One of those books that you buy at the airport, just because you have nothing to read during the long flight. And then you realized you have a treasure in your hands. And you wonder how on earth is possible that you’ve never read a book by Cognetti before.
Review: “Without Ever Reaching the Summit: a Journey” – Paolo Cognetti – Einaudi (2018)
It’s a pure and simple travel tale. “Without Ever Reaching the Summit: a Journey” is the story, written in first person by Paolo Cognetti, of an amazing tour in the Dolpo region. A land between China and Nepal. Or Tibet, depending on your political-geographical point of view.
It tells of the long hike high up in the mountains of a group of friends that walk by themselves, because “in the mountains you walk alone even when you walk with someone else”.
Plot (without spoilers):
With a couple of friends and a few other adventurous companions, Paolo decides to walk. He wants to follow in Peter Matthiessen’s footsteps described in “The Snow Leopard”. Quite literally. They leave from Juphal and walk for 300 km, between sketches of incredible sunsets and evening philosophical discussions.
Sete, the Nepalese guide, and a bunch of porters bring the travellers along the path through Himalayan valleys and mountain passes that exceed 5000 meters, they visit Buddhist temples, meet local blue sheep, suffer from high mountain sickness.
The plot is simple: in “Without Ever Reaching the Summit”, Paolo Cognetti describes a place, follows a route and tells about life in the mountains.
Soon after buying this book, I’ve read many very positive reviews about it. My expectations suddenly jumped from random-duty-free-book to must-have-book. Which is a dangerous thing, because when expectations are high, usually the outcome is a fairly disappointing one.
Quite the contrary, though. In four pages I was already in Nepal, ready to walk with Cognetti for days and days at high altitudes, like I did on my Kilimanjaro. I’ve found myself in the bizarre chitchats with the guide, in appreciating the hard work of the porters, in the owe of the landscape, in the joy of a warm tea, in suffering insomnia, in not missing home. Maybe missing a comfortable bed or a hot shower, sure enough. But these are details.
Cognetti describes and makes you dream. He leaves spaces for imagination and, at the same time, tells you details of specific moments, encounters, places, stories.
This book is an airport surprise that is certainly going to make me buy other books by the author.