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Everest book wins Johnson nonfiction prize

  • British mountaineers George Mallory is seen with Andrew Irvine at the base camp in Nepal, both members of the Mount Everest expeditions 1922 and 1924, as they get ready to climb the peak of Mount Everest June 1924. (AP Photo/Str)

LONDON: Wade Davis, explorer-in-residence for the National Geographic Society, won the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction Monday for his account of George Mallory’s ill-fated attempt to scale the heights of Everest.

Published by Random House imprint The Bodley Head, “Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest” was the result of 10 years’ research and writing and sought to link the conquest of Everest with a desire to exorcise the massed ghosts of those who fell in World War II.

“This fascinating historical narrative of a great adventure manages to shed new light on events and stories we thought we already knew,” said David Willetts, a parliamentarian who was chair of the judges. “It’s an exciting story of human endeavor imbued with deep historical significance.

“Wade’s scrupulous use of sources and attention to detail, combined with his storytelling skills and ability to enter into the minds of the people he is writing about, makes this a thoroughly enlightening and enjoyable book.”

Mallory was a British climber who may or may not have reached the summit of Everest before dying on the mountain in June, 1924.

His frozen remains were discovered 75 years later hundreds of feet below the peak, and the climbing community is divided to this day over whether Mallory was the first person to stand on the roof of the world.

Davis, who is Canadian, is the author of 15 books including “The Serpent and the Rainbow,” “One River,” and “The Wayfinders.”

His film credits include “Light at the Edge of the World,” an eight-hour documentary series produced for the National Geographic Channel.

His book was one of six on the shortlist for the annual prize, which is in its 14th year and is worth 20,000 pounds ($32,000) to the winner. Last year’s winner was “Mao’s Great Famine” by Frank Dikoetter.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on November 14, 2012, on page 16.
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