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Climbing Mont Blanc (L’ascension du Mont Blanc)

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Original Language: French | 150 pp. | August 2017

2 Seas Represents: World rights excl. French.

Rights Sold: Italy (Einaudi, at auction)

NARRATIVE NON-FICTION | TRAVEL WRITING

The book, although visibly small, hides a touching, captivating and sometimes very amusing story. The subject, moreover, is very serious: to put oneself to the test, to seek deep within oneself to overcome his demons, to overcome his fears, and to trust one’s friends (even when the friends do not seem to be very reliable!). I was struck by the narrative skill of the author, who remains very close to the facts, describing them with precision and a love of detail. —  Andrea Canobbio, Giulio Einaudi Editore

When Jean-Christophe Rufin and Sylvain Tesson take an editor who suffers from vertigo up to an altitude of 4800 m, climbing Mont Blanc becomes an adventure marked by literature and friendship.

‘One winter’s evening, I was having supper with my writer friend Sylvain Tesson and confessed that I wasn’t doing well: I was going through a divorce and it was getting me down. I was not myself. He suggested making one of my oldest dreams come true: climbing Mont Blanc. At that point, I had never been climbing in my life. And for good reason: I suffer from vertigo; climbing a ladder makes me panic. But mountain climbing was a childhood dream, so I followed Sylvain’s instructions: don’t give up smoking, don’t drink less, and go running at least three times a week.

Six months later, we were getting ready to climb our first mountain: the Pointe Percée, in the Aravis range, near Chamonix. It is a magnificent rocky summit, high in the sky, like they put on post cards. I had still not gotten over my serious problem with vertigo and had never set foot on a mountain face, but Sylvain led me to the top. A few days later, with Jean-Christophe Rufin and Daniel Du Lac, a world champion climber, I would set off to conquer Mont Blanc and experience one of the most intense and beautiful weeks of my life.’

This book tells the story of this climb. A mountain climbing story of course, but also a story of friendship, a portrait of two magnificent writers, and a rule for living: never give up on your childhood dreams.

Ludovic Escande is an editor of French literature at Gallimard where he publishes Sylvain Tesson, among others. He is a member of the Gallimard reading committee and director of the Arpenteur collection.