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Deutsche am Nanga Parbat

Deutsche am Nanga Parbat, by Fritz Bechtold. Munich. Verlag F. Bruckmann AG., 1934. RM 3.50.

A thin unassuming book, with only sixty-eight pages of text, and eighty of photographs, tells the story of the ill-fated 1934 German expedition to Nanga Pargat. It is written by Fritz Bechtold, Merkl’s most intimate friend, and the acting leader after Merkl’s death. It is, says the author, a brief compendium from daily notes and diaries—for a fuller account we must await a later work.

In tributes at the beginning and phrases throughout, the book emphasizes the national character of the effort, which was supported by voluntary contributions and glorified as a great patriotic endeavor.

The story of Nanga Parbat, 1934, is told elsewhere in this issue of the Journal. This book does nothing to help clear up that most puzzling question of the expedition—the reasons for the plan of attack which led to the final disaster. We have known from earlier articles that Drexel’s sudden death from pneumonia at Camp II cast a gloom over the party, and caused a distaste for the mountain which may partly account for the pressure of haste in the attack. For it was actually at the beginning of July, with most of the summer still ahead, that it was decided to attempt the summit in an assault from Camp V. Even allowing for the psychological effect of Drexel’s death, and for other more practical incentives to speed—a scarcity of fuel, and an increase of illness among the porters—it is still hard to account for this decision. For in 1932 it had been clearly recognized as essential to safety to have some well-provisioned refuge against long storm above the difficult passage to Rakiot Ridge. It is to be regretted that Bechtold’s book does not even touch on the change from earlier and obviously sounder plans.

But if this brief volume omits much, yet it does manage to give a human and dramatic picture of the expedition. It is, however, doubtful if it would translate well: phrases and expressions perfectly appropriate to the German language might become high-flown, over-dramatic, or sentimental, if rendered into English.

The 130 illustrations are of outstanding importance. Though the work is printed so inexpensively that the paper used leaves something to be desired, yet in subject and composition I do not know anywhere the equal of some of the photographs, for representing intimately, with drama and beauty, the snow world of the Himalayas.

In Germany the volume is already in its thirtieth thousand.

E. K.