Friday, November 16, 2007

Book Review: Seven Years in Tibet by Heinrich Harrer

This is one of the most extraordinary stories one will ever read. Already a famous downhill skier and mountaineer, Heinrich Harrer was interned by the British in India at the onset of World War 2. Even without Harrer's adventures in Tibet, the story of his repeated attempts at escape would be amazing and finally he manages to flee the British, with his companion, by heading over the Himalayas into Tibet.

At this time no foreigners were allowed into Tibet and the two wandered around the Tibetan hinterlands for years, being harassed by brigands and unfriendly nomads before eventually entering Lhasa in secret. If this wasn't enough to make a superb story, Harrer proceeds to become tutor to the young Dalai Lama and the reader is treated to an insight into the relationship between the two. The series of events that make up this story are incredible and the author describes many aspects of the Tibetan landscape and culture with superb clarity.

Some have accused Harrer of making up some of the events in this epic, and it is likely that sometimes the truth is at least stretched, but somehow that does not matter - this is just a great story. Similarly, the amazing tale makes up for anything lacking in Harrer's literary style which is largely descriptive and not very emotive at all.

This is simply an account of an epic adventure into a previously undescribed country with the added intrigue of Harrer's relationship with the Dalai Lama and the tragedy of the Chinese invasion and annexation of Tibet.

This book is highly recommended to any reader who loves stories of adventure and unbelievable hardship described in detail. Readers after a story with flambouyant and poetic descriptions will perhaps be disappointed, however, I would urge everyone to read this epic adventure just for the facts alone.
Score: 9.5/10

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