"At the margins of the floes, where their ragged edges have come into grinding contact, the ice is piled up into ridges. These are the hummocks," writes Jean Malaurie. More than simple knolls, the jutting ice that emerges over time is a metaphor for the process of memory and recollection for Malaurie and in the collective memory of the Inuit. Hummocks, the first English translation of the renowned explorer's memoir of his expeditions to the Canadian Arctic, is an impressionistic evocation of Malaurie's travels among the Inuit. Jean Malaurie's exploration of the North spanned a half-century, with voyages to Greenland, the Arctic, Alaska, and Siberia. Hummocks focuses on his expeditions to Back River, Gjoa Haven, Rankin Inlet, and Kujjuaq in northern Quebec during the early 1950s and 1960s, a time when the North was still relatively isolated and the Inuit way of life was at a crossroads.
Hummocks recounts the difficulties of a young anthropologist when access to fluent interpreters and mechanized transportation was a serious obstacle as well as Malaurie's explorations of ideas about Inuit and "hyperborean" civilization, the need for Inuit independence and self-government, and the "Inuitization" of Christian belief. Fascinated, even obsessed, with the North and its people, Malaurie is an explorer of the old school and Hummocks is a dialogue with the great European explorers of the North - Amundsen, members of the Franklin expeditions, Ross, and particularly Rasmussen.