After a brief absence from the office a few weeks ago, I returned to find our editors in a state of pleased excitement: they had just acquired magazine rights to Tiger of the Snows, the autobiography of Tenzing Norgay, co-conqueror of Everest. The first of four instalments begins in this issue of SI.
I was drawn at once into our editors' enthusiasm, which comes not only from the great story that Tenzing has to tell but also from the writing talents of James Ramsey Ullman, to whom he told it—and the magnificent result of getting these two men together.
When he turned forty a few years ago, Ullman regretfully abandoned a dream he had carried with him ever since 1927. In that year, as a vacationing Princeton sophomore, he first saw the great peaks of the Swiss Alps (and made his first ascents of the Matterhorn and Jungfrau). He has dreamed, as most men who climb mountains for the love of them must, of one day climbing Everest.
That is why, when the chance came last year to work on the autobiography of Tenzing, one of the two men in the world for whom the dream did come true, Ullman spent no time on formal acceptance. He headed straight for India, leaving behind a paper trail of personal signatures and powers of attorney for others to unravel in settling the details of publication.
April 24, 1955
In a career essentially given over to writing (including The White Tower, River of the Sun, and Window's Way, all best sellers) Ullman has climbed more than enough mountains to know the force behind and the goal ahead of men who climb them. He has climbed the Alps, Andes and Rockies, reached crater rims in Mexico and Hawaii, and seen the world from Mt. Olympus. He knows why men climb, and how they do it.
Perhaps mountaineers have a special quality among men, and almost surely the one who attains the next-to-impossible has a special quality among mountaineers.
In his introduction to Tiger of the Snows, Ullman writes: "I think that even if I had never heard of Everest, I could still have recognized the rare and wonderful quality of the man...And whatever the ultimate verdict on our collaboration, I, for one, at least, am already content; for no work I have ever done has given me deeper satisfaction."
It is a satisfaction, I believe, which all who read of Tenzing's life will share with James Ramsey Ullman.