Friday, September 7, 2012

Everest: The History of the Himalayan Giant, by Roberto Mantovani

Roberto Mantovani writes a general-audiences showcase of climbing the world's highest mountain in Everest: The History of the Himalayan Giant. It's a large-format book with a many photographic illustrations that gives a shorter and more direct history of Everest than Unsworth's 800-page Everest: The Mountaineering History. Mantovani avoids much of the controversial trivia that is synonymous with Everest's story, such as Finch's non-inclusion in 1921 and Mallory's love life, and sticks to the facts that matter. He shows that Everest can be fascinating without the sidelines, and that a history can be definitive without being droll. The illustrations tie-in to the narrative well, pulling from a large variety of sources and showing the mountain and its climbers from a number of perspectives.

He divides the story into chapters that profile individual expeditions, and at times decades of climbing, depending on the relative importance of the climbs covered. I appreciated his writing about some of the lesser-known middle-years climbs, such as the Japanese climbs of 1969 and 1970 (for even more detail, see Ahluwalia's Faces of Everest). Beginning with the 1980s, Mantovani covers only highlights from the many expeditions. He does, however, include a list of all official expeditions up to the time of writing (1997). The narrative covers climbs up to 1993, stating that after that there are too many at any given time to cover efficiently. He also makes an indirect reference to the tragedy of 1996 at the end. Enjoy!

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