Gurdjieff International Review

“I Was Responsible for the Disaster”

René Daumal


ur expedition of twelve reached the first camp in time to winter there.... Exhausted and famished, I stopped to camp. At that time the cattle had not yet been brought up to Meadowbrook, and I found nothing to eat. Then on the slope right opposite me I saw an old rock rat come out of his hole. It’s something between a field mouse and a groundhog. It came out to warm itself in the sun. Picking up a stone, I smashed its skull with a lucky throw, cooked it over a fire of rhododendrons, and devoured the leathery meat....

A month later, as I was about to start up the mountain again, I was called before the guides’ tribunal to answer for the murder of the rat. How they learned about it I’ll never know. The law makes no exceptions. Access to the mountain above Meadowbrook was denied me for three years. After that I could ask to leave with the first caravan on the condition that I make reparations for any damage my action might have caused. It was a numbing blow....

Finally, the day arrived I proudly carried with me in a cage a fat rock rat which I had captured easily and which I would free as we went by the place where I had killed the other one—for I had to repair the damage. Alas, the damage had just begun to show. As we left Meadowbrook just at sunrise, a terrifying sound filled the valley. The entire side of the mountain, which was not then cut through by the waterfall, collapsed and crashed down in an avalanche of rocks and mud. A cataract of water, mixed with blocks of ice and stone, burst out of the tip of the glacier which hung down to the upper slope, and wore great gullies in the sides of the mountain. The trail, which at that time climbed after leaving Meadowbrook to cross the slope much higher up, was obliterated for a considerable distance.... I was not allowed to leave until a commission of guides had determined the causes of the catastrophe. A week later I was called before the commission, which declared that I was responsible for the disaster, and ... would have to repair the damage.

I was dumbfounded. But they explained to me how it had all happened, according to the findings of the commission. They made the statement impartially, objectively, and today I would even say leniently, but categorically. The old rat I had killed fed principally on a species of wasp common in that spot. But beyond a certain age a rock rat is no longer agile enough to catch wasps on the wing. Therefore he lived for the most part on the sick or weak insects who dragged themselves along the ground and could barely fly. In this way he destroyed the wasps that were malformed or carriers of disease. His unsuspecting intervention protected the colonies of these insects from dangerous afflictions spread by heredity or contagion. Once the rat was dead, these afflictions spread rapidly and, by the following spring, there was scarcely a wasp left in the region. These wasps, visiting flowers in search of honey, also fertilized them. Without the wasps, a large number of plants which play an important part in holding the terrain in place □

René Daumal, Mount Analogue (1986) Boston: Shambhala, pp. 100–102. The book was never completed, hence no period after “terrain in place ”.


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Featured: Winter 2019/2020 Issue, Vol. XIV (1)
Revision: August 13, 2020