Against all odds, Bernadette McDonald has crafted a masterpiece in this biography of the dazzling and enigmatic genius of alpinism that is Voytek Kurtyka. His climbs soar beyond the page even as his tangled character anchors a vision few have shared. It is almost as though McDonald comprehends the man better than he does himself.
(David Roberts, award-winning mountaineering author 2017-03-01)
Art of Freedom explores the fascinating complexity of Voytek Kurtyka, an alpinist who was driven by aesthetics and by style to achieve some of the most notable ascents in the Himalaya and Karakoram, many of which have never been repeated.
(Sir Christian Bonington, alpinist, author of I Chose to Climb
Bernadette McDonald has outdone even herself with this stunning portrayal of the reclusive visionary who turned mountain climbing into an art form. A mighty impressive work. Bravo!
(Ken McGoogan, author of Dead Reckoning: The Untold Story of the Northwest Passage
Climbing legends don't come more legendary than Voytek Kurtyka, nor their biographers more diligent, stylish and informed than Bernadette McDonald. This book's her best yet - an enthralling account of a life focused around audacious ascents in the World's Greater Ranges by the man they nicknamed "The Animal". Proof here that animals have souls, and only readers without one could fail to be impressed!
(Jim Perrin, award-winning author of Shipton and Tilman
In Art of Freedom, Bernadette McDonald dances up the wall adroitly and with admirable precision. As a biographer, she is Voytek's match in finding the unlikely fingerholds, the beauty and the prettiest line.
(Marni Jackson, author of Don’t I Know You?
In Freedom Climbers, McDonald located the great Polish Himalayan climbers, including Voytek Kurtyka in the complex political and mountaineering contexts of Cold War climbing. In Art of Freedom, she focuses on offering a compelling account of the inner life of Kurtyka, one of the greatest climbers in history. McDonald pulls no punches in sharing her insights into Kurtyka’s complicated relationships with partners, the law, climbing goals, risk and lifestyle, resulting in a picture of a truly remarkable man. Everyone interested in what drives a man capable of accomplishing some of the greatest climbs ever attempted will find this a very rewarding read.
(David Chaundy-Smart, founding editor of Gripped
and author of A Youth Wasted Climbing
It’s no exaggeration for me to say that Bernadette McDonald’s Art of Freedom is among the most eagerly anticipated mountaineering books of the decade—a work by one of the most respected writers in the genre about one of climbing’s greatest legends. Both Voytek Kurtyka’s ascents and his philosophy have long represented a form of quiet resistance to the commercialism and competition that encroach on much of adventure media. Now, at last, readers have a chance to glimpse more of his vision of alpinism as an art, a path and a deeply personal quest. From scenes of Kurtyka climbing storm-blasted walls in the Greater Ranges, to standing in his mist-drenched garden, coffee cup in hand, we perceive a sense of some mysterious, almost numinous impulse that runs through it all, the possibility that, as Kurtyka himself puts it, that “Beauty is some kind of laser connection to higher worlds.”
(Katie Ives, Editor-in-Chief, Alpinist
Many years ago my friend Alex MacIntyre told me stories about his climbing partner Voytek Kurtyka, and their fast, light ascents of big walls in the high Himalaya. Voytek seemed a near mythical figure, for whom such intense climbing was an art form and a spiritual endeavor. He shunned publicity, and for decades remained a ‘climber’s climber’, little known outside the inner sanctum of mountaineering. With this graceful biography, Bernadette McDonald now introduces Voytek to a wide audience. She creates a 3D picture of a remarkable alpinist, following the arc of his astonishing life and sharing with us his climbs, his writings, his complexities and his wisdom. Art of Freedom is an important addition to mountaineering history and literature, and is sure to become a classic.
(Maria Coffey, author of Fragile Edge, Where the Mountain Casts its Shadow
No other author living today writes about mountaineering with the insight, care and consideration of Bernadette McDonald. Like the alpinists she portrays, McDonald leads us into the unknown, shining a bright and burning light into the hearts and minds of those who have dedicated their lives to exploring the world’s great ranges.
(Chris Noble, author of Why We Climb
Polish climbers, particularly the pre-perestroika generation, hold a special place in the history of alpinism. Collectively they climbed more peaks in better style with less gear. And they knew how to suffer. We looked up to them, we aspired to be half as tough as they were. One climber, Voytek, was a world unto his own. His physical capability was legend, yet what set him part was a hidden mysticism. We knew it was there. In Art of Freedom Bernadette follows Voytek's thread as young man coming of age in post-war, communist Poland to the greater ranges. We learn of the intellectual drive that fueled these great ascents. Regardless of your background, from the armchair to the alpine suffer artist, there is something that will resonate with being human, living by your ideals and enjoying life in its purest form.
(Conrad Anker, alpinist 2017-03-01)
About the Author
Bernadette McDonald is the author of ten books on mountaineering and mountain culture, including Alpine Warriors (RMB 2015), Keeper of the Mountains (RMB 2012) and Freedom Climbers (RMB 2011). She has received numerous mountain writing awards, including Italy’s ITAS Prize (2010), and is a two-time winner of India’s Kekoo Naoroji Award for mountain literature (2008 and 2009). In 2011, Bernadette’s first book with RMB, Freedom Climbers, won the Grand Prize at the Banff Mountain Book Festival (Canada), the Boardman Tasker Prize (UK) and the American Alpine Club’s H. Adams Carter Literary Award. Bernadette splits her time between Banff, Alberta, and Naramata, British Columbia