Aleph Book Company is delighted that Stephen Alter has won the prestigious Mountain Environment and Natural History Award at the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival 2020 for his book Wild Himalaya.
Alter's tome on the Himalayas is divided into eight sections, each one elaborating a different aspect of the vast mountain ranges from their origin and evolution to the glaciers, the flora and fauna and the human settlements thriving in the mountains.
Much of the award-winning author's works of fiction and non-fiction are centred on the Himalayan region, which has been his home for years. The memoir, Becoming a Mountain: Himalayan Journeys in Search of the Sacred and the Sublime and The Jungles of the Night: A Novel About Jim Corbett are among some of his notable works.
Himalaya span a distance of roughly 2,500 kilometres in length and between 350 and 150 kilometres in breadth, rising to a maximum height of almost 9 kilometres above sea level. In Wild Himalaya, award-winning author Stephen Alter brings alive the greatest mountain range on earth in all its terrifying beauty, grandeur and complexity. Travelling to all the ‑ve countries that the Himalayan range traverses—India, Pakistan, Bhutan, Nepal and China—Alter braids together on-the-ground reports with a deep understanding and study of the history, science, geology, environment, ora, fauna, myth, folklore, spirituality, climate and human settlements of the region to provide a nuanced and rich portrait of these legendary mountains. Adding colour to the narrative are riveting tales unearthed by the author of some of the range’s most storied peaks—Everest or Chomolungma, Kanchenjunga, Annapurna, Dhaulagiri, Nanga Parbat and others.
The book is divided into eight sections which delve deep into particular aspects of the Himalaya. ‘Orogenesis’ explores the origin, evolution, geology, geography and other such core aspects of these mountains; ‘e ird Pole’ concerns itself with weather, glaciers, wetlands and rivers; ‘Flora Himalensis’ details extraordinary Himalayan plants and trees; ‘Winged Migrants’ goes deep into the world of Himalayan birds and insects; in ‘Mountain Mammals’ we cross high passes and go above the treeline in search of brown bears, blue sheep and snow leopards; ‘Ancestral Journeys’ takes a close look at human settlement in the Himalaya and stories of origin and migration, both ancient and contemporary; ‘At the Edge of Beyond’ recounts epic adventures and great mountaineering feats; and, ‑nally, ‘In a ousand Ages of the Gods’ the author examines the essence of Himalayan art, folklore and mythology as well as enigmatic mysteries such as the existence of the Yeti, along with key questions of conservation.
Although there have been hundreds of books, and some masterpieces, about one or the other aspect of the Himalaya, not one of them has come close to capturing the incredible complexity and majesty of these mountains. Until now. In Wild Himalaya, Stephen Alter, who considers himself an endemic species (having spent most of his life in these mountains), gives us the de‑nitive natural history of the greatest mountain range on earth.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
STEPHEN ALTER is the author of twenty books of ‑ction and non-‑ction. He was born in Mussoorie, Uttarakhand, and much of his writing focuses on the Himalayan region, where he continues to live and work.
His honours include a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Fulbright award. His recent memoir, Becoming a Mountain: Himalayan Journeys in Search of the Sacred and the Sublime, received the Kekoo Naoroji Award for Himalayan Literature in 2015. His most recent work of ‑ction, In e Jungles of the Night: A Novel About Jim Corbett, was shortlisted for the DSC South Asian Literature Award in 2017. He was writer-in-residence at MIT for ten years, before which he directed the writing programme at the American University in Cairo. He is founding director of the Mussoorie Mountain Festival.