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Savage Arena

Savage Arena 

by Joe Tasker

Methuen, 1982; St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1082, 270 pages

„There are a very few mountaineering books that become both a representative expression of a certain era and, at the same time, inspirational bibles to the young climbers of that period. Two immensely important books for me in this context were W. H. Murray's Mountaineering in Scotland and Hermann Buhl's Nanga Parbat Pilgrimage. Savage Arena falls into this category and I am quite sure it also will become a classic. Tasker not only captures the mood of extreme climbing in the Himalayas, he also portrays his fellow climbers, particularly his two main climbing partners, Dick Renshaw and Peter Boardman, with great clarity and sensitivity. The writing is spare but wonderfully expressive and the book has a pace that is so gripping that you just don't want it to end.”
Chris Bonington, “Alpine Journal” 1983, p. 230-231

„Joe Tasker's book is not in the least romantic. He too writes in one of the classic styles which has become a cult in recent times. Whilst reporting factually all that went on around him Tasker does not omit his own part in these events and is at constant pains to see not only his own but the other climbers' side of a story. It is much more about the actual climbing than Boardman's work [Sacred Summits] but without becoming obsessed with holds, moves, and equipment; concentrating on the proper study of mountaineering: the mountaineers. What makes the book so excellent is that these judgements are not made from a fixed position of "I" but that the narrator is himself an unfixed point. Joe admits to his own mixed feelings on many occasions and explains very clearly how on most big climbs decisions occur rather than are taken.”
“Mountain” 1982, November/December, No. 88, p. 48

“Introduced to readers in Boardman's Shining Mountain through a series of brief excerpts, Tasker comes across as a penurious 'hard-man' who is as ruthlessly single-minded as he is generous. In his own book, Tasker becomes flesh and blood, a character full of the wide-eyes innocence of a young man swept up in the high velocity atmosphere of big expeditions.
In contrast to Boardman's emotional style, Tasker is gritty and unembroidered. He reveals the treachery of his ambitions and his unabashed love for his friends and mountains. With stark simplicity, Tasker's stories unmask the illusions of extreme climbing to show the sport for what it is: survival.”
Mike Shandrick, „Summit” 1983, May-June, p. 25

„In his own book, Savage Arena, Tasker becomes the flesh and blood character readers might expect from the man with so many superlative climbs to his credit. His intense, moody quality that distanced Boardman, is, at the core, the wide-eyed innocence of a young man who was as much in doubt about his own abilities as others were about theirs.
Savage Arena is more than a posthumous companion reader to Boardman's two books (The Shining Mountain and Sacred Summits); it is the final work of a trilogy in which each man mirrored the growth of the other and came of age in big-time British mountaineering.”
Mike Shandrick, “Climbing” 1983, June, No. 98, p. 46


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