Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Two books

I've just finished reading Ann Barry's 'A home in France' and is in the middle of reading Maurice Hertzog's 'Annapurna'. The two books cannot be more different from each other. Both books epitomizes the question, 'Why not'. We ask too many 'Why?'. The poignancy of Ann Barry's book is that it was published posthumously by her estate, in 1996, the year she passed away. Often times we want to know what happened to the authors of the great books we read, a kind of 'where are they now?' For some, they are no longer with us anymore. Where is Maurice Hertzog now? I don't know. His book was published in 1952, some 56 years ago.
'A home in France' by Ann Barry is really just another book about an American who bought a house abroad. A single woman who lived and worked in New York who bought a house in a little village in the Dordogne area. It records her many trips there in the 12 years she owned the house. Even with just 2 weeks vacation each year, she formed a yearly routine where she goes and lives in France for that 2 weeks. She used the place also as a base in which to explore the area of France, many of the places I've also visited. She and an old friend went to visit Rocamadour, a monastery perched high against a cliff. Four years ago, Sophie and I were there, the train station was an hour's hike away and we walked because there was no buses on a Sunday. She wrote about Brive la Gallarde, in fact, rather warmly. It's an nondescript town, we used it as our base because the hotels were dirt cheap, we paid 25 euros a night for a rinky dink room and that was the first time I was so cheap and got to like it and has been desperately looking for cheap lodgings ever since. We stayed 3 nights, I gave the landlady 100 euros and she gave me change back. I said to myself, wow, I can get used to this!
'Annapurna' is a book about the expedition put together by Frenchman, Maurice Hertzog, to climb Annapurna in 1950. They spent months trying to find Annapurna in the Himalayas and reconnoitering the area trying to find it and a way to climb it. Why, I don't know. Why do people go to such lengths, I don't know. They finally made an assault on Annapurna, coming down was the challenge. They stayed too long on the summit, enjoying the joys of that glorious moment. It was too cloudy on the descent, it took forever and many in their party, including Hertzog, were severely frostbitten. He had to have a few amputations, it wasn't just the descent, it was the getting out that very remote area of the Himalayas for medical attention, the consequence of that delay was a huge factor in his recovery. It was exciting when they finally decide they will ascend to the top. I shared their excitement through the pages. Wow! What courage, what raw physical strength, what grit! These days you climb Mt Everest with oxygen tanks but they climbed Annapurna with no special equipment. Amazing! For what, I don't know, who cares, they didn't! For the sheer joy of the challenge.
The last few lines of the book reads.....
'Annapurna, to which we had gone empty handed, was a treasure on which we should live the rest of our days. With this realization we turn the page, a new life begins.
There are other Annapurnas in the lives of men.'

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