This is one of the most amazing books that I have read in years. I learned a tremendous amount of history and gained a lot of respect for the people and their culture.
The author, an Austrian, had been mountain climbing in the area around British mandate India in the late 1930s when World War II broke out and he and others were interred in prison camps in India. While the conditions there were quite nice, he did not want to be confined, so tried several times to escape, finally making it toward Tibet.
The first 40% of the books talks about the attempts of escape and the attempts to enter Tibet, which was closed to Westerners (for good reason!).
The next third describes living in Lhasa, Tibet and the final part is about his relationship with the soon-to-be named 14th Dali Lama and briefly at the end his fleeing the country with the latest Chinese invasion in 1952.
The description of the country, Buddhism, the culture, the people, and his interactions with them is magnificent. It describes a world that no longer exists, and that is the pity.
This is the story of Heinrich Harrer and his mountain climbing companion Peter Aufschnaiter. Initially a member of the reconnaissance expedition to the Himalayan peaks, the completed task ended as WW2 began. From their internment prison camp they eventually succeed in escaping to Tibet and thereafter enter the holy city of Lhasa. Harrer would become a close friend to the youth Dalai Lama - with whom he would correspond and see on various occasions after the war. PS: the library records are incorrect; this volume has several pages of photographs and line drawings. This edition is from 1954 and not 1983. Fans of mountain climbing are probably aware of Harrer's ascent of the Eiger Mountain. If not, read the fascinating other book entitled 'The White Spider.'
This is a book about discovery: of lands unknown; of friendship; and of one's self. Harrer knows how to tell his and friend's tribulations about mountain climbing, WW2 internment and escape eventually to Tibet from India - by foot. There he meets the current Dalai Lama [who was but a child at the time], with whom he corresponded and saw again until his own death in 2003. There is also an updated epilogue that reviews the unfortunate destruction of 99% of the 6000 sacred buildings of Tibet; as well as 1.2 million Tibetan lives lost because of the Communist Chinese invasion and intolerance to religion. NB The library records are incorrect. This edition was published in 1997.
wonderful book, all the better because it's true. Insightful, interesting look into a culture the Chinese are trying to wipe out.
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