Mountain books
September 14, 2012 5:10 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for literary works about mountains. I imagine they exist, because being in mountains and climbing them and seeing everything from up high is such a powerful experience. I know there are movies about this (for instance the silent ones by Arnold Franck), and I suppose there must be an equivalent in writing. Ideally, they would be rather lyrical or poetic texts. Any ideas, hive-mind?
posted by MrMisterio to Writing & Language (21 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Mount Analogue by René Daumal is the first that comes to mind.
posted by xil at 5:17 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

The thing this question brings to my mind is Nietzsche's Zarathrusta.
posted by bukvich at 5:34 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

The novella Green Mars, collected in The Martians, is about a group of people climbing Olympus Mons on a terraformed Mars, and is bloody fantastic.

(Not to be confused with the book Green Mars by the same author. I don't know, either.)
posted by restless_nomad at 5:41 PM on September 14, 2012

Danger on Peaks, Gary Snyder
posted by alex_skazat at 5:43 PM on September 14, 2012

Best answer: Published in 1978, The Snow Leopard is rightly regarded as a classic of modern nature writing. Guiding his readers through steep-walled canyons and over tall mountains, Matthiessen offers a narrative that is shot through with metaphor and mysticism, and his arduous search for the snow leopard becomes a vehicle for reflections on all manner of matters of life and death. In the process, The Snow Leopard evolves from an already exquisite book of natural history and travel into a grand, Buddhist-tinged parable of our search for meaning. By the end of their expedition, having seen wolves, foxes, rare mountain sheep, and other denizens of the Himalayas, and having seen many signs of the snow leopard but not the cat itself, Schaller muses, "We've seen so much, maybe it's better if there are some things that we don't see."
posted by rtha at 5:55 PM on September 14, 2012 [4 favorites]

In the genre of mountain literature these struck me as having considerable literary merit
Lionel Terray- Conquistadors of the Useless
Walter Bonatti - Mountains of My Life
posted by canoehead at 5:59 PM on September 14, 2012

Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain.
posted by trip and a half at 6:01 PM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

The novel Lost Horizon is set in the peaceful valley Shangri-La, sheltered by Himalayas.
posted by LobsterMitten at 6:25 PM on September 14, 2012

Best answer: Shelley's Mont Blanc
posted by pised at 6:25 PM on September 14, 2012

The Mountain is Young by Han Suyin. The style is a sort of Himalayan magic realism.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 6:26 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Phantasia for Elvira Shatayeva by Adrienne Rich is (at least literally) about mountain-climbing.
posted by LobsterMitten at 6:38 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My First Summer in the Sierra, by John Muir. His experience in the mountain range (he was hired to tend a flock of sheep for the summer) inspired him to push for the creation of the national park system in the United States.
posted by beanie at 6:55 PM on September 14, 2012

Best answer: Heidi
posted by brujita at 7:44 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Ascent of F6, by W. H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:05 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Banner in the Sky made a big impression on me when I was a kid. No idea if it would hold up nowadays...
posted by Bron at 8:09 PM on September 14, 2012

I enjoyed Peace, by Richard Bausch a lot last year. It's not about a mountain, per se, but the whole book essentially takes place on a mountain over one night.
posted by smoke at 8:10 PM on September 14, 2012

The Gothic novel The Italian by Ann Radcliffe has some very memorable descriptions of dramatic mountains and is considered a classic Gothic novel. (The heroine is kidnapped and taken into the mountains, if I recall correctly).
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 8:13 PM on September 14, 2012

Soul Mountain by Gao Xingjian seems to be exactly what you're looking for. The mountain itself is mostlymetaphorical, but it forms the focus for all of the musings in the book.
posted by calistasm at 8:58 PM on September 14, 2012

Best answer: The Vision of Theodore is a little-known story by Samuel Johnson, one of the great literary figures of the eighteenth century. It's an allegory about being helped or hindered by habits while you struggle to climb the "mountain of existence," and I think a lot of readers find the allegory clunky. But I think Johnson was sincerely troubled by what he thought of as his "habits." He suffered from depression and (probably) Tourette syndrome at a time when neither disorder was well understood in medical terms, and he once explained his odd behavior (possibly Tourette tics) as the result of "bad habits." He also wrote down some desperate-sounding prayers for God to help him in his struggle against his habits, and he reportedly remarked that his habit allegory, "The Vision of Theodore," was the best thing he ever wrote. So when I read "Theodore," I picture Samuel Johnson suffering on the side of the mountain, believing that he is a moral failure, believing that he should be able to choose better, but finding himself unable to control his "bad habits"—and I feel for him.
posted by Naiad at 10:11 PM on September 14, 2012

Response by poster: Although The Vision of Theodore isn't exactly what I'm looking for, it was an amazing read. Thanks, Naiad.
posted by MrMisterio at 10:23 AM on September 15, 2012

The Mountain, by Drusilla Mojeski. About PNGian tribes, their relationship with their land over time, and the experiences of a young anthropologist/a photographer/a film maker in the 70s to 90s. Fictional.
posted by jojobobo at 2:32 PM on September 15, 2012

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