Meditations at the Edge of Askja by Páll Skúlason, professor of philosophy and Rector of the University of Iceland, is richly illustrated with the magnificent photographs of Guðmundur Ingólfsson which serve to create a living background light for the text. The book, which is being simultaneously published in four languages, Icelandic, English , French and German, is the perfect buy for anyone who loves Icelandic nature and the unique experience of traveling through the Icelandic wilderness.
The text of the book deals with the individual experience that any traveler undergoes when faced with the unfathomable, sheer enormity of Mount Askja in the centre of Iceland. Using this deeply inspirational experience as a starting point, Páll Skúlason goes on to draw a range of conclusions concerning the position of humankind not only in nature and the universe but also in the “man-made” world, for example in an enormous city like Paris. Askja strikes the observer as an independent world, and opens new insights into our overall understanding of reality. As Páll comments, “A natural experience of this kind brings any human being back down to earth, and provides them with an invaluable connection with a form of reality upon which all modern human society – a society of consumerism, stress and complicated plans made in the name of the race for material values – eventually comes down to rest. There are innumerable forces at work in Askja; natural forces that could break loose at any moment and cause human beings untold damage. As Páll notes, “Amidst the stupendous world of Askja, the human individual comes face to face with overwhelming proof of his or her diminutive size, weakness and limitations: It is experiences such as this that have drawn - and continue to draw – thousands of foreign travelers to Iceland. Meditations at the Edge of Askja is an encouragement to all travelers, Icelandic or otherwise, to make their own attempt at coming into contact with Icelandic nature in the way the book suggests. It is simultaneously a valuable souvenir of a unique experience that will remain with the traveler for a lifetime.