Lovely. I acquired this book thinking it was going to be your standard adventure novel with a bit of Buddhist philosophy about not getting attached to the result and enjoying the journey. It was that and much more. Matthiessen has an acute knowledge of the area and culture and was eloquent about the dangers of spiritual materialism as well as the knowledgeable about the different religions of the region. He quotes from Sanskrit text and throws in some lovely poetry from various sages across the world. This is a book that one could use as a study guide. Love the fact that he includes end notes, just in case the reader wants a more thorough understanding of some of the old visionaries.
From the back cover:
"Across the most awesome mountains on earth, Peter Matthiessen went in search of the rare snow leopard. His dangerous trip became a pilgrimage, a luminous journey of the heart."
I loved the beautifully written tale of adventure and exploration, I could see the sherpa's smiles, and feel the snow... it was wonderful. I didn't enjoy trying to track the expedition on the hopeless map inside the front cover - what could have been wonderful was frustrating and disappointing. I also didn't care for the extent of the authors spiritual journey. Of course one couldn't complete such a journey without much introspection, but I found the details of the various religions too extensive to follow, and my heart wasn't in it. I probably won't read this book again, but parts of it will stay with me.
If you can get past the religion stuff he tosses in, the descriptors of the trip will create a picture and make you feel part of the journey. Remember when books could create the places in your mind without seeing it in a movie? This is one of those books. Of other interest is his consistent mention of the fauna and wildlife; many of which will have you scrambling for google or a dictionary. This was my interest in reading the journal. Read the one two and three star reviews over at Amazon before picking up this book. It may not be for you.
In 1973, Matthiessen and field biologist George Schaller went into the high Himalayas to study Himalayan Blue sheep and to pursue the rare Snow Leopard. One of the few studies of the Himalayas that is so well-written, you actually feel deprived and chilled as you read it. Matthiessen is one of our best living writers.
When Matthiessen went to Nepal to study the Himalayan blue sheep and, possibly, to glimpse the rare and beautiful snow leopard, he undertook his five-week trek as winter snows were sweeping into the high passes. This is a radiant and deeply moving account of a "true pilgrimage, a journey of the heart."
I struggled through about half of this before I gave up.
Matthiesen writes beautifully, even lyrically, about the glories of the high Himalayas, but in the end (or at least in the middle, since that was as far as I got), this is yet another tale about a person so disgruntled with their life that they set out on an incredibly challenging journey in the hopes of achieving enlightenment.
The very mindset of such a person eludes me, and unless the journey itself is compelling (this one isn't), I see no reason to go along, even from an armchair position.
The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen is a spiritual and physical journey about a nature author tagging along with a famous wildlife researcher, George Schaller, far past the forgotten outposts of the Himalayan mountains. Matthiessen's descriptive language made his journey so vivid and real. This book makes me want to do yoga again and give meditation a try. I skimmed over nearly all of the religious references because I had little interest in them. I think his overall theme was that life can get ridiculously complicated, but if you pare it down to its bare essentials, you find beauty, pure beauty in yourself and in the people and world around you. Live simply to find your greatest happiness.