This week I was teaching in the operations module of the Tongji-Mannheim Executive MBA Programme in Shanghai. The days were packed full with lectues and discussions with a really great class, which I enjoyed very much. But in the evenings, I had time to finish Ranulph Fiennes' book Mad, bad and dangerous to know. The title of this book is a direct quote from what his future father in law told his daughter about her future husband. It was meant as a warning. But Fiennes biography is not only a Romeo and Juliette story between him and his first wife Ginny, who died of stomach cancer mid aged (I remember The Guardian titled: "Sir Ranulph starts the most lonely journey of his life"). But his book is an autobiographic record of sombody's life who is called "the greatest explorer alife" by sombody who must know: Wilfried Thesinger.
Fiennes' biography starts very average: Eton boy, commander in the SAS, fighting the Arabs as member of the special forces and secret service, following the footsteps of his father (who was killed two months before his birth by a German mine). Nothing special, which would hint at an outstanding bio, but his quite rebellious personality. But he breaks out early of the conventions and his book and gives an exciting account of all his expeditions - out of which "Transglobe" is the most amazing one. In this he and his team members followed the zero lagitude around the world, crossing both poles. Literally they were doing the journeys of Livingstone, Scott, Amundsen and Franklin on one go. He also ran 7 marathons in a row, climbed around in the Himalaya and was chasing and killing German war criminals, which was published in his book The Secret Hunters. "Mad, bad and dangerous to know" is a required reading for any young traveler and a good one for the older ones. It is very well written and an easy reading: completly "non scientific" though, and much less observing than Thesinger's Arabian Sands for example. But you can feel the spirit of the man who cut off his frozen digits with a Black & Decker powertool. For me personally, the book was a little bit too much about Sir Ranulph himself, because I would have been also intersted to learn more about the technical aspects of his travels. But of course, when you read an autobiography this is what it is about. And I enjoyed to read how intelligence turned into wisdom over the years. Of course it is the wisdom of Sir Ranulph. I also enjoyed how openly he describes the struggles how to get his expeditions funded - and in some cases just how to make a living. In a world where people do not see money as a resource, but as a purpose, it is refreshing to see it the other way round. Nobody crosses Antarctica for money I guess. I will read more of Sir Ranulph Fiennes, whom Prince Charles calls "marvellous but mad". And this will fill quite a few evenings to come with perfect bedtime stories.