Without Ever Reaching the Summit: A Journey
By Paolo Cognetti
Translated from Italian by Stash Luczkiw
HarperOne 2020; 170 pp., $22.99 (cloth)
With Peter Matthiessen’s classic The Snow Leopard in hand, award-winning Italian novelist Paolo Cognetti embarks on a journey through the high valleys of Nepal, seeking to engage with the people and landscape of the remote, near-mythic Dolpo region. As he travels with his companions—a childhood friend, an artist, several Sherpas, and a stray dog—he records his many observations, encounters, and reflections in a journal. Cognetti is compelled to read and re-read The Snow Leopard, and often finds himself in dialogue with Matthiessen’s ruminations as he moves through the same mountains, some forty years later. Through spare, luminous prose, Cognetti captures what it means to bear witness to impermanence and recognize that it is the story of all our lives. He writes, “It’s only when you surrender that you enter the right spirit for the journey.” The book includes several scenic ink drawings from Cognetti’s original journal.