Publisher Harvill Secker
Reviewed byEd Douglas
DateMonday, 1 December 2008
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For fans of Robert Macfarlane, we can recommend a charming and rather beautiful mountain travel book about one man’s pilgrimage to Ararat in eastern Turkey, fabled resting-place of Noah’s ark. Fair enough, there isn’t any technical climbing here, but for those interested in what mountains mean to us, and how that has changed, Westerman’s book is rich territory to be explored in depth. His journey to Ararat is a re-examination of his fading religious belief, as he slowly moves towards the summit of a mountain that was deemed to be guarded by angels and therefore beyond the reach of sinful man.
Taking in geology, mathematics and some rather dodgy religious relics, this is the kind of subject that someone like William Dalrymple would turn into a meaty, dense stew. In Westerman’s hands, the story of our long fascination with one of Christianity’s most holy mountains is light and engaging, as the former journalist explores his own childhood and upbringing through the prism of Ararat. It’s beautifully translated too, from the original Dutch, by Sam Garrett.