Everest 1953 Infographic - The Literary Legacy
Last year when Everest (the movie) came out, Jon Krakauer, author of Into Thin Air, upon which the film is supposedly based, slammed it as being "total bull".
I have not seen it but I am happy to assume he is correct in his critique. However, it got me thinking about Everest books. Krakauer's book sales probably did bask in the afterglow of the movie's success, however large or small that may have been.
At the time of the infamous 1996 Everest Disaster a couple of well known accounts (including his) were published and it was covered widely in the media in print and on film. Everest sells. And it continues to sell otherwise they wouldn't have made a movie. It sold even before May 29th 1953, when Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reached the summit and the pages of mountaineering history were rewritten.
The shelves of my library are littered with the word Everest. Blue spines of various shades, bold white text shouting out, asking for attention. EVEREST. Remember me? There must be 30 titles there and I am sure I have only a tiny percentage of what has been committed to print.
No mountain has been written about so voluminously and, if truth be told, like the poor mountain itself it may have been done to death. At the time when Everest was finally climbed it had of course already been much written about - notably in the pre-war accounts of Howard-Bury and Ruttledge, to name a couple.
But what of the famous first ascensionists and their party? What was their literary legacy? How did they capitalise on the wave of glory?
Due to the volume written about the mountain and the speed at which the news of the first ascent circumnavigated the globe, again and again, in a multitude of front page spreads and newspaper supplements I had imagined that all the members of the team spent the years immediately after this historic “conquest” rapidly penning their side of the account to capitalise on the fame that accompanied it.
In truth they seem to have been more restrained as you can see from the infographic I have put together below. There is also a full list and gallery of the books at the end of the post.
For the purposes of this infographic I am including only books that were published up to 1960, in other words within a reasonable timeframe to the actual ascent. It is of course an arbitrary date. George Band, for example published a book about this expedition, in 2003 (presumably to coincide with the 50 year anniversary), but I don’t think one can argue that this was written to capitalise on the wave of interest post 1953.
Eye on Everest - 1955
The Picture of Everest - 1954
High Adventure - 1955
Boys Book of Exploration - 1957 (Ed)
Challenge of the Unknown - 1958 (Ed)
Because it is there - 1959
Coronation Everest 1958
Tenzing Norgay (& James Ramsey Ullman)
Man of Everest: The Autobiography of Tenzing Norgay - 1955
Everest is Climbed - 1954
South Col: One Man's Adventure on the Ascent of Everest - 1955
Adventurers Eye - 1958