Saturday, December 31, 2011

Wade Davis

Wade Davis's latest book is Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest.

From a Q & A at his publisher's website:

Q: How is INTO THE SILENCE different from other books that have tackled Everest and what new information will readers come away with?

A: I think it is fair to say that most books on the subject focus on the figure of George Mallory, and none of them really place these expeditions in their historical context. Altogether 26 men set off for Everest in 1921-24 and each was without doubt as compelling a personality, with as complex a past, as Mallory. Into the Silence is the first book to celebrate and bring into profile the extraordinary biographies of each of the men.

If Everest began as grand imperial gesture, it really did end up as a mission of regeneration and redemption for a nation and an empire bled white by war. What’s more these expeditions did not take place in isolation, but rather in the context of the era- the Great Game and the final years of the Raj, the complex diplomatic maneuverings between the British, the Russians and the Chinese. Permission to climb the mountain grew out of an arms deal that was itself part of a grand diplomatic scheme brought into being by Charles Bell.

Into the Silence is also the first book to examine these expeditions from the point of view of the Tibetans. To do so I spent weeks in monasteries, trekked throughout the region with Dorjee Lhatoo, and secured the first complete translation of the spiritual autobiography of Dzatrul Rinpoche, the abbot of Rongbuk who greeted the British in 1921-24. Puzzles that have perplexed scholars for decades are solved. Why and how was Finch excluded from the 1921 effort? Who actually discovered the route to the North Col, the doorway to the mountain? Why was Howard-Bury selected to lead 1921, yet excluded from subsequent expeditions? Why Mallory chose to climb with Irvine? How Finch was betrayed in 1922 and yet, had he not chosen to save the life of Geoffrey Bruce, might well have reached the top. Wheeler has been overlooked in every other book, yet he was the key figure in 1921. John Noel went to his grave speaking of his service in the war. His own family does not know he sat out the war shell-shocked. Finch’s own daughter is unaware that her father had...[read on]
See Wade Davis's list of six notable books about World War I.

--Marshal Zeringue