This is the autobiography of the first man to reach the top of Mount Everest, and return to tell the tale. His friend and comrade Tenzing Norgay was second on the rope to the summit: whether George Mallory and Andrew Irvine had got there twenty-nine years before we shall probably never know. Edmund Hillary was chosen by destiny to be the allegorical champion of the Everest saga, and an excellent choice he was. Tenzing was too exotically aristocratic to be a hero for all peoples. Mallory was too much of a Rupert Brooke ('George Mallory!' cried Lytton Strachey. 'My hand trembles, my heart palpitates, my whole being swoons away at the words'). But Ed Hillary the New Zealander was just right: a big, bold, simple and benevolent man from a brave young country, somehow standing beyond the ordinary squalors and ambitions of the world.
He does not stand, of course, altogether beyond them. As he says in this book, 'I have not always been thoughtful and kind, I fear.' But he began his climb to fame grandly, by reaching the top of the world, and he is ending it nobly (he is in his