American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

La Grande Crevasse

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  • Publication Year: 1949

La Grande Crevasse, by R. Frison-Roche. 8vo., 300 pp., photographic illustrations. Grenoble: B. Arthaud. Price, 300 frs.

A friend living in Madeira told me of Frison-Roche’s first book, Premier de Cordée. She assured me that the whole reading public of the island was agonizing over the struggles and conflicts of the hero, a young man from Chamonix who feels the irresistible call of the mountains and insists on becoming a guide despite many obstacles placed in his way. Since few of the inhabitants of Madeira have any intimate acquaintance with the high Alps, it was clear that to arouse this interest the author must be a writer of uncommon ability.

Frison-Roche’s new book has not the same appeal—largely because of its more obvious subject. Premier de Cordée dealt exclusively with the vicissitudes of climbing, with the life of the best type of Savoyard peasant and guide. It was unusual and refreshing to read an absorbing and human book with practically no love interest. La Grande Crevasse tells the tale of a beautiful, sophisticated Parisian girl who learns to know and love the mountains during a season at Chamonix. She also learns to love her guide, and subsequently she marries him, only to discover within a year that the self-effacing and strenuous life of a guide’s wife is too much for her. The reader is reminded of a certain caricature by the inimitable Samivel, in which a man and a girl struggle up a long, steep snow slope while a miserable little Cupid, plodding roped behind them, mutters, “L’amour, quel métier!”

Otherwise, La Grande Crevasse is well worth reading. Frison- Roche knows intimately and loves what he writes about. He makes us see the mountain scenes, hear the falling stones, feel cold and heat, smell the pines, live through the thousand and one sensations of a climb. Brigitte’s feelings during her first big day on a mountain will bring vividly back to all of us things we thought we had forgotten. The dangers and accidents are most dramatically dealt with, the characters real and forceful. The writer distills for us in his book much of the best of the Chamonix district. He can recreate its atmosphere. This is the best substitute for a visit to Savoy that this reader has discovered for a long time.

Ursula Corning

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