Ella Maillart: The Land of the Sherpas

September 4, 2013

I have added another to my collection of books by the Swiss traveller Ella Maillart: this one has long been out of print, (although it seems to have re-appeared as one of these mysterious ‘print-on-demand’ books, which in my experience are often garbled and uncorrected scans, minus maps and illustrations) but it’s a decent ex-library copy and has all the photographs.

Maillart travelled in Nepal in the early 1950s, and her brief account is rather sketchy, and she is less involved in her journey and with the people she travels with, compared with some of her earlier adventures. But she seems to be describing a now completely vanished world, even though it’s a mere sixty years ago, one of the few places on the planet not yet fully opened up to the West, and to tourists – Everest has only just been climbed for the first time. The sense of somewhere now gone for ever comes across even more strikingly in her collection of photographs. There are more pages of these than of text, all taken with her Leica, in black and white, and so have that aged quality about them which colour does not have.

Not one of her best books, but like a trip in a time-capsule, and worth it just for that. Until I came across Michael Asher (see some of my earlier posts) I’d have classed her as the last great traveller of the twentieth century…

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