The Forbidden Mountain, by Fernand Navarra. Translated by Michael Legat. London: MacDonald & Co., 1956. 174 pages; ills.; maps. Price 16 s.
Mount Ararat is regarded with superstition in that part of Turkey. The story of the Ark seems to be accepted by all the local religions, and the monks of a nearby monastery long identified a rock extrusion as the remains of the hull. Certain other more worldly persons of some repute have compiled "evidence" in support of the legend. It is therefore not surprising that six young Frenchmen decided in 1952 to explore the mountain and if possible discover the remains of the Ark. We are told on pages 166 and 170 that they did exactly that, but to this reader’s prosaic mind it is not possible to be sure whether the statements are made seriously, and if they are, just how far from objectivity the author was carried by religious and exploratory enthusiasm.
Very little of the book is devoted to mountaineering as alpinists understand the term. The climb to the summit (16,946 feet above sea level) has no technical problems, but is arduous, for Mount Ararat rises 14,700 feet above the plains. Although the book is not recommended as mountain or scientific literature it has appeal in other respects. Many of the descriptions have the charm and freshness of the sincere amateur approach, although some of the phrases sound extravagant or unduly sentimental, perhaps due to the difficulties of translation. There is genuine interest for all in details of the archaeological wonders and legendary history of the region.
Lawrence G. Coveney