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The Snow Leopard Paperback – 22 Jan 1998


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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics; New Ed edition (22 Jan 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 009977111X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099771111
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.1 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 10,990 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"A beautiful book, and worthy of the mountains he is among" (Paul Theroux)

"What began as a practical search for the rare snow leopard, revered Buddhist emblem, developed into a quest for the meaning of Being. An enjoyable combination of mountaineering and mysticism" (Observer)

"It's a tale of an inner struggle for calm, and would be an inspiring and sustaining desert island companion" (Emily Barr)

"As much the chronicle of an inner journey as it is the learned recording of an unfamiliar territory...a timeless account" (Independent)

"An evocative account of a remote and timeless place and its people" (Sunday Times)

Book Description

'Matthiessen's book is a triumph that will outlive him. It is a masterpiece' John Hillaby

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By ILONACAT on 14 July 2004
Format: Paperback
I must have read this book at least a dozen times since first being given a copy at Christmas 1987. (I don't reread books much, as a whole.) Every time I come to it, there is something new to learn, to appreciate.Then there are some things that strike me EVERY time. Not least, the elegance and beauty of Matthiessen's writing-one minute he is writing of his meditative practice(he had been a Zen practitioner for several years when he made this Himalayan journey in the autumn of 1973), the next minute he's describing the very practical difficulties encountered on such an expedition (snow-drifts, altitude sickness,) and the NEXT minute he's describing-informatively, beautifully-the animals and plants. He's also very deep into Buddhist philosophy-as one might expect, of course-and knows a good few things about Buddhist iconography as well(whatever he modestly claims to the contrary).The book is not only an examination (and, ultimately, a celebration) of the snow leopard, or the Himalayan blue sheep, but also of the Himalayan way of life. I share some of his delight when, after many weeks of trials and tribulations, he finds himself standing in a remote gompa( a sort of Buddhist chapel or oratory), a place subtly gleaming with brass statues, prayer-wheels, etc. and lit only by candles.
It's an infectious book. And a powerful one. I'd also recommend Matthiessen's TIGERS IN THE SNOW, his study of the Amur( Siberian) tiger.If you're remotely interested in the big cats, you could do worse than treat yourself to both these gems.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Andy Davies on 19 Jan 2006
Format: Paperback
Bought this while travelling, and didn't really appreciate how good it was until I returned home. Matthiesson's expedition with Schaller is excellently retold, and his linking of the essences of both spirituality and nature makes this book inspire a sense of calm, yet also sadness at the nature of our supposedly 'modern' society. I don't recall him beating any sherpa's as another reviewer has mentioned - he is (or was)a buddhist practitioner, and this would seem to be against his overriding principle - that we are all one with nature. This book is excellent as both a form of escapism, and for those who wish to read an informed and enlightened travel journal
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By bernie@staffordb.freeserve.co.uk on 4 Jan 2002
Format: Paperback
This book is a story of two journeys of exploration. On one hand it is an account of an expedition by the world famous field biologist Georges Schaller to remote North Western Nepal in search of the fabled Snow Leopard.
The second journey is Matthiessen's personal journey of spiritual discovery amongst the Himalayan gompas of both Buddhism and the ancient Bon religion.
Combining a remarkable eye for detail in the flora and fauna of the journey with a deeply moving account of his personal spiritual discoveries, this book is a "must read" for anyone with even the slightest interest in what lies beyond the mundane day to day world.
It is also a detailed account of a world which was at the time of the expedition untouched by Western technology or values. A world which largely no longer exists.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 3 Mar 2006
Format: Paperback
Matthiessen’s book, written in beautiful, otherworldly prose, is a masterpiece.
The book describes the physical and spiritual journey the author undertakes to the far North-West of Nepal with the renowned naturalist George Schaller.
Mathiessen undertook this trek shortly after the death of his first wife - and whilst wrestling with the loss of a loved one, the shackles of modern western life and Mathiessen own spiritual exploration of Buddhist philosophies – the words drip off the pages like honey.
The pace of the narrative and the nuggets of spiritual and philosophical truth found within these pages echo in the readers mind and far outlive the reading of the book.
The people, the culture and the landscape come together and thrust the reader into a forgotten land at the time untouched by western influence. One of those classic reads you’ll be sure to tell friends and loved ones about and probably force them to read!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Sally Walker on 9 Nov 2011
Format: Paperback
This is a deep book that gets you thinking, chiefly about the absurdity of the wealth seeking, greedy, `because I'm worth it' western culture. This book, almost subliminally, has had a gentle but something approaching profound effect upon me. It has removed the scales from my eyes and shown me what really matters.

Matthiessen wrote this book following his accompanying Dr George Schaller into the Himalayas reaching close to the Tibetan border. Schaller was a zoologist who wanted to study the rut of the blue sheep, a rare form. He wanted to assess through field observations whether this animal was more goat than sheep or vice versa. (It never ceases to amaze me the way in which some people earn their living). Both hoped to see the elusive snow leopard, hence the title of the book. I shall not spoil the book for future readers by revealing whether their hopes were realised.

This book is many layered: an account of the author's arduous trek on foot through the Himalayas of Nepal to the Crystal Mountain and Shey Gompa, the Crystal Monastry and back again; of his coming to terms with the recent death of his wife, and their relationship before her diagnosis of having cancer; a vivid and beautiful description of the landscape, wildlife, flora and people that he saw and on his long and often arduous journey; of his deepening understanding of Buddhism and his continued attachment to things corporeal. The author is very candid and honest with himself when looking within at his own spiritual path on this journey and as he sees it lack of spiritual growth.

In short this is a spiritual and thought provoking book that we in the west could all do with reading.
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