This fascinating and multi-layered novel is based on the authentic account of an Austrian-Hungarian expedition into the Arctic, commanded by Weyprecht and Payer. In August 1873, just south of 80' North, they discover an archipelago covered by glaciers. The voyage ends in failure: their ship, the "Admiral Tegethoff", is trapped by the ice.
Simultaneously a second, entirely fictional story is told. A young Italian daydreamer called Jozef Mazzini gets very interested in the heritage of the expedition. In thought, he traces and relives the voyage and finally departs to repeat her in reality too: he is lost in the icebound landscape of Spitsbergen.
Ransmayr has skillfully interwoven both stories into one "Chronicle of Failure". It exposes the ambition of explorers as a useless quest for personal and national honour, the North Pole as "Focus of Vanities" .