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Sunday, February 19th, 2006

Time Event
10:48a
A strange little book ...
I picked this up at some bookstore on sale a decade or so back ... probably enticed by the note on the back cover by Shambhala Books' publisher that this was a key inspiration for him getting into publishing. I'm not sure exactly how this text managed that particular spark, but it has elements of "mystery" that could certainly be attractive.

First of all, Rene Daumal's Mount Analogue: A Novel of Symbolically Authentic Non-Euclidean Adventures in Mountain Climbing is unfinished, leaving off mid-sentence in the middle of the fifth chapter of what was to be a seven-chapter work (having been distracted from his writing just prior to his untimely death from tuberculosis at 36, Daumal was never able to complete it). The author had accomplished a remarkable amount in his short life, and was operating in G.I.Gurdjieff's circles (under the wing of Alexadre de Salzmann, to whom the book is dedicated) at the time of his death. The book appears to be an alegory of the mystic path, especailly as interpreted by the "4th Way" schools, and, unfortunately, only seems to "get going" in that direction in the unfinished fifth chapter ... givng the reader the sense that they've been handed half a map.

On the surface, Mount Analogue is an adventure tale involving the search for a hidden island, with a mountain higher than Everest, which is being sought by an unlikely group of mountaineers. Led by a character who is based on de Salzmann, they chart the location of this and how to approach it through various reasonings (the nature of which does "smell of Gurdjieff"), and set off. Various personal stories and changes are woven into the brief tale, and, no doubt, these would have blossomed as the story continued.

While I found the story interesting (and the biography of Daumal in the introduction fascinating), the book as a book left me feeling "cheated" ... almost like reading a novel and finding the last half of the book didn't get bound into the cover! Frankly, I would have liked an extensive afterword placing Daumal's works in the context of the Gurdjieffian stream (there appears to be a book from gurdjieff.org which does exactly this), which would, perhaps, hint at the metaphor of the subsequent climb/guides/etc.

The Shambhala edition of this is out of print but available used for a few bucks ... there is also a different edition in print (in an alternative translation), so it could well be in a bookstore were you interested in finding a copy. I had never encountered Daumal before reading this, so I'm not sure how this really "fits" with his contributions to the art world of the surrealism period, but it is certainly an interesting side-piece to a "4th Way" collection.


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