Heather's Reviews > Touching the Void: The True Story of One Man's Miraculous Survival

Touching the Void by Joe Simpson
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's review
Sep 07, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: non-fiction, peace-corps
Read in September, 2009

Despite never having seen the IFC film that came out a few years ago, I was vaguely aware of this amazing true story of climbing partners faced with a serious accident befalling one of the men high in the Peruvian Andes in 1985.

Reading Joe Simpson's firsthand account, my first reaction was, wow, this guy can climb AND write! His narrative is well-paced and gripping. I am still amazed at the clarity with which he is able to recall what must have been an excruciatingly painful injury. Having severely broken a bone myself before, I can honestly say that it is so painful you're lucky to even piece a sentence together, let alone drag yourself miles across desolate, empty snowfields and down rocky cliffs while not being able to even splint your own broken leg and kneecap. Just reiterating it makes me shiver.

That said, the only thing that made this book slightly inaccessible was the climbing lingo. Though Simpson provides a glossary of terms used in the back of the book, there was such a dizzying amount of jargon present that I had to figure out a lot of what was happening through context alone. It doesn't minimize the story at the heart of the matter; rather just causes a little befuddlement here and there.

One other fascinating aspect of this story is the way it becomes something of a study in human psychology - not just in sheer survival (Joe's ability to literally drag himself off the mountain while severely injured), but in the delicate relationships that develop between people who endeavor to take on a dangerous pursuit together, and how quickly that delicacy can be unbalanced when the un-wanted (but really not unexpected) happens.

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