Journey to Mount Tamalpais

By Etel Adnan

Litmus Press
Original Language(s)
Additional Credits
Cover image by Etel Adnan
Design by Simone Fattal
Typesetting by Michael Sykes at Archetype West
Art, Literary Non-Fiction
Edition, Year
Second Edition, 2020

Originally published in 1986, Journey to Mount Tamalpais is at once a love letter and a deep study, in prose and drawings, of and to a mountain, a landscape, and a place. It has been called by Wendell Berry “one of the major works of the ‘spirit of place’ in contemporary literature.” This reissue includes nine new drawings by the author.

With a career spanning decades, genres, and nations, Etel Adnan’s contributions to the fields of poetry, painting, philosophy, and journalism are indelible. In Journey to Mount Tamalpais, her alchemical command of language is enhanced by the use of painting and drawing as exploratory tools to express that which lies beyond the reach of the written word. This volume remains one of her most beloved works and a stunning example of her marriage of the visual and literary arts. 

A prose essay written with the lyricism and precision of a master poet, the work is organically shaped and elegantly formed around its subject. Adnan’s encounter with the Mountain, as both its witness and its collaborator, shapes the language and structure of this book-length exploration of the relationship between the artist, her subject, and the spiritual act of creation. Journey to Mount Tamalpais is a feat of humanistic, ecological, political and poetic expression.

Etel Adnan
Etel Adnan was born in Beirut, Lebanon in 1925. She is a celebrated writer, essayist, and playwright, and is the author of more than twenty books in all these disciplines. Her work as a whole is a ... Read More

 Adnan finds in the mountain a vital counterpoint to the hubrises of the self. A supreme equalizer of being, it stands as an antipode to our habitual anthropocentrism and self-involvement, humbling us — in the proper sense of humility, with its Latin root in humus, “of the earth” — into recognizing that we are each just one creature among many, a tiny constellation of stardust whose ephemeral existence is no more significant than any other. 

— Maria Popova, Brain Pickings


Praise for Journey to Mount Tamalpais

Etel Adnan… was once asked in a TV Interview to name the most important person she had ever met, and when she answered “A mountain,” she discovered that Tamalpais was at the center of her being. [Journey to Mt. Tamalpais] can be read most accessibly as the story of an experiment, the Perception Workshop, that the author and her artist friends in Mill Valley participated in for some years, “living with a mountain and with people moving with all their senses open, like many radars…”

— Sherry Reinecker, “Magic Mountains: Adnan and Corman” Edge, Japan

Highly original in both content and literary structure, it is a new outlook on the importance of Nature as an element of thinking; one of the major works of the “spirit of place” in contemporary literature. An enlightening journey for those who love the mountain, for those who love Etel, and for those who (like me) love both.

— Wendell Berry

In Journey to Mount Tamalpais, Adnan retreats from the burden of the past, seeking solace in the hills before her: “open wide the earth, shake trees from their roots,” she submits, as she makes her way through numerous returns and crossings… [W]e begin to sense a kind of liberated renewal taking place. Adnan is emancipating herself from the burden of being placeless (or indeed, of many nonplaces), claiming art as the site of her escape and shelter.

— Omar Kholeif, The Poetry Foundation

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