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To a Mountain in Tibetby Colin Thubron
Synopses & Reviews
This is the account of a journey to the holiest mountain on earth, the solitary peak of Kailas in Tibet, sacred to one-fifth of humankind. To both Buddhists and Hindus it is the mystic heart of the world and an ancient site of pilgrimage. It has never been climbed. Even today, under Chinese domination, the people of four religions circle the mountain in devotion to different gods.
Colin Thubron reached it by foot along the Karnali River, the highest source of the Ganges. His journey is an entry into the culture of today's Tibet, and a pilgrimage in the wake his mother's death and the loss of his family. He undertakes it in order to mark the event, to leave a sign of their passage. He also explores his own need for solitude, which has shaped his career as a writer—one who travels to places beyond his own history and culture, writing about them and about the journey. To a Mountain in Tibet is at once a powerful travelogue, a fascinated encounter with alien faith, and an intimate personal voyage.
It is a haunting and beautiful book, a rare mix of discovery and loss. In its evocation of landscape and variety of exotic peoples, of mythic and spiritual traditions foreign to our own, it is a spectacular achievement from our greatest living travel writer, an artist of formidable literary gifts, uncanny intuition, and wondrous insight.
"'The mountain path is the road of the dead,' writes Thubron (Shadow of the Silk Road) in this engrossing and affecting travel memoir that transcends the mere physical journey. In the wake of his mother's death, Thubron sets off to Mount Kailas in Tibet, a peak sacred to one-fifth of the world's population and the source of four of India's great rivers. Kailas has never been climbed: the slopes are important to Tibetan Buddhists who say the mountain's guardian is Demchog (a tantric variant of Shiva). Along with two guides, Thubron embarks on a pilgrimage that begins in Nepal and crosses into Tibet, recounting not only his arduous journey but also the political and cultural history of Tibet and the West's continued fascination with its mysticism. Along the way, he observes pilgrims of various religions converging on Kailas and the myriad monasteries, most of which were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution and rebuilt decades later. It is the poignant evocations of his mother and sister (who died at 21), interwoven with his profound respect for the Tibetan culture and landscape that make Thubron's memoir an utterly moving read. (Mar.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
"A powerful and hauntingly elegiac hybrid of travelogue and memoir." New York Times Book Review
"Like the works of Bruce Chatwin and Paul Theroux, Thubron's gorgeous, evocative writing transcends the genre and reads like great literature." Carmela Ciuraru, Readymade.com
"Thubron is a versatile painter of place...an expert guide for the region's complex topography....He is refreshingly clear and unintimidated." Los Angeles Times
"Thubron's descriptive writing is as dazzling as the scenery. His scholarship on the area's religious and political history is enthralling." Financial Times
"With great elegiac precision....Thubron adroitly navigates the difficult line between an emotive personal memoir...and a vivid description of one of the most spectacular mountain journeys." Times Literary Supplement (London)
"Not only the most revealing book he has ever published but also the most profound....The telling...is masterly, with that sharp poetic eye for detail that is Thubron at his best." Charles Allen, Spectator
"Thubron has, as always, thoroughly researched his subject, so his descriptions of shadowy Buddhist shrines and wildly various religious supplicants are interspersed with eloquent accounts of Tibet's place in the imaginings of the West." New York Times Book Review
"A masterpiece of travel writing." Hugh Thomas, Telegraph
"One of the greats of contemporary travel writing...Thubron's transcendent prose places the reader directly on the path to Kailas, culminating with the final glimpse of the sacred site." Seattle Times
"Thubron has spent four decades writing in forceful and respectful ways of foreign lands, and To a Mountain in Tibet is no exception." Wall Street Journal
"More meditative than his sweeping Shadow of the Silk Road....Walking with Thubron up the sacred mountain, strenuous as it is at times, is well worth the effort." Philadelphia Inquirer
"One of the greatest contemporary travel writers....As he guides us along these braiding trails, Thubron's moving evocation makes for an unforgettably enlightening journey." National Geographic Traveler Book of the Month
"[Thubron has] been called one of the world's greatest living travel writers. Few will doubt it, after they accompany him on this search for earthly sanctity." Christian Science Monitor
About the Author
An award-winning novelist and travel writer, Colin Thubron's books include Among the Russians, In Siberia, and the New York Timesbestseller Shadow of the Silk Road. He lives in London.
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