the project has grown internationally, with contributors and subscribers from the United States to New Zealand, India to South Africa, Canada to Ghana, Sweden to Australia.
Sumeru is pleased to publish books by Dark Mountain authors as part of our secular Greenbank Books imprint. After Ithaca and Loss Soup and Other Stories, by Nick Hunt, are the first two single-author books from the Dark Mountain Project.
What people are sayingDu Cann’s stunning interweaving of myth, history, culture and stories from the land take us deep into ourselves, to places we have never been and most crucially towards the Earth and each other... This is a beautiful, smart and generous book.
-- Joanna Pocock, author of Surrender: The Call of the American West
... quite remarkable. Turning her back on a society living on the surface, Charlotte Du Cann goes very deep indeed -- deep into time, but also place, identity, gritty reality. Thoreau strove for 'the solid earth! the actual world! the common sense! Contact! Contact!,' and I think this author has taken up that good work and brought it into our fateful, flickering time.
-- Bill McKibben, author The Flag, the Cross, and the Station Wagon, founder of 350.org
This beautiful and powerfully written book illuminates and challenges the stories we choose to live by in these times. Offering no easy answers but – as in all the best old myths – asking all the right questions, After Ithaca is a work of rare clarity, a fierce and necessary hymn to the human capacity for transformation.
-- Sharon Blackie, author of If Women Rose Rooted