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.
‘Du 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
Du Cann weaves sobriety and rapture so closely together they often exist within the same sentence. Both intimate and wide-scale mythological, this is a writer taking the hard yards and many blessings of her life and crafting something of real sustenance for others. Come see the big view.
– Dr Martin Shaw, author of Smoke Hole
In After Ithaca, Charlotte Du Cann draws the reader on a transformative journey around the globe, dancing nimbly from mythos to mythos and deep into deep time. Simultaneously grave and yet full of redemptive beauty, both elegy and awakening, these essays should be in every intrepid traveller’s kitbag.
– Nancy Campbell, author of Fifty Words for Snow
It takes clear-hearted cunning, stubborn humility and a fierce patience to smuggle truth back from the Underworld alive. Hardly anyone can do it, these days, but Charlotte Du Cann knows how. You’ll find no false promises in this book, no get-out-of-jail-free cards, and no play-acting. What you hold in your hands is a container of mythic material capable of blowing you clean out of the
timeline of civilisation.
– Dougald Hine, co-founder of the Dark Mountain Project
Mythos meets Opinel
– Lucy Neal, author Playing for Time – Making Art as if the World Mattered
After Ithaca is a softback book, 255 pages long, printed on FSC-certified paper