The Frozen River
‘A tour de force of luminous writing.’ Mark Cocker, Spectator
In 1976 James Crowden left his career in the British army and travelled to Ladakh in the Northern Himalaya, one of the most remote parts of the world. The Frozen River is his extraordinary account of the time he spent there, living alongside the Zangskari people, before the arrival of roads and mass tourism.
James immerses himself in the Zangskari way of life, where meditation and week-long mountain festivals go hand in hand, and silence and solitude are the hallmarks of existence. When butter traders invite James on their journey down the frozen river Leh, he soon realises that this way of living, unchanged for centuries, comes with a very human cost.
In lyrical prose, James captures a crucial moment in time for this Himalayan community. A moment in which their Buddhist practices and traditions are in flux, and the economic pull of a world beyond their valley is increasingly difficult to ignore.
Praise for The Frozen River 'The singular virtue of Crowden's prose is to create a sense of enormous immediacy ... he acts as a transparent lens that gathers all that fierce Zanskari winter light and illuminates the primary colors of both the place and its people. In so doing, he creates a tour de force of luminous writing.' Mark Cocker, Spectator 'The adventure brings out the best in Crowden's writing, which in full flow has a compelling lyrical energy.' Oliver Balch, TLS 'A revelation...the most gripping and fascinating reads I have enjoyed for a very long time.' Martin Hesp, Western Morning News 'In prose hard as the frost and gritty as the rocks, James Crowden weathers a Himalayan winter in snow-bound Zanskar and recalls the boundless hospitality and ingenuity of his wind-furrowed hosts. Crowden and Zanskar are a match made on high.' John Keay, author of India: A History 'Terrific. Crowden is a meditative swashbuckler: imagine John Buchan, cross-legged in a mountain monastery, smelling of sandalwood incense, or Wordsworth on speed, with a belt jangling with karabiners.' Charles Foster, author of Being a Beast 'A luminous book, exquisite in its depiction, profound in its rhymes of ice and mind. As testament to its transporting power, when I'd finished it I felt I had spent a winter in Zanskar.' Jay Griffiths, author of Wild 'A fascinating, immersive, hair-raising read.' Tim Pears author of In The Place of Fallen Leaves 'A wonderful book, otherworldly, full of the ecstasies and revelations of true isolation and hardship.' Philip Marsden, author of Rising Ground 'through his eyes we glimpse a vanishing world; the nature, people and traditions little changed for hundreds of years ... a fleeting glimpse of an older way of life' Geographical Magazine
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