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Touching My Father's Soul
A Sherpa's Journey to the Top of Everest by the climbing leader for the IMAX 96 team
||Touching My Father's Soul
||Jamling Tenzing Norgay
||Harper San Francisco
||(April 24, 2001)
|| (3.00 of 5)
|Touching My Father’s Soul
Jamling Tenzing Norgay & Broughton Coburn
Touching My Father’s Soul, possesses the ring of first-person authenticity albeit one that is mediated via an American ghost writer. Jamling Tenzing Norgay, son of the famous Everest bagger, has written an account of his own experiences on the mountain as part of David Breashear’s IMAX expedition during the notoriously doom-laden spring of 1996. His words have been ‘interpreted’ by Broughton Cockburn, an American who sounds like he should be a village in Shropshire rather than a co-writer. Despite this drawback, they have done a pretty good job in steering a path between commercial necessity and a spiritual perspective on the Everest industry from the viewpoint of a Buddhist ‘insider’. Jamling, who straddles two cultural identities (a member of the Darjeeling Sherpa diaspora and educated in the US) is an excellent commentator on the general Himalayan climbing/trekking scene and provides intriguing insights into the ‘locals’ attitudes to the job of mountain climbing. The mega-superstitious nature of the Sherpa approach to the mountains is engagingly explained, along with a sympathetic examination of the dilemma facing his ethnic countrymen as they are pulled by the opposing forces of materialism and spiritualism.
Perhaps surprisingly for a popular book aimed at a predominantly US market, TMFS manages to avoid excessive sentimentality. The bond that the author feels with his famous dead dad’s spirit is explored in detail but never seems contrived. Jamling also expresses his doubts and fears about the Everest circus remarkably honestly, while his wry observations of the foolishness of the mikaru (‘white eyes’) are tellingly critical, without being overtly condemnatory. Jamling’s account of his own summit attempt, mother’s rosary beads in one hand, and father’s Rolex watch in the other, as he chants Buddhist mantras to help him over his fear of climbing past dead bodies, nicely illustrates the complex cross-cultural world modern Sherpas inhabit.
Overall, of the avalanche of books generated in the wake of the 1996 Everest debacle, TMFS joins Krakauer’s original classic account as one of only two that are worth spending precious time on. In both you’ll find insights into human nature when under extreme pressures; one from a thoroughly western perspective, and now one from a semi-eastern viewpoint. Despite the collaborative nature of the writing it succeeds in being one of the less obviously ‘author assisted’ books in the recent mountaineering canon, allowing Jamling’s personality, character and concerns to shine through the Americanised filter nicely. Shropshire Village Man has done his client proud.
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