Three centuries ago, mountains were considered forbidding and forbidden—the abodes of dragons and other ill-tempered grotesque beasts. But with the growing recognition that the Earth’s surface had not been created once and for all but was slowly evolving, mountains came to be seen as the unexplored text of the Earth’s story—a terrain that scientists, adventurers, naturalists, and, finally, travelers began to explore. In Mountains of the Mind, Robert Macfarlane blends cultural history, meditation, and memoir to show how early geologists helped transform our perceptions of the wild, chaotic landscapes; how the allure of height increasingly drew fearless climbers, culminating in the romantic figure of George Mallory, the passionate Englishman who died on Mount Everest in 1924; and how the elemental beauty of snow and ice coalesced into an aesthetic of the sublime.
Mountains of the Mind is at once an enthralling work of history, an intimate account of Macfarlane’s own experiences, and a beautifully written meditation on how memory, landscape, imagination, and the landscape of mountains are joined together in our minds and under our feet.
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Combining accounts of legendary mountain ascents with vivid descriptions of his own forays into wild, high landscapes, Robert McFarlane reveals how the mystery of the world's highest places has came to grip the Western imagination--and perennially draws legions of adventurers up the most perilous slopes.
His story begins three centuries ago, when mountains were feared as the forbidding abodes of dragons and other mysterious beasts. In the mid-1700s the attentions of both science and poetry sparked a passion for mountains; Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Lord Byron extolled the sublime experiences to be had on high; and by 1924 the death on Mt Everest of an Englishman named George Mallory came to symbolize the heroic ideals of his day. Macfarlane also reflects on fear, risk, and the shattering beauty of ice and snow, the competition and contemplation of the climb, and the strange alternate reality of high altitude, magically enveloping us in the allure of mountains at every level.
Robert Macfarlane was born in 1976. He is a fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and he contributes to the Observer, the Times Literary Supplement, and the London Review of Books, among other publications. Mountains of the Mind is his first book.
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