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Touching The Void Paperback – 1 Jan 1998
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"On every level it is an outstanding literary achievement"--The Independent
"A quite extraordinary and moving book... Touching the Void touches the Great Questions in an understated yet utterly compelling way"--The Guardian
"A truly astonishing account of suffering and fortitude... the narrative acquires an irresistible force, carrying all before it."--Sunday Times
The story of this nail-biting struggle for survival in the Peruvian Andes is a mountaineering classic.See all Product description
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Recently I downloaded the new anniversary edition of this timeless classic and in doing so it became the only book I have ever read twice. Whilst knowing the rough plot of the original story I found myself right back in the pages and ice of what has to be one of the most death-defying ordeals of survival ever endured by a human being. Whether you like climbing or not is almost irrelevant as the story here is about man overcoming obstacles on a scale of near-impossibility. The reader is living every inch and minute of the adventure, joy, pain, tragedy, despair, hopelessness, cruelty, determination, will-power and eventual escape from an environment that is about as unwelcoming to the ill-prepared as you can get.
If Joe Simpson's mountaineering skills were lacking in anyway back in 1985 then his writing skills were certainly not. In Touching the Void he takes the reader every step of the way sharing the passion of climbing and explaining its many technicalities in an easy to understand way. If you're not familiar with terminology such as col, crevasse or crampon then you're at no great loss because everyone can relate to snow, ice, altitude, ropes, frostbite and broken bones; whose regular appearances replace the more human characters typically found in popular novels.
The story is about reaching places where others have rarely ventured, and few of those places involve tall, ice-covered mountains. Deep within the human soul lie unexplored territories where no ice-axe or signal flare will ever get you out. Joe has the tools for the job but he doesn't find them in his back-pack. They appear when he needs them most but from the unlikeliest of sources - a door that opens when you not only stare death in the face but embrace it wholly like it was your best friend.
Despite the detailing of multiple incidents, Touching the Void is not a depressing book. On the contrary Joe Simpson must have felt like he was being born again. Even readers will emerge with a different take on life and perhaps re-evaluate the possibilities available to them. I have read hundreds of books over the years but this one left me with blurred vision and stuttered speech. The expression 'You couldn't make it up' was probably never more apt.
Amazon did not exist when this book was first published (along with mobile phones or the Internet) but I am now grateful for the opportunity of being able to thank the author for this wonderful piece of story-telling and to recommend it without hesitation to anyone looking for a damn good read.
There were times I, as the reader, was frowning at the decisions the author and his friend made or, at least, how much attention they were paying to their surroundings. At one point Joe, the author, describes how he was on a steep slope (I think it was at an angle of seventy degrees), covered in thick snow and ice, with high winds and with a cliff to one side with a fall of several thousand feet and it was twenty minutes into the climb that the author says he became "bloody concerned" about where he was climbing.
Sorry, I feel as if I am ranting. The book was an interesting read, especially for mountaineers or outdoor lovers.
There are a few technical terms in this book that I didn’t understand- so it was handy to be reading the Kindle version so I could easily look them up, but this in no way took away from such an astonishing story of survival and friendship. In fact, the relationship between Simon and Joe after Joe’s injury was unlike anything I’ve ever read before: the realisation that you rely so utterly on somebody else, or indeed the knowledge that someone relies so utterly on you must be mind-blowing. I can’t even begin to guess how I would react to being in either of their situations.
To put it simply, I absolutely loved this book. I couldn’t stop thinking about it while I was reading it and I know I will keep on thinking about it a long time after. I can honestly say this is one of the best and most moving books I have ever read.
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