Jave de Lasse, last week, in an interview for a Spanish literary journal:
Believe it or not, I’ve met people who are actually impressed with the answer given by the ape-headed climber in response to the question, ‘Why climb Everest?’ In my mind, his witty reply doesn’t mean much; not when the question is so obviously at fault. ‘Why should we care?’ is the only proper way of dealing with such a situation. Mountain climbers bore me terribly. What is one supposed to learn from climbing a mountain? Go home and read Proust, for Marcel’s sake. Read Szesz. Do something useful.
As it turns out, this is not the first time de Lasse has offended the mountain climbing community – last time he did so (back in 2001, I believe) he woke to find all the windows of his house smashed by grappling hooks and half a ton of snow piled up in his library (no mean feat, considering that he lived in Seville at the time). Still, it’s nice to see that this experience hasn’t stopped him speaking his mind.
Of course, we mustn’t take it for granted (as de Lasse seems to) that those of the mountain-climbing persuasion aren’t also, in their spare time, keen readers. Perhaps even active readers. Indeed, there have long been rumours that Tenzig Norgay carried with him to the summit a copy of Caspar Bloff’s 1949 novel, Death in Vladivostock, with the intention of seeing how the thin air on the peak would affect his reading of the stirring final chapter. Unfortunately he is said to have sacrificed the book halfway through the journey to pacify a hungry snow leopard. What the leopard made of Bloff’s work has, alas, never been recorded – though I suspect that he or she would, like me, find it a wholly overrated work, not fit for an endangered species.