Review: “Without Ever Reaching the Summit”

We review “Without Ever Reaching the Summit: A Journey” by Paolo Cognetti.

Andrea Miller
31 August 2020

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.

Andrea Miller

Andrea Miller

Andrea Miller is the editor of Lion’s Roar magazine. She’s the author of Awakening My Heart: Essays, Articles, and Interviews on the Buddhist Life, as well as the picture book The Day the Buddha Woke Up.