2009 National Book Award Finalist,

Marcel Theroux

Far North

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Video from the 2009 National Book Awards Finalist Reading

Photo credit: Sarah Lee


Against the backdrop of poisoned cities, collapsed governments, and the near obliteration of the human race, Marcel Theroux conjures in Far North a haunting, imaginative post-apocalypse tale of survival, surprises, and relentless suspense. These storytelling gifts deliver that rarest of achievements: a spirited narrative that always entertains, deepens our feeling for the beauty and fragility of our world, and promises even in the midst of civilization’s eventual decline the inevitability of hope, healing, and renewal.


Out on the frontier of a failed state, Makepeace—sheriff and perhaps last citizen—patrols a city’s ruins, salvaging books but keeping the guns in good repair. Into this cold land comes shocking evidence that life might be flourishing elsewhere: a refugee emerges from the vast emptiness of forest, whose existence inspires Makepeace to reconnect with human society and take to the road, armed with rough humor and an unlikely ration of optimism.

Far North takes the reader on a quest through an unforgettable arctic landscape, from humanity’s origins to its possible end. Haunting, spare, yet stubbornly hopeful, the novel is suffused with an ecstatic awareness of the world’s fragility and beauty, and its ability to recover from our worst trespasses.


Marcel Theroux is the author of Far North and three other novels: A Blow to the Heart, A Stranger in the Earth, and The Confessions of Mycroft Holmes: A Paper Chase, which won a Somerset Maugham Award. He lives in London.


Marcel Theroux's Wikipedia Entry

Marcel Theroux's page at Faber

Marcel Theroux on Trebuchet Magazine


Excerpted from Far North by Marcel Theroux. Copyright © 2009 by Marcel Theroux. Published in June 2009 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved.

My parents never spoke of the past, and me, I never took much interest in it. The past had nothing to teach me. The beginning of the world and my birth seemed like the same event. For me, the world began with water dripping off wet sheets in the sunlight. I was the creator, blinking my eyes to make night and day. And I was Noah, arranging my chipped hardwood animals in the dust of the arctic summer. I taught my family language, and I was the first human to set foot in the wilderness at the bottom of our vegetable patch.

But now I know different.

I thought I was born into a young world which was aging before my eyes. But my family came here when the world was already old. I was born into the oldest world there was. It was a world like a beaten horse, limping with old injuries and set on throwing its rider. And my parents, who claimed to love plain workmanship and the clean forthright language of the Bible—behind them was a world of memory stones, and planes, and cities of glass that they wanted to unknow.

There’s plenty of things I’d like to unknow, but you can’t fake innocence. Not knowing is one thing; pretending not to know is deception. While me and Charlo and Anna were playing in the dirt like fools that think they’ve found Eden, and the other settlers were congratulating themselves on having the foresight to land up in a perfect corner of our damaged planet, the world they left behind was unraveling. What arrogance made us think we were far enough to be safe?