Mount Analogue: A Novel of Symbolically Authentic Non-Euclidean Adventures in Mountain Climbing

April 6, 2007 at 1:02 PM

I've been reading René Daumal's Mount Analogue. It's trippy, distinctly French, and highly entertaining. It's every bit as goofy as the title suggests, but it carries a poignant (and misguided) message underneath.

Mount Analogue is (appropriately) an unfinished work. It describes a fantastic expedition to the title mountain, a symbolic link between the human and the divine. In order for it to epitomize this link, the base of the mountain must be accessible to all humanity, but its heights unattainable. Indeed, the group of adventurers make camp on the base, and begin ascent—and there the novel stops. René Daumal died, effectively ceasing further exploration of the mountain.

Of course, the novel fails because this mountain is purported to be an internal, uniquely personal link. Yet seldom have I read a more compelling account of the need for a mediator between the human and the divine than that given in the first chapter. As is so often the case with philosophers, Daumal understands a profound need and yet provides a solution that history has proven insufficient for the amelioration of said need. Yet unlike the work of one (more famous) contemporary (Camus), Daumal's work does not spiral towards despair, but towards wonder. And this is what I appreciate most about his writing—he recognizes the despair, and yet wonders at the marvelousness of the world.

Mount Analogue is close—so close! It recalls to mind the words of Galadriel in The Fellowship of the Ring: "The quest stands upon the edge of a knife. Stray but a little and it will fail, to the ruin of all." Alas that missing the mark—although barely—is missing it nonetheless.