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4.18  ·  Rating details ·  697 ratings  ·  94 reviews
Kabloona is a true story of a journey into the North. This extraordinary classic has been variously acclaimed as one of the great books of adventure, travel, anthropology, and spiritual awakening. In the summer of 1938, the Frenchman Gontran de Poncins traveled beyond the "Barren Lands" north of the Arctic Circle to Kind William Island, an island of ten thousand square mil ...more
Paperback, 339 pages
Published December 1st 1988 by Carroll & Graf Publishers (first published 1941)
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This book is about a journey made in 1938 to the far north of Canada, where the author, a Frenchman, lived for more than a year with nomadic Inuit, at the time referred to as Eskimos. Since that word is used in the book, I use it below interchangeably with “Inuit”. I listened to the audiobook version which was superbly narrated. However, I understand the print version contains numerous sketches by Poncins, as well as black and white photos, so it was a shame to miss those.

I would have given this
This is a fascinating and moving account of a Frenchman who was sickened by modern life and, seeking to experience a primitive, uncorrupted mode of existence, went to live among the Inuit in the Canadian Arctic for a year. He traveled by boat and dogsled in the Spring of 1938 to King William Island, a land mass of about 5,000 sq. mi. (the size of Connecticut) populated by a few dozen Inuit and two white men, one who ran a government trading post and the other a missionary priest at a remote vill ...more
Jul 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Only rarely do I come upon a book that I cannot imagine anyone disliking. This is such a book.

In 1938, Gontran De Poncins, a Frenchman, decided to live with the Eskimos for more than a year. Afterwards, he wrote this amazing true story of his travels. The action starts almost from page one. You're plunged into story after story, each one more unbelievable than the last. You learn about basic Eskimo life, their strange customs and norms, their fear of commitment, seal hunting, igloo building, wil
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
Emir Never "discovered" this book. He sent me an sms one afternoon, copy in his hand inside a Booksale branch, asking me if I have read "Kabloona" by Gontran de Poncins. I replied no, and pointed out that both the title and name of the author sound strange. But there was wifi in the place I was at that time so I checked its rating here at goodreads and was surprised that a book with its author both of which I've never heard of before could have an average rating of 4.21 in 231 ratings and 40 rev ...more
Luke Marsden
Dec 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Gontran de Poncins arrives in King William Land, in the Canadian high arctic, as an anthropologist who appears bent on describing the peoples he encounters there in terms of the differences between them and those where he comes from. Even the title of the book - Kabloona ("White Man", in the language of the Netsilik) reflects this perspective. In the first part, he seems agitated and is quite hasty to resort to stereotype. Much of what he perceives as adverse differences between the Netsilik nat ...more
Kevin Lawrence
Sep 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A five-star is probably generous (wish we had the ability to give books 1/2 stars, since this would get a 4 and 1/2 stars from me), but I so thoroughly enjoyed Monsieur de Poncins and his breezy way of evoking the Arctic region and its inhabitants. Probably some will cringe at the way he calls the Eskimos "savages" and "primitives" at times, but he always does so with a recognition that their environment necessitates a sharp distinction from that of the "refined" and "civilized" world M. de Ponc ...more
I've been looking for this kind of book for ages - a look at the traditional Inuit way of life. This is a fascinating record of one man's year spent in the Arctic. de Poncins is often insulting in the way he perceives his hosts, considering them to be Stone Age people who are less "evolved" than himself, while at the same time expressing appreciation for their adaptable nomadic lifestyle. By the end of the year he finds himself finally beginning to comprehend their sense of community which had o ...more
Dec 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography-memoir
I read this book years ago and would never have found it except it was part of a terrific series of books republished by Time/Life. I got a whole bunch of excellent works that way, which I probably would not have discovered elsewhere. Originally written in 1941, it describes an Inuit village and family as authentically and as sympathetically as possible. Highly recommended to everyone.
Sandra The Old Woman in a Van
Wow. In 1938 this Frenchman spent a year living with the indigenous people of the far north Arctic region in Canada (missed a kind of important year in France). This is a memoir of that time - I could almost give this book 5 stars because the topic became enthralling. The culture and behaviors were so different from any I have experienced or heard described. This was factually interesting - definitely a lot of OMG’s and ewwwww’s and “how cold?” Some interpretations were very astute. The other as ...more
James Henderson
Jun 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Seldom have I encountered as extraordinary a book as Kabloona. It is a true example of sui generis writing and it is unlikely that anything quite like it will be written again. The author, Gontran de Poncins, spent a year traveling among the Eskimos in the Arctic. This book is the result, distilled from his diaries by Lewis Galantiere. Poncins took the perspective of the Eskimos, and as a result he, Kabloona (the White Man), took seriously what they did. The book is thus a unique combination of ...more
Oct 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, travel
Some men are born with restless spirits, and are always seeking the ends of the earth. They remind me of a moment in Steinbeck’s The Red Pony where he says, “There’s a line of old men along the shore hating the ocean because it stopped them.” de Poncins was one such restless spirit, and wasn’t stopped by the ocean. He traveled to the South Pacific and remote regions of China before deciding to go to the far, far north in the late 1930s.

It is an amazing tale, full of fascinating, complex, maddeni
Mary Mccoy
May 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
In 1939 this author left France and went to northern Canada to spend a year with the remote, mostly untouched, eskimos. His observations (and lack of judgement) on the eskimo culture are wonderful. One white guy said to him, "These eskimos is no good" and the author writes, what he really meant is that the eskimos are not good at being white people. His descriptions of day-to-day life are so real. Of course, I see many parallels to observing life in Tonga. In fact "Kabloona" is the eskimo word f ...more
Dave Gaston
After I finished this fantastic audio book, I looked it up on Amazon to buy a used hard copy. I was little chagrined to discover the original printing date. Wow, this contemporary, quirky book -- that I just fell in love with -- was written 70 years ago. What a fun twist in time travel! Of course, three things aided the modern day allusion; first, it was read to me (on my ipod) by a modern audio book legend, Grover Gardner; Second, the setting is timeless, the remote wild's of the Canadian Arcti ...more
Xina Uhl
A French nobleman spent 15 months among the Inuit in the 1930s. Entertaining, interesting, and occasionally politically incorrect (the author does not seem to understand that "homosexual" does not equal "pedophile") it is well worth noting and then overlooking past ignorance for a rousing travel story. This is not to say that past ignorance excuses bad behavior, just that we cannot hold past individuals to our standards of morality. A hundred years from now people will be appalled by some of the ...more
May 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: good-4-insight
Imagine a time in the arctic before wooden houses with heat, snow mobiles, telephones, television, internet..... only snow and ice as far as the eye can see. Need a house? Chop up snow and build one. Interior temp never higher than 32 degrees (F)since it would melt!

Every page of this "adventure" journal brings the details of an arctic, hunter community to life. The sounds, the smells(!), the repetition, the exhaustion of it all, and the contentment of the Inuit with their way of life. His detai
Jul 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Faaaaascinating! The reasons are threefold. First, the Inuit way of life observed and duly chronicled by the Vicomte Gontran De Poncins de Montainge. Gontran De Poncins himself, aka "Mike" A French aristocrat adventurer cum amateur anthropolgist and natural diarist. His experiences, observations (sometimes profound, often profoundly racist)and sketches come together as a vivid, candid, and insightful narrative. Finally the work itself as witness to the colonial context and inner workings of the ...more
Mar 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Okay, I mentioned my top five books on the North when I wrote about Nunaga. Kabloona is one of those top five books. I even have the audio cd's of this book (which I will also try to recommend). If you want to know the details of a westerner (an outsider or "kabloona") living among the indigenous people, this is a wonderful place to start. Amazing. Remarkable. Extraordinary. ...more
Jun 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
it would have been really cool to have been an Inuit in the 1930s trolling this guy
Tom Johnson
Jul 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first read Kabloona about 10 years ago - I gave it five stars. Since reading, "The Last Gentleman Adventurer: Coming of Age in the Arctic", I have reread and reassessed M. Poncins' book on his Arctic experience. Unlike Edward, who always kept his focus on the Inuit, Poncins seemed to be far more interested in himself. That may be an unfair take but pages 291-299, with the introduction of the lamentable HBC apprentice, L., seemed entirely too contrived to be real. The way Poncins compared himse ...more
Nancy Kennedy
Jul 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
As a young Frenchman living in Paris in the late 1930s, Gontran de Poncins slowly comes to realize that he has an urgent desire to live among the primitive Eskimos of the Canadian Arctic, even if he doesn't understand it himself. "I know only that some time before that spring day the word Eskimo had rung inside me and that the sound had begun to swell like the vibrations of a great bell," he writes.

With the assistance of the Catholic Church, which had missionaries in the far north, Mr. de Poncin
May 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This was a pleasurable book about a french guy who lives with Eskimos for about a year and a half. He is a good story teller, and he doesn't inappropriately interject himself into the story too much. From stuff I have read in the past, the experience of living with more primitive people always makes the civilized visitor reflect on materialism and happiness. The "primitive" people always seem to have a higher quality of happiness, community, and a better ability to live in the moment. They also ...more
Jul 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Gontran de Poncins's "Kabloona" is a classic of Arctic adventure, to be ranked alongside Farley Mowat's "People of the Deer," Harold Horwood's "White Eskimo" and parts of Peter Freuchen's "Vagrant Viking." A French aristocrat with a genuine yearning for adventure, de Poncins made his way to North America just prior to the last war. By stages, he managed to go right up into latter day Nunavut, some of the highest inhabited Arctic territory in Canada's north. Yet he didn't stop there. Putting hims ...more
May 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir, travel
" Unique experience of a brave and adventurous French aristocrat and journalist living with the Eskimos for over a year in the era before their being significantly affected by the outside civilizations. The author captured their lives vividly without the hindrance of political or racial correctness, which is by now custom when people express themselves publicly (but much of it is a mere disguise). Even as he describes, and also labels, the natives as appallingly savage, he shows so much aspects ...more
May 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed, own, travel
Some would dispute the status of this work as a "travel book." I do not agree. To me, a true "travel" book involves the displacement of an individual from their accustomed environment and their attempted insertion of themselves into very different (to them), strange situations. Monsieur de Poncins was a Frenchman, immuring himself shortly before WWII in the most northerly culture of all, that of the Arctic Inuit. This was before prosperity came to the Inuit. Before modern weapons, before motoriz ...more
Michael Crye
Jan 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
A honest journey of a modern man into the alien cultures of the northern Inuit tribes. While many authors would hide behind their ego in presenting themselves to the reader on this adventure in the icy wastes. Gontran shares his thoughts as they occur without much censor. From his comical murderous thoughts of his cabin mate at the trading post to slowly developing respect for the natives and their way of life. His criticism ranges from a humane point of view for humankind and animals to pure sh ...more
Feb 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I read this book 10 years ago and never could get it out of my head. I had to read it again, recommend to to everyone, and own it. The author, the most interesting man in the world, changes as he lives with the Inuit. His insights on people, their environment, and relationships teaches him and us that underneath all the exterior trappings, we are more alike than different. One of the best books I've ever read. ...more
Trudy Pomerantz
Jul 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biographies
I found this a fascinating listen though somewhat dated since it was written back in 1941. His racist, evolutionary views are very clear. He imagines that he has changed vastly as a result of his experience, though I find this hard to believe based on his own writing. He seemed very self-focused at the beginning and seemed very self-focused at the end while imagining and describing how much he has grown as a result of the experience.
Colin Murphy
Jun 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A masterpiece - one of the greatest contributions to the study of the Inuit specifically and to the field of anthropology in general. Poncins was able to experience a once-in-a-lifetime journey and observe it with unimaginable humility and keenness. A society so pristine and uncontaminated as the Eskimos of Pelly Bay no longer exists to be observed, yet alone a man of such caliber as that of Poncins to observe it.
Greg Pedigo
Jan 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Frenchman goes to live with Inuit in Canadian Arctic in the late 1930's. His accounting of the travel, culture, customs, etc. I loved it when I first read it in the 1960's and recently re-read. I'm thinking this is more of a man's book (not trying to be politically incorrect or sexist, just my thought)-primitive lifestyle and misunderstandings that take place when modern man meets aborigine. ...more
Sarah B
When I first started reading this I had no idea at first it was a memoir of the author's actual experience living with the Eskimo of King William Land and Pelly Bay. And once I started reading I found this book to be very interesting indeed. This is not a quick, fun read. It's packed full of information. And I believe some of it can be very useful in many different ways to different people. He mentions weather, snowfall, thickness of ice, etc. It would be great to compare this information to tod ...more
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Jean-Pierre Gontran de Montaigne, vicomte de Poncins, who used the nom-de-plume "Gontran De Poncins", was a French writer. He was the direct lineal descendant of a much more famous French writer- Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592). ...more

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