The Friendship of a Mountain
A Brief Treatise on Elevation
1. Edition May 2023
160 Pages, Hardcover
Wiley & Sons Ltd
Price: 20,90 €
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Why are we fascinated by mountains? These outcrops of rock were once considered unsightly, something to be avoided at all costs, but, since Rousseau, they have been contrasted with our corrupt cities and viewed as serene enclaves of beauty and relaxation.
But why climb to the summit only to come back down again? Why does the toil of climbing convert into joy? What metaphysics of the absolute is playing out here - what challenge does climbing pose to time and ageing, to fearful panic, to the brush with danger which leads to conquest? It's not faith that elevates mountains - it's mountains that elevate our faith in challenging us to overcome them. These hooded majesties crush some people while exalting others. For the latter, climbing means being born again, reaching a state of exhilaration. Being seized by exhaustion upon arriving at the summit is akin to casting your eyes upon paradise. Is it the stinging cold, the wind so strong that it almost knocks you down, or is it higher powers that speak to us in this mixture of terror and beauty?
A child of the mountains who spent his youth in Austria and Switzerland, Pascal Bruckner has special ties to the subject of this book: the further he climbs, the more he reconnects to his past. In sparkling and sensual prose, Bruckner's paean to the majesty of mountains weaves together things seen and things read, childhood memories, literature and philosophy, interlaced with reflections on life, ageing and the unrivalled beauty of an ecosystem that we are in danger of destroying.
Preamble: The Test of the Coconut Tree
Chapter 1: Where Goes the White When Melts the Snow?
Chapter 2: Why Climb?
Chapter 3: Our Universal Mother
Chapter 4: The Mesmerizing Confederation
Chapter 5: The Show-Offs and the Yokels
Chapter 6: Lived Experiences
Chapter 7: The Aesthetics of the Adventurer: Princes and Peasants
Chapter 8: The Two Faces of the Abyss
Chapter 9: Reynard and Isengrim
Chapter 10: Loving What Terrifies Us
Chapter 11: Death in Chains?
Chapter 12: Protecting the Great Stone Books
Chapter 13: Sublime Chaos
Epilogue: Once You've Reached the Summit, Keep Climbing
Mark Lilla, Professor of Humanities, Columbia University
'This book is a remarkable meditation on the natural world, how humans imagine and distort it and all too often fail to understand and learn from it. Like all of Bruckner's work, it is steeped in a remarkable intellectual culture, wide reading, and the spirit of the moraliste which informs all of Bruckner's work. It is an original and important intellectual contribution and, at the same time, an extremely enjoyable read that will appeal to all ages, especially in these pandemic or endemic times.'
Richard J. Golsan, University Distinguished Professor, Senior Scowcroft Fellow, the Bush School, Texas A&M University