Erling Kagge was born in Oslo in 1963. He studied law and worked for a while as a lawyer for the industrial giant Norsk Hydro, among others. He later studied philosophy at the University of Cambridge and became known as a mountain climber and adventurer. On March 8, 1990, fellow Norwegian Børge Ousland and Kagge set off on their own, without any support, from Ellesmere Island to the North Pole. They traveled by skis for roughly 800 kilometers, carried their provisions on a sled behind them and made it to their destination in 58 days. Less than three years later, on January 7, 1993, Kagge reached the South Pole on the first unsupported expedition there. He completed the stretch of 1,310 kilometers in 50 days on his own, and without any radio contact. In 1994, he also climbed Mount Everest, thus making him the first man to reach the »three poles«. He wrote three books about his adventures, »Nordpolen: Det siste kappløpet« (1990; tr. North Pole: The final race), »Alene til Sydpolen« (1994; Eng. »Alone to the South Pole«, 1993) and »På eventyr« (1994; tr. Adventure).
In 2010, Kagge undertook a different kind of expedition; together with urban historian and photographer Steve Duncan, he made his way by foot from the Bronx via Manhattan and all the way to the Atlantic Ocean over the course of five days using only subterranean pathways through the sewers and subway tunnels of New York City. Photos and texts of this expedition appeared in 2012 under the title »Under Manhattan«. During his expedition to the South Pole, Kagge had already noticed that these expeditions were much more trips inwards rather than geographical explorations of the Antarctic: »I can hear the silence and enjoy it to the fullest. It feels so good to be alone in the world.« Today, over twenty years later, Kagge devoted an entire book to this phenomenon: »Silence: In the Age of Noise« (2017) is a collection of his thoughts on the subject, gathered on his expeditions and in conversation with friends and fellow travelers, such as Marina Abramović, Jon Fosse, Elon Musk, Børge Ousland and Oliver Sacks.
In 1996, Kagge founded Kagge Forlag, a publishing company based in Oslo that quickly made a name for itself on the Norwegian book market. In 2000, he also bought one of the oldest Norwegian publishing houses, J. M. Stenersens Forlag. Kagge is a passionate art collector who was able to acquire works by Wolfgang Tillmans, Raymond Pettibon, Richard Prince, Tauba Auerbach and Urs Fischer, in spite of initially being on a very limited budget. In his book »A Poor Collector’s Guide to Buying Great Art« (2015), Kagge provides tips on how to purchase art with limited funds, and uses his own experiences to spotlight the madness of the art business at the same time. Kagge also writes articles for newspapers and magazines. He lives in Oslo.