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The Snow Leopard

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  16,515 ratings  ·  1,247 reviews
When Matthiessen went to Nepal to study the Himalayan blue sheep and, possibly, to glimpse the rare and beautiful snow leopard, he undertook his five-week trek as winter snows were sweeping into the high passes. This is a radiant and deeply moving account of a "true pilgrimage, a journey of the heart." ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published August 4th 1987 by Penguin Books (first published August 1978)
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Joan O'Connor This book was the reason why I went to Nepal as a 20-something, hiking the Himalayas on my own, sleeping in tea-houses, eating dahlbat everyday and st…moreThis book was the reason why I went to Nepal as a 20-something, hiking the Himalayas on my own, sleeping in tea-houses, eating dahlbat everyday and still reminiscing 30 years later about the best time in my life. This book will spark that interest in you and prompt you to search yourself.(less)
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Her har du bogen. Du havde måske søgt efter 'leaopard' istedet for 'leopard.' Jeg har selv fundet mange danske…more
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Her har du bogen. Du havde måske søgt efter 'leaopard' istedet for 'leopard.' Jeg har selv fundet mange danske titler på Goodreads og har lagt kritikker både på dansk og engelsk. Held og lykke med det.(less)
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Darwin8u
Apr 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: aere-perennius, 2014
“The sun is roaring, it fills to bursting each crystal of snow. I flush with feeling, moved beyond my comprehension, and once again, the warm tears freeze upon my face. These rocks and mountains, all this matter, the snow itself, the air- the earth is ringing. All is moving, full of power, full of light.”
― Peter Matthiessen, The Snow Leopard

description

I'm a little embarrassed to say I hadn't paid attention to much of Matthiessen's work before he died. I had Shadow Country on my shelf and every intention o
...more
Dave Schaafsma
I have taken months since reading this book to finally write this (long) review:

Here's some selections from the book to begin, so you can see Peter Matthiessen's spirit, his Buddhist nature, and his love of language, without my intervention or commentary:

“The secret of the mountain is that the mountains simply exist, as I do myself: the mountains exist simply, which I do not. The mountains have no 'meaning,' they are meaning; the mountains are. The sun is round. I ring with life, and the mountai
...more
Fergus
May 29, 2022 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the Finest books it has ever been my privilege to read. And I was doubly lucky: I listened to its fascinating saga of self-discovery - and of finding ultimate meaning - in the to-die-for audio book read by Matthiessen himself.

His cancer, fortunately, had abated its fury long enough for the recording to be produced. His voice cracks, his breathing is often laboured, but like any writer he exults in reliving the epochal turning point of his life through his own words.

He died shortly
...more
Michael Finocchiaro
This is a beautiful book about a personal and physical journey in Nepal by Peter Matthiessen. It is also a spiritual journey where the goal becomes completely interiorized by the author as it progresses. A wonderful book for meditation on higher values in these times of, well, no values.
Lisa (Harmonybites)
May 08, 2012 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Those Who <i>Love</i> Pop Mysticism
Matthiessen's The Snow Leopard is his account of his two months in Nepal. He was invited along by field biologist George Schaller on his expedition to study Himalayan Blue Sheep--and perhaps catch a glimpse of the elusive snow leopard. (Said in the book to consist of only 120 remaining individuals. Thankfully, at least according to the Wiki, the current population is estimated to be in the thousands.) So on September 28 of 1973 "two white sahibs, four Sherpas, fourteen porters" assembled to make ...more
Fiona
May 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most intelligent, beautifully written books I’ve read. I enjoyed every moment of Matthiessen’s physical, emotional, and spiritual journey through Nepal and Tibet. His descriptions of the landscape, the villages, his relationships with the people he meets and travels with, the wildlife he sees, his quest for spiritual enlightenment, and his deep sorrow at his wife’s death the previous year, all are written in the most inspiring and honest language.

I came to this book through W
...more
Grace Johnson
Jul 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Grace by: Simon Avery
I really took my time with this book. I didn't want to be disturbed by the sounds of subway trains, interrupted by phone calls or daily trivialities. This wasn't a read I just 'fit in' but truly savored. And oh, my heart hurts a little now that it is over. It is a slow book, and thus may not appeal to those looking for action or conclusion even. It is a book that celebrates the spark of life that propels us towards transcending our heavy human existence in pursuit of something...more. Here, the ...more
Daren
Ok, I admit after the first chapter I considered not carrying on reading. At this point around a third of the content was religious philosophy - which is not for me. However the third of the book that was the hiking expedition and the third that was about the flora and fauna was great, and I am glad I persisted.
Despite a few more forays into the spiritual journey, the expedition and scientific research parts of the book are much more heavily featured in the following chapters.

The book is Matthie
...more
BrokenTune
Damn. This book started out so well.

However, after only a few pages it seems to have turned into a version of Log from the Sea of Cortez (which also was a massive disappointment for me), complete with philosophical and religious musings on the author's own life, his experimenting with different drugs, and his understanding of Buddhism - in none of which I have any interest at all.

The parts where Matthiessen describes the natural environment of his trek through Nepal are fascinating. Unfortunatel
...more
Laura
Jan 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing


A masterpiece of travel and nature writing that gloriously transcends both genres. This is one of the best books I've ever read in the English language. Yes, that's right. I'm including a quote at the end of this review so you can see what I'm talking about. When you get to that quote, try reading it aloud. The beauty of those words spoken will break your heart.

At age 46, in 1973, Peter Matthiessen walked, with biologist George Schaller, from Kathmandu to the Crystal Mountain in Tibet and beyond
...more
Jon Grice
Oct 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
THE SNOW LEOPARD was a book I nearly didn't finish. It does get trying in some parts. This is one of the few books that I actually had a dream about while reading it. It seemed profound at the time, and I was very glad that I soldiered on to the end of Matthiessen's wonderful story. ...more
Jessica
Mar 31, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: travel-writing
I don't want it to seem like I didn't enjoy this book. I did. You do get a feel for how liberating, calming, centering, that it would be to walk out of the modern world to the cold and quiet mountains and let it all go…all the complications and illusions of life. He is a student of zen Buddhism and is trying to write a zen Buddhist book. I think if this were a different book I would like it better…but these people, this place…his attempt to be 'zen' all the time, it just feels detached and that ...more
Rebecca
(4.5) For two months of 1973, from late September to late November, Matthiessen joined zoologist George Schaller on a journey from the Nepalese Himalayas to the Tibetan Plateau to study Himalayan blue sheep. Both also harbored a hope of spotting the elusive snow leopard.

Matthiessen had recently lost his partner, Deborah Love, to cancer, and left their children behind – at residential schools or with family friends – to go on this spirit-healing quest. Though he occasionally feels guilty, especia
...more
Carol
The Hook - Peter Matthiessen passed away April 5, 2014 at the age of 86. I had read some of his fiction, loving the way his adventuresome novel Far Tartuga (1975) made me feel. I decided it was time to give this memoir, The Snow Leopard (1978) recounting his climb of Mount Everest in search of Blue Sheep and a quest to spot the elusive snow leopard a try.

The Line – On Acceptance
In its wholehearted acceptance of what is, this is just what Soen Roshi might have said: “I feel as if he had struck
...more
Christopher
Sometimes it's not till I finish a book that I realize how much I am in love with it. That's the case with this lovely travelogue, which smartly does not pretend to be anything that it is not. It's not given any frills or decoration, other than beautiful and inimitable descriptions of nature. It is a humble record of a man's journey through the Himalayas and his concurrent spiritual journey. To ask after the object of the journey is missing the point—and I hope this doesn't sound cheesy, as it d ...more
Thalia
Oct 04, 2011 rated it did not like it
I started reading this book, expecting to enjoy it. I love travelogues, natural history and animal discoveries, studying animal behavior... and I put this book down. Matthiessen's tone drove me bonkers. I may try it again later. He is not a lens through which to observe a part of the world...it's all about him, and, quite frankly, I found him boring. ...more
Christine
“Amazingly, we take for granted that instinct for survival, fear of death, must separate us from the happiness of pure and uninterrupted experience in which body, mind, and nature and the same.” (42)

Matthiessen’s book is part travelogue, part naturalist observations, and part coming to terms with loss. About a year after the death of his wife, Matthiessen travels along with a friend in search of a snow leopard, really in the search of big blue sheep. It’s much hiking and camping, and eating.

E
...more
John
Mar 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Read this, which I've had for years, in 3 days. Brilliant, vivid account of Matthiessen's journey with a biologist and a team of porters and sherpas through the quiet, snow-covered and strange Himalayas. The biologist is seeking to observe the rutting of the region's unique blue sheep. Matthiessen is seeking an encounter with the more secret snow leopard, a not-so-vieled metaphor to the real substance of the journey, which is a quest for enlightenment. Interwoven are reflections on the history o ...more
Left Coast Justin
Feb 11, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: travel
One could argue that this is really two books blended into one: A scientific expedition to record data on wildlife habits (which is why I signed on), plus a primer on / exploration of / personal take on Buddhism.

Or, you could divide it into three distinct sections this way: A short section that took place in India and Kathmandu, setting the stage and filled with, absolutely packed with people; a long hike through rural Nepal, encountering small villages along the way; and finally the experience
...more
Missy J
Finally done with this. It was the first time for me to read a book by Peter Matthiessen and I'm afraid I didn't like it too much. First of all, this book was chosen by my book club for our visit to Nepal. However, most of the book is really about Tibetan culture. I imagine Nepalese culture to be slightly if not more different than Tibetan. Secondly, the author underwent a difficult journey. His wife just died of cancer and he left behind his young eight-year-old son for a dangerous adventure cl ...more
Nick
Mar 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel, religion
Lovely! This is mostly travel, but also part reminiscence, part religion and part natural history. It is one of the most nicely written travel works I have read. Matthiesen’s descriptions of nature are stunning. My reading speed slowed down due to his style.

Mattiesen’s travels were as much an inner journey as a journey to Inner Dolpo in Tibet studying sheep and hoping to glimpse the reclusive snow leopard. Travel is not just about visiting faraway places, but can also be a lot closer than we thi
...more
Ned
Mar 05, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Man throws himself into adventure, to escape the horror of losing his beloved wife and into a new state of consciousness. Matthiessen is no novice, he’s widely traveled and published in naturalism, anthropology, history and straight-up literature. He was in his 40s when he wrote this account of his travels with the highly reputed George Schaller. They flew into Kathmandu, then west, away from Everest, then north nearly to Tibet. This “book” is essentially his journal from 28 Sep to 01 Dec in 197 ...more
Kara
May 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
FIVE STARS AND BEYOND! This memoir chronicles, in the form of a daily log, the months-long trek Matthiessen took in the Himalaya with legendary wildlife biologist George Schaller. GS had planned the expedition to observe montane wildlife - primarily the snow leopard and its prey, the blue sheep. PM, a student of Buddhism, made the journey as a kind of pilgrimage after the death of his wife. Their ultimate destination was a range so remote it was nearly impenetrable by travelers and its villages ...more
Lisa
Jan 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It’s taking me forever to finish THE SNOW LEOPARD by Peter Matthiessen - a brilliant and beautiful masterwork, a meditation on Zen Buddhism, a travelogue and a moving memoir. Reading only a few pages at a time because I don’t want it to end. Ever.
Vivek Kulanthaivelpandian
A beautifully written travel narrative.
R K
Sep 25, 2019 rated it did not like it
DNF
Terrible
I wanted to gouge my eyes out

Oh boy. I gave up on this book. An alternative title to this book should be: “The Snow Leopard: As elusive in this book as in real life”.

For a book that was supposed to be a travelogue into the world of the snow leopard, there were endless pages of dense reflections on Buddhism. I know Peter Matthiessen is supposed to be a student of Buddhism, but if I wanted to read a book about Buddhism, I wouldn’t have picked up a book called “The Snow Leopard”.

Every
...more
Lars Guthrie
Feb 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Cliches become cliches because of their truth. So noting that the journey is more important than the destination fits here, in a book whose title refers to the author's quest to view the snow leopard in its Himalayan habitat during a perilous late fall journey to the remote Dolpo region of Nepal, an area so far from the rest of the world that the author's traveling companion notes the total absence of machine sound, even the engine noise of a plane. Matthiessen fails to see the snow leopard, but ...more
Sylvia
Apr 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone who like travel stories with a deeper background
This one of those books, that make you think deeply about the greatness of nature and how small mankind is. I'll make this book one of my all time favorites, because when I finished it, I wanted to start reading it again. There's so much in it to think about and so much that I missed reading this first time.
I have a crush on countries with mountains, and especially those with snowcovered caps. Whenever I'm is Switzerland, or Norway I'm enjoying the great glaciers: those mighty rivers of ice.
I
...more
Paul
This is a beautifully written book of Matthiessen's journey to the roof of the world in Nepal. He is travelling with George Schaller, primarily to look for and study the wild blue sheep of the region. Whilst they are on there, they are hoping to spot a snow leopard, a rare almost mythical creature, that Schaller has glimpsed very occasionally.

Matthiessen is a Zen Buddhist, and this for him is as much a spiritually journey as a physical one, and he uses the metaphorical journey to look back at ev
...more
Mary
Sep 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
While I will never hike or climb in the Himalayas, this travel novel provides details on the beauties and hardships of such an adventure. But this work is more than a travelogue, it is a journey of spiritual quest and discovery for the author with the elusive Snow Leopard serving as a token of his goal.

The book takes the form of a daily journal recounting the terrain, weather, vegetation, wildlife, and meals of the small party. Accompanied by a world renowned expert on the Himalayan Blue Sheep,
...more
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Peter Matthiessen is the author of more than thirty books and the only writer to win the National Book Award for both non-fiction (The Snow Leopard, in two categories, in 1979 and 1980) and fiction (Shadow Country, in 2008). A co-founder of The Paris Review and a world-renowned naturalist, explorer and activist, he died in April 2014.

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“The secret of the mountain is that the mountains simply exist, as I do myself: the mountains exist simply, which I do not. The mountains have no "meaning," they are meaning; the mountains are. The sun is round. I ring with life, and the mountains ring, and when I can hear it, there is a ringing that we share. I understand all this, not in my mind but in my heart, knowing how meaningless it is to try to capture what cannot be expressed, knowing that mere words will remain when I read it all again, another day.” 104 likes
“And only the enlightened can recall their former lives; for the rest of us, the memories of past existences are but glints of light, twinges of longing, passing shadows, disturbingly familiar, that are gone before they can be grasped, like the passage of that silver bird on Dhaulagiri.” 55 likes
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