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Starlight and Storm
From the 1920s to the 1950s, the race for first ascents in the Alps and Dolomites
||Starlight and Storm
|| (4.00 of 5)
|Starlight and Storm (1956)
Poetry and Motion
The Essential Gist: France’s most poetic alpinist climbs six great North Faces. He tells you how it feels. Or at least, tries to.
60-second summary: Most of the Latin star alpinists of the post-war period were prone to a romantic view of climbing, which, let’s be frank, frequently verged on the pretentious. Authors such as Bonatti, Mazeaud and Terray almost depict climbing as some kind of higher calling. Rebuffat was firmly in this school, being one of the most romantic, and inviting the finely-honed lampoonery of Tom Patey, and yet, ironically it is the sheer poetry of much of Rebuffat’s writing which has enabled it to stand the test of time better than many of his peers. Rebuffat does not affect his literary style; he really means it when he says, ‘The man who climbs only in good weather, starting from huts and never bivouacking, appreciates the splendour of the mountains, but not their mystery.’ Whether you relate to Rebuffat’s Wordsworthian nature-centric viewpoint or not, Starlight, is likely to be the one tome in his canon which most will agree is a little classic. Agreeably concise (114 pages), it catalogues Rebuffat’s experiences of climbing six great north faces of the Alps. The text is riddled with little bubbles of unworldly innocence, ‘So it is that from our dreams are born the great joy of life. But dreams we must have, and all the time. I prefer dreams to memories.’ The almost naive honesty which Rebuffat delivers these pronouncements means that even the most hard-bitten cynic can’t failed to be swept along by the sheer joy and exuberance expressed by Rebuffat’s during his sojourn through the climbs. Even dead climbers appear content, ‘the expression on his face was serene’ Rebuffat writes of a colleague whose head has just been trashed by rock-fall. Rebuffat’s good-cheer is relentless, but also winning. It’s difficult not to be charmed by the sheer enthusiasm and joy with which he approaches every aspect of alpinism. Rebuffat’s lovely little book ends with a fittingly epic ascent of the Eiger Nordwand in atrocious weather. Inevitably, he promotes the virtues of a bad weather ascent.
Characteristic excerpt: ‘The man who bivouacs becomes one wit the mountains. On his bed of stone, leaning against the great wall, facing empty space which has become his friend, he watches the stars and sleeps again; then at last he stays awake and watches. On his right the sun will return, having made its great voyage below this shield of scattered diamonds...’
Like this? Try these… Mountaineering in Scotland/Undiscovered Scotland, W.H.Murray.
|I thought this was great but anonymous is right, it is very poetic and makes it out to be dance rather than a physical effort, which for the French it may well be.
|It''s a good few years since I read this book but it has certainly stuck with me - it is a classic, and as a climber Rebuffat truely instills that feeling of joy, awe, fear, intrepidation and achievement only a climber can appreciate, without leaving the comfort of where ever you are reading the book. Not only is he a gifted writer but also the routes and the climbs he describes are absolute classics. I have been meaning to read this again at some point - it is certainly long over due. For those who haven''t read the book it might be a bit hard to get hold of, but I would recommend the effort, try eBay or second hand books shops - I imagine it would be easier to source it from overseas than from Australia though. The last time I looked it wasn''t in publication anymore.
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