Saturday, January 14, 2012

Wade Davis tackles Mount Everest

Our Hero turns up today in the Globe and Mail, lauding the latest book from Wade Davis:

. . . Into the Silence is a complex, subversive work, a postcolonial refashioning of an imperialist adventure. Davis, a Canadian anthropologist and explorer, is rightly celebrated for introducing indigenous perspectives into the mainstream. Here, he continues that work while telling a terrific adventure story and affirming as sublime the hubristic madness of assaulting the highest mountain in the world “because it’s there.”


The familiar mountaineering story, man against nature, is here vividly rendered: the difficult treks to Base Camp, the struggles to locate a feasible route, the debilitating effects of altitude sickness, the cold, the fog, the wind-whipping snow, the frostbite, the avalanches, the slips and the tumbles, and the life-and-death choices that confront climbers at altitudes above 23,000 feet.


Davis paints an engaging portrait of Englishman George Mallory, the greatest mountaineer of the age, who emerges as brave and athletic but profoundly flawed. Probably we did not need to learn so much about his early adventures in homoeroticism. But the most meaningful revisionism here is broader and more political, in that Davis responds to the attitudes outlined in the first paragraph of this review. Specifically, he sets the record straight about two remarkable “colonials” – one Canadian and one Australian – who, in the countless retellings of the initial assaults on Everest, have received nothing like the recognition they deserve. . . . [To continue reading, click on the headline.]

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