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The Evidence of Things Not Seen
A Mountaineer's Tale
'In climbing there is an elation when all is going well. You make the moves surely and swiftly with rhythm. When you are climbing well, you know it. The same goes for writing. The two crafts are often akin ...when you are off form you write clumsily, just as you move clumsily; you pick wrong words as you pick wrong holds. You lose the purpose and thread of writing as you lose route - but on mountains and in writing when good form is struck, when it all comes together, when inspiration is caught and held - the world is yours.' W.H. Murray is one of Britain's finest mountain writers. A climber, writer and environmental campaigner, he pioneered climbs in Scotland, explored the Himalaya and wrote a number of remarkable books on climbing and mountaineering. The Evidence of Things Not Seen, his multiple-award winning autobiography, ranges from his early climbs in Scotland in the 1930s to Second World War combat in Africa and three years in Nazi prison camps (during which time Murray wrote his famous Mountaineering in Scotland not once, but twice, on toilet paper).
Exploratory Himalayan ventures follow, including the 1951 Everest reconnaissance trip that established the crucial route through the Khumbu Icefall, before his focus returns to the Scottish crags, and to environmental matters and the struggle against the predations of the forestry and hydroelectric industries. Murray's writing captures the element of awe and wonder at the power of wild landscapes. His philosophical concerns add extra depth to his words as he seeks 'that other side of night'. He sees the mountain environment as one which offers fine areas for recreation, but also sanctuaries for reflection. This autobiography is essential reading for mountaineers, climbers, conservationists, thinkers, or indeed anyone that appreciates our remaining wild spaces.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
'A big, quiet book that resonated beyond the clamour of ego and conquest.' (Dermot Somers, Judge, Banff Mountain Festival of Literature and Culture). 'This autobiography captures the huge scope of Murray's extraordinary life - I'd wager that many climbers under thirty have read little of Murray, seeing him as a remote figure from the past. This book has changed all that and made him relevant and current.' (Ed Douglas, Climber Magazine). 'Would it live up to expectations? The answer is a resounding yes. Murray's words of optimism, insight and humility flow from each page, No inflated ego, no cynicism, no backbiting - and no false modesty either.' (Jim Curran, High). 'Through the concise and page-turning war days we learn that the author spent two years scribing Mountaineering in Scotland on toilet paper. The Gestapo found the then manuscript, interrogated Murray and then destroyed it, believing it was coded intelligence information. Over the next two years Murray describes how he forced himself to rewrite the book.' (Jonathan Waterman, American Alpine Journal). 'Bill Murray married a poet and the poetic sensibility which so often gives his work its depth is on display here. Its prose enhanced by pages of sumptuous photographs, valuable artefacts of climbing history in themselves, The Evidence of Things Not Seen is the memorial Murray deserves. Like a Highland sunset, his talent flared in glory one final time.' (David Rose, The Guardian).
'The fulfilment of life's purpose will be found in oneness with reality.' This declaration is an extract from a letter to his sister written by the mountaineer W H Murray while in a prisoner-of-war camp in Germany following capture by Rommel's army in North Africa. In this posthumously published autobiography (he died in 1996) Murray recounts how meditation and the study of mysticism enabled him and others to endure three years of incarceration in various camps in Europe and survive the concomitant squalor, vermin, disease, clubbings by guards and lack of food - prisoners would even slaughter and eat Alsatian guard-dogs if they were foolish enough to stray too far from their German masters. But books, when acquired and permitted, were most highly prized by most prisoners, who would give each other lectures in selected subjects, and Murray writes that during his last year of captivity he no longer felt like a prisoner. He even managed to write a manuscript of his own - on scraps of toilet paper which he stuffed into his clothes - and when his first draft was found and confiscated by suspicious Gestapo officers he wrote it all over again. On his release Murray again devoted himself to his life's passion of mountaineering, and he concentrates the rest of his autobiography on his several climbs in the Himalayas, with detailed descriptions of physical hardships and dangers interspersed with wisdom gleaned not only from books but from fellow mountaineers. The relish of a challenge, allied to the sheer sense of triumphant exhilaration experienced through scaling seemingly impossible peaks, shines throughout his writing. This superb book stands as a testament to a life of internal examination coupled with external exploration, and to a brave, adventurous and resilient man with an indomitably positive outlook. (Kirkus UK)