Friday, March 4, 2016

#12 [2016/CBR8] "Mount Analogue" by Rene Daumal

This is a book I never heard of and wouldn't have chosen to read. But since I received it as a present, I felt a little obligated. Mount Analogue: A Tale of Non-Euclidean and Symbolically Authentic Mountaineering Adventures was published posthumously in 1952 in French. According to Wikipedia, Daumal "was a French spritual para-surrealist writer and poet." I don't have a full [or any] understanding of spiritual para-surrealism, which might have contributed to my inability to really get into this one. It also didn't help that Daumal died halfway through this book; so just as the narrative gets interesting, it comes screeching to a halt in the middle of a sentence. Although there were some meaningful and interesting parts, I'm not sure if the confusion and frustration was worth it.

The introduction states that Mount Analogue is a "many-leveled symbolic allegory of man's escape from the prison of his robotic egoistic self." If that sentence speaks to you, then you might enjoy the rest of this half-book. The story is that of a small group of alpine adventurers who set sail on a small boat looking for Mount Analogue. Mount Analogue is a mountain higher than any other on Earth but generally unknown and invisible to the human eye. Pierre Sogol, the leader of the expedition, decides that the mountain must lie somewhere in the area of Australia, based on where the other landmasses are located--or something.

After sailing East (or West?) at sunset for weeks, the boat is pulled into the mass of the island. There are a number of other people and cultures already there. The leaders of this new world are the guides from the top of the mountain. When the small group arrives, they are greeted and given money that is expected to be repaid by a special stone that can only be found high up in the mountains. For some reason, hunting is permitted only partway up the mountain until it is strictly prohibited because of the effect it may have on the area. Then, halfway up the mountain, the book ends.

I generally like the idea of changing your life, giving up the things that are not important and discovering the best of yourself, but I only saw fleeting glimpses of this in this book. The scientific explanations of where Mount Analogue might be made no sense to me. I also didn't particularly like the clear class divisions between those staying near the water and the guides in the mountains. I do wish Daumal had been able to finish this book because I might have gotten more out of it, figured out what he was trying to say, or at least felt a sense of completion.

The one sentence that stuck with me long after finishing this book came right before the group started their trek up the mountain. They were distracted by their preparations and scientific inquiries into the people, flora, and fauna of the area. They were busy and happy but had forgotten why they had gone looking for the mountain in the first place--until someone calls out to them, "So when are you leaving?" They suddenly remember what they had come for, they're ashamed for getting distracted, and they leave the next day. I have many plans, goals, and dreams, but they are more often than not lost in the trudge of everyday life. "So when are you leaving," is my new call to get back on track.

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