The Ascent of F 6. By W. H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood. (Faber and Faber. 6s. net.) Reviewed by C. G. MORTIMER This play, by the authors of The Dog Beneath the Skin, has a peculiar quality which would probably find best expression on the stage. It appears to be a pathological study in the modern vein, pessimistic and devoid of any reasoned basis in moral or spiritual ideas. It is impressionistic and clever enough in dramatic technique to seem a good deal wiser and deeper than it is.
The plot concerns a famous mountaineer, Ransome, who mainly for political reasons is asked to attempt F 6, a formidable peak and the abode of a local Demon; a rival power Ostnia is also concerned in the first sealing of the mountain.
Ransome duly arrives on the upper slopes of the range, with a select party of neurotics. who strangely enough form the rest of the climbing party; the sanest being the Doctor. The whole story is, of course, allegorical and there are deaths and suicides on the mountain, which Ransome interprets as due to his own pride. The dead are his own victims.
The events of this heroic business are watched by the home Government, the Announcer, and the Man in the Street, who longs for a vicarious thrill to enliven his drab existence. We are shown the reactions of these and other parties to the fate of the expedition, for Ransome scales the mountain first but his dead body lies on the top. The veiled figure of the Demon turns out eventually to be Ransome'S mother, who welcomes him to a vague and watery type of Redemption. His spiritual pride is thus purged and the world in general contented with its totally erroneous estimate of the hero.
Nor must we omit the strange monastery with its local crystal gazer who warns each in turn of his appointed end; nor the Chorus who in true Greek fashion offer some non-committal platitudes. In view of this atmosphere of make-believe it is a little difficult to take the passages of fine writing seriously.