Alive: The story of the Andes survivors

Here’s a true life story, written by Piers Paul Read who interviewed the survivors of the crash of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 in October of 1972.

As many people know from the film which followed several years later, the Uruguayan Rugby team, their friends and family were involved in an aeroplane crash in the Andes mountains and were stuck in the harsh wilderness for 72 days without food. They resorted to cannibalism in order to survive and eventually scaled the Andes to escape certain death.

The story was published two years after survivors of the crash were rescued and the author Read interviewed them for an extensive period of time before writing the book. Of especially notable significance is the narrative about Nando Parrado, the spiritual leader of the group who refused to give up no matter how dire the circumstances became. Indeed, some members of the group seemed to fall into insanity while others simply died after weeks and weeks of waiting for a rescue that never came through.

Let’s face it folks. No movie could ever duplicate the words written in the pages of this true-life account. Piers Paul Read describes things in the book that a studio film would never dare to duplicate for the general public and, if you have an interest in the true nature of survival, you are only going to get in in the real-life description that Read put forth in the original account.

In fact, the author himself commented on this process saying, “I decided that the bare facts were sufficient to sustain the narrative.. perhaps it would be beyond the skill of any writer to express their own appreciation of what they lived through.” If the book couldn’t get at the absolute depth of this tale, the movie certainly couldn’t get even close.

The book, however, was a critical success and Walter Clemons said it “will become a classic in the literature of survival.” The New York Times Book Review also hailed the book saying “Alive should be read by sociologists, educators, the Joint Chief of Staff. By anyone, in fact, whose business it is to prepare men for adversity.”

The book was adapted into the 1993 film Alive: The Miracle of the Andes, by Frank Marshall and a companion documentary, Alive: 20 Years Later was made at the same time. Whether you prefer the real life, written account or the many film versions, this is not a story to be missed.

Alive: The story of the Andes survivors by Piers Paul Read