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The Snow Leopard (Penguin Classics) Paperback – September 30, 2008
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Stunning . . . Fiercely felt and magnificently written.
"The Washington Post Book World"
A magical book, a kind of lunar paradigm and map of the sacred.
Jim Harrison, "The Nation"
? Stunning . . . Fiercely felt and magnificently written.?
?"The Washington Post Book World"
? A magical book, a kind of lunar paradigm and map of the sacred.?
?Jim Harrison, "The Nation"
About the Author
Peter Matthiessen was the cofounder of The Paris Review and is the author of numerous works of nonfiction, including In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, Indian Country, and The Snow Leopard, winner of the National Book Award.
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The Snow Leopard is a famous book that recounts the author’s 1973 journey to the remote mountains of Nepal with field biologist George Schaller, who went to study the Himalayan blue sheep. Matthiessen went along for several reasons, for the high altitude flora and fauna, the most elusive of which is the snow leopard, and for spiritual reasons having to do with a pilgrimage to the ancient shrine on Crystal Mountain, as well as a more personal quest to understand reality and suffering, prompted by the recent loss of his wife to cancer.
I read this book slowly, partly due to my recent schedule but mainly to savor the words, as seemed best upon my encounter with them. The related journey is a combination of sheer arduous traveling, a Buddhist history of the region, a seeker’s inner path, a traveler’s account of the lives of the people living there, and as usual with this writer, lyrical descriptions of the natural world in its many forms.
Like the mountain journey itself, the passages move up and down with the landscape, changing with the weather and the reader’s mind, finding footholds in different areas of interest, holding true in sparkling moments of transcendence that balance more mundane points in other spots. There are wonderful observations of locals, both human and animal, and the inner struggles of a spiritual man who rises and falls in his attempts at betterment. Written as daily journal entries, the accumulation of the details of hardship and progress and doubt and beauty and loss began to gather within this reader and alter his perceptions in ways both subtle and profound.
In most ways this journey is no longer possible, in all likelihood not politically feasible, while the region itself is no longer as remote as it was forty years ago, not to mention the fact that many readers would not relish or even be capable of the physical demands. Here then is an opportunity to experience something of this incredible undertaking and feel this mystical, ethereal high country – in a staggering and moving accomplishment.
Here are two passages to illustrate the reflective and physical aspects of the journey.
When I watch blue sheep, I must watch blue sheep, not be thinking about sex, danger, or the present, for this present – even while I think of it – is gone.
In the cold wind, the track is icy even at midday, yet one cannot wander to the side without plunging through the crust. The regular slow step that works best on steep mountainsides is difficult; I slip and clamber. Far above, a train of yaks makes dark curves on the shining ice; soon a second herd overtakes me, the twine-soled herders strolling up the icy incline with hands clasped behind their backs, grunting and whistling at the heaving animals.
Naturalists and spiritual seekers will enjoy. I found personal notes about his wife and son extremely touching and authentic.