Monday, April 15, 2013


I left off my last post wondering whether we'd ever really get to the bottom of the "why write"question, and lo and behold, that is what Harrer decides to take up in the introduction.  I honestly did not want to get bogged down in this discussion and was not planning on writing my post about it, but 2 pages into the first chapter I felt like I needed to.

He makes the point that climbers can't ignore public opinion and expect people to judge them favorably; thus, they have a duty to the mountaineering community to have their voices heard. He quotes Geoffrey Winthrop Young about the thirst for sensation and how readers "still need excitement all the time."  The key to a proper climbing narrative, he discusses, lies somewhere between the climber and layman.  There must be some middle ground between the climb "exactly as [the climber] himself saw [it]" and "responsibility with regards to the readers wishes.  Harrer again quotes Young that no sensation is needed to keep the narrative from becoming boring as mountains vary from year to year, from face to face, that each story will never seem monotonous.

Yet just two pages into the first chapter, Harrer prefaces his tale of the Eiger as "the true story," which is "even more terrible and more glorious than men have yet been able to discover." Sensational enough?

Additionally, where we could skirt around the issue of "truth" in other books because it was more of a publishing tactic, here it is the author directly. It almost feels like he included the introduction to justify his writing of the book, and yet deep down he is still grappling with that argument he had with "a man of some stature" about why write at all.

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