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Gervasutti's Climbs

by Giusto Gervasutti

Translated by Nea Morrin and Janet Adam Smith

The Mountaineers,Seattle,Washington, 1979; 202 pages;
Reviewed by Gary Harrison


Gervasutti's Climbs was first published in English in 1957 and has long been an out-of-print prize for collectors of climbing literature. Gervasutti, a leading Italian alpinist of the 1930s, had been killed in 1946 attempting what is now called me Gervasutti Pillar on Mont Blanc du Tacul. The autobiography covers a whole mass of adventures across the Dolomites and Western Alps and contains an abundance of compelling reading. Nevermind not having a first edition it's the words that matter.”
Geoff Birtles, „Crags” 1979, June/July,            No.19,  p. 36

“The final chapter of Gervasutti's Climbs is an attempt to answer briefly the question climbers frequently ask themselves: Why? The summary answer, an interpretive effort to assign values to a man's life of climbing, falls somewhat short in that it issues from the "contemplative side of mountaineering" in which Giusto Gervasutti does not fully believe. His real answers come through the philosophy in action which best emerges from the precise but not laboriously detailed accounts of his climbs in the Alps, Andes, and Dolomites. The intensity of action which evolves and informs the entire book at once affirms and extends Gervasutti's succinct explanation that he climbs because of "the ecstasy of creation" which comes from doing, not from contemplating. (…)
Through the stimulating, sometimes nerve-wracking descriptions of his Laocoon-like struggles with the mountains and through the reflective pauses in the narrative, Gervasutti develops an aesthetics of mountaineering which is not unlike some eighteenth and nineteenth century aesthetics of fine arts. "Heroic but unnecessary action" is in the same spirit as Kant's aesthetic which emphasizes "disinterestedness," art for its own sake without moral and utilitarian encumbrances. Mountaineering for its own sake, for the "moments when the sense of life is heightened by tension and struggle" is Gervasutti's way of answering the question: why? (…)
Gervasutti's Climbs is in the best tradition of mountaineering autobiography and addresses every kind of climber, from the contemplative to the aggressive militant. It contains that "certain measure of mystery and poetry" which Giusto Gervasutti so much admired while describing fully and precisely those exalted moments of intense feeling on ice, snow, and rock.”
Gary Harrison, “Climbing”, 1979, July-August, No 55,       p. 38-40

“A facsimile reprint of the original 1957 translation of Gervasutti's autobiography. Unavailable for some years this is a worthwhile classic to reprint as the climbs done by Gervasutti were way ahead of their time. Unlike many more modern translations this book stands the change well and the style and personality of the remarkable Italian climber come over well.”
“Mountain” 1979, May/June, No. 67, p. 46


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