Lord Chris Smith announced at the Kendal Mountain Festivals last Friday that Robert Macfarlane's book, The Wild Places is the winner of the Boardman-Tasker Prize For Mountain Literature. Chris Smith's fellow judges were Alison Fell and Tim Noble.
Chris Smith said at the award ceremony.
"Robert Macfarlane's The Wild Places is neither a book of forensic investigation, nor autobiography, but it would be impossible to say that elements of both styles are not vibrantly present in this moving, challenging, luminously written book. A few years ago Robert's Mountains of the Mind was shortlisted for the Boardman Tasker Award, and narrowly missed winning. The Wild Places is even better. He wants to search for, and find “wildness” – noticeably, he never uses the term “wilderness” – but not only to find it: to sense it, feel it, understand it, capture something of its soul. This is a magical book, written in the finest evocative prose, in which hedgerow, summit, crag, tree, storm, shingle beach, bivouac and solo exploration are discovered and described anew.
Robert writes with a poet's eye and mind, but without ego. His evocations of the ordinary are extraordinary. A spurt of birds driven down the wind; a tall bright sky; a flash of the sea grass; a shrapnel-blast of shingle. And alongside the arresting words, there are the quiet and moving meetings with extraordinary people, first among whom is the late, great Roger Deakin. Indeed, part of the true delight and revelation of this book is the integration he achieves, melding disparate sources, observations, facts and firsthand experience; he leads us to see and think the way he does. He seeks to find and to feel the nature of Nature itself, and it is after all our only true context. He shows us how wildness exists just round the corner, as well as in the remote mountain peaks and vistas. That we can be moved to visit our own little pieces of wildness and come to terms with our real responsibility to preserve them for others to discover anew, is gloriously celebrated in this book.
In second place came James Tabor's Forever on the Mountain. This book reexamines the worst disaster in American climbing history, when in 1967 seven young, idealistic, fit and experienced climbers died in a freak storm somewhere under the summit of Denali.
In third position we placed Stephen Venables' Higher than the Eagle Soars. This autobiography of an extraordinary climbing and exploring life is surely appropriately high up on our list, in this important year of the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Alpine Club. This book is a classic of mountain autobiography. It fleshes out the life left unrecorded in three successful expedition books including the Boardman Tasker winner The Painted Mountains."
You can read Chris Smith's full speech here (a pdf)
Read more about the Boardman-Tasker Prize For Mountain Literature at www.boardmantasker.com