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30 review for Seven Years in Tibet (Flamingo Modern Classics)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey Keeten

    ”Now the Living Buddha was approaching. He passed quite close to our window. The women stiffened in a deep obeisance and hardly dared to breathe. The crowd was frozen. Deeply moved we hid ourselves behind the women as if to protect ourselves from being drawn into the magic circle of his power. We kept saying to ourselves, ‘It is only a child.’ A child, indeed, but the heart of the concentrated faith of thousands, the essence of their prayers, longings, hopes. Whether it is Lhasa or Rome--all are ”Now the Living Buddha was approaching. He passed quite close to our window. The women stiffened in a deep obeisance and hardly dared to breathe. The crowd was frozen. Deeply moved we hid ourselves behind the women as if to protect ourselves from being drawn into the magic circle of his power. We kept saying to ourselves, ‘It is only a child.’ A child, indeed, but the heart of the concentrated faith of thousands, the essence of their prayers, longings, hopes. Whether it is Lhasa or Rome--all are united by one wish: to find God and to serve Him. I closed my eyes and hearkened to the murmured prayers and the solemn music and sweet incense rising to the evening sky.” 14th Dalai Lama as a child Heinrich Harrer was part of a four man team who were the first to successfully scale the North face of the Eiger. They reached the summit on July 24th,1938. Harrer had been a member of the Nazi party for just two months. He had also joined the SS with the rank of sergeant. After the ascent he and the rest of the team had a photo op with Adolf Hitler. They were national heroes. His life could have very easily spiraled toward an early death on the battlefield or he could have been compromised in the many atrocities perpetrated by the SS during the war. As it turned out, the only day he wore his SS uniform was the day he got married. The one with the cheesy moustache is Adolph Hitler. Standing on his right is Heinrich Harrer. Harrer renounced any association he had with the SS stated that he was too young to be making those decisions. Harrer was in India with a four man team scouting the viability of climbing the Diamir Face of the Nanga Parbat when war broke out in 1939. They were picked up by the British and interned in a detention camp. In 1944 after several failed attempts to escape, finally Harrer, Peter Aufschnaiter, and two others are successful. They strike out for Tibet. The other two men, after experiencing the hardship of travel with improper clothing, inadequate food supplies, and a nagging doubt about what life will be like once they do reach Tibet, decide to go back. Harrer and Aufschnaiter press on. They rely on the kindness of strangers. Lucky for them, by nature, Tibetans are kind. Their ultimate goal is to reach Lhasa, but there are public officials, miles of red tape, and many hazards to be faced before they reach that destination. Princess Coocoola, wife of the governor of Tibet is one of the many beautiful Tibetan women. They meet a young couple on the road. A young woman fleeing her THREE husbands. She dutifully married three brothers and took care of their household until a handsome young stranger appeared. The couple were fleeing her husbands to start a new life. Most cultures still do or once did allow men, usually wealthy men to collect wives, but this is the first time I’ve heard of a culture that allows a wife to collect three husbands. The problem, of course, is always choice, and she wasn’t a willing participant to marry the three brothers. When the proverbial traveling salesman comes to town she takes the opportunity to escape. January 15th, 1946 they finally reach their destination. ”We turned a corner and saw, gleaming in the distance, the golden roofs of the Potala, the winter residence of the Dalai Lama and the most famous landmark of Lhasa. This moment compensated us for much. We felt inclined to go down on our knees like the pilgrims and touch the ground with our foreheads.” Potala Because of their uncertain status Harrer and Aufschnaiter, despite the pleasant welcome they received, were always worried that they would sent back to India and internment. They receive reassurances followed by neck snapping counter orders to leave. They begin to ingratiate themselves to the government by designing and producing better irrigation for the city. Harrer builds a fountain for the backyard of one of his friends and soon all the nobles want a fountain (seems to be a human tendency regardless of country to compete with the Jones’s). There are various levels of nobles who are very wealthy, happy; and yet, pious people. There was an uprising and several people were arrested, too many for the local jail. The nobles had to each take responsibility for a prisoner. ”As a result one found in almost every house a convict in chains with a wooden ring round his neck.” Talk about putting a damper on your social situations. The Tibetans have a rather gruesome, especially to westerners, way in how they dispose of their recently departed. ”The decorated pine tree which stood on the roof was removed and the next day at dawn the body was wrapped in white grave cloths and borne out of the house on the back of a professional corpse carrier. We followed the group of mourners, who consisted of three men only. Near the village on a high place recognizable from afar as a place of ‘burial’ by the multitude of vultures and crows which hovered over it, one of the men hacked the body to pieces with an ax. A second sat nearby, murmuring prayers and beating on a small drum. The third man scared the birds away and at intervals handed the other two men beer or tea to cheer them up. The bones of the dead girl were broken to pieces, so that they too could be consumed by the birds and that no trace of the body should remain.” To them the body of the deceased is an empty shell. The consciousness has already moved on towards yet another in a series of countless lives. Their belief that the fly that lands on the rim of the rancid butter tea, that they like to drink, could be their grandmother causes Harrer no ends of problems when he is asked to build a movie theater for the Dalai Lama. Every worm that is disturbed by the shovels must be carefully relocated back to a safe spot. ”The more life one can save the happier one is.” Henrich Harrer Harrer becomes a paid government official, a translator and court photographer that along with his side projects gives him a satisfactory income. He becomes close to the Dalai Lama, instructing him in Western culture and the way the world works beyond the Tibetan borders. There is even a scene that had me chuckling with the Dalai Lama wanting to shadow box with Harrer. It was just hard for me to imagine this national treasure with his fists raised dancing around throwing punches. In October 1950 the army of the People’s Republic of China invade, defeat a Tibetan army, and take over the country. Harrer and his friend Aufschnaiter have to abandon their peaceful lives and return to Europe. As he leaves he waves up at the roof where he knows the Dalai Lama, possibly one of the most lonely people in the world, is watching him depart through the singular eye of his telescope. In 1959 during a Tibetan uprising the Dalai Lama fearing for his life, fled to India where he established a Tibetan government in exile. Harrer continued to go on mountaineering expeditions around the globe and wrote twenty travel books about his exploits. His photography is considered to be among the best records of Tibetan culture ever obtained. This book was a huge bestseller in America showing the hunger that people felt, and continue to feel to know more about Tibetan culture. It certainly has inspired me to want to know more. Friends for life. A movie was made of Seven Years in Tibet in 1997 starring Brad Pitt. The movie focuses more on Harrer’s abandonment of his wife and child (not a subject he discusses in the book), and also revealed an arrogance and a selfishness that is not in the book either. We see the movie version of Harrer become a better person under the influence of the people he came to know and love in Lhasa. The movie is visually stimulating and was the reason I decided to read the book. I hope that others who see the movie will be encouraged to explore the subject matter further as well. ”Wherever I live, I shall feel homesick for Tibet. I often think I can still hear the cries of wild geese and cranes and the beating of their wings as they fly over Lhasa in the clear, cold moonlight. My heartfelt wish is that my story may create some understanding for a people whose will to live in peace and freedom has won so little sympathy from an indifferent world.” If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten

  2. 4 out of 5

    Lilo

    I read this book many decades ago. It was interesting. However, I kept asking myself: What did Heinrich Harrer live on until he reached Lhasa after about two years? He had no money. He had no provisions. He had no weapons to shoot animals to eat. And while traveling, he, definitely, had no land to grow any food. From what I remember, there were also no tales that he asked for or was granted hospitality by the inhabitants of the areas he passed. I don't think that anyone will be able to survive o I read this book many decades ago. It was interesting. However, I kept asking myself: What did Heinrich Harrer live on until he reached Lhasa after about two years? He had no money. He had no provisions. He had no weapons to shoot animals to eat. And while traveling, he, definitely, had no land to grow any food. From what I remember, there were also no tales that he asked for or was granted hospitality by the inhabitants of the areas he passed. I don't think that anyone will be able to survive on the scarce vegetation to be found in high elevations. So what did this man eat? I really would have liked to learn.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lynne King

    This is a book that I bought way back in 1990. It was an excellent travel book and I purchased it because of my enjoyment of reading about life in Tibet (it always struck me as such an exotic place) and I was also very influenced by Buddhism at the time. It was so sad about the situation with China and the Dalai Lama. I must reread this.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly

    I bought my copy of this book from a thrift shop last 27 January 2010. Handwritten on its first inside page is the former owner's name followed by: "23 Jan 1999 "Los Angeles "California "7:00 pm." I suspect he (or she?) was a Tibetan. It's typical of these religious and superstitious people to ascribe meaning to every event, or to the time, place and date it happened. Even when it is just a book purchase. The former owner's name seems to read : "Yee Yitathajisi" but I'm not sure, especially the small I bought my copy of this book from a thrift shop last 27 January 2010. Handwritten on its first inside page is the former owner's name followed by: "23 Jan 1999 "Los Angeles "California "7:00 pm." I suspect he (or she?) was a Tibetan. It's typical of these religious and superstitious people to ascribe meaning to every event, or to the time, place and date it happened. Even when it is just a book purchase. The former owner's name seems to read : "Yee Yitathajisi" but I'm not sure, especially the small "s" in the last name. It doesn't really look like an English letter. I also looks like an "r" with a loop on its left side but his "r" in "California" is like the number seven. His two small "s" in "Los Angeles" look like a regular "s" but somewhat written like the number five. Yee struggled with his English. He highlighted English words which are not really difficult ("cache", "brooks," "roamed," "vague," "ascent," etc.). Many times he also wrote his translations above the English words which gave him difficulties. He read the phrase "small ice floes," for example, and he underlined "floes" then wrote something above it in letters completely foreign to me (the closest I can interpret it to something I know how to read is "iiwaliiv" followed by a comma and some flourishes above three letters). I've seen Japanese and Chinese writings but they're not squiggly-looking like this. When the second world war broke out, several German mountaineers were in India (which was then still under British rule). They were arrested and imprisoned by the British. They successfully escaped after several attempts. The author, Heinrich Harrer, was one of them. Together with another German guy, they fled on foot towards Tibet. For almost TWO YEARS they hiked on the mountainous terrain of India, Nepal and Tibet until they reached Lhasa, Tibet's capital city. They were in the worst possible state: emaciated, dressed in rags and without money. About half of the book is devoted to the story of their five year stay in Lhasa. So while hellfire infernos were raging in Europe and Asia they were there in those strange and wonderful places trying to fight off starvation, fatigue and disease unaware of the horrors being brought to the world elsewhere, ironically, chiefly by their own countrymen. After the end of the war, or sometime in 1950, they were forced to leave Tibet when China, which considered Tibet as just its province (like it is treating Taiwan now), invaded the country. Although I've read literature about Tibet before, especially on how Tibetans determine who their next ruler and spiritual leader shall be (their Dalai Lama, a God-King who dies but immediately reincarnates), this has opened my eyes about this wondrous country and its peace-loving and very religious people. Do you know that Tibet's land area is as big as Spain, France and Germany put together? I didn't until I've read this book (I thought Tibet was just a small, obscure settlement pearched atop a snowy mountain, like Baguio City). Have you tasted--or even just seen--TSAMPA? That's the staple food in one of the regions there and this is how it is prepared: "You heat sand to a high temperature in an iron pan and then pour barleycorns onto it. They burst with a slight pop, whereupon you put the corns and the sand in a fine meshed sieve through which the sand runs; after this you grind the corn very small. The resulting meal is stirred up into a paste with butter tea or milk or beer, and then eaten." This was made into a film starring Brad Pitt (which I haven't watched) but was not shot in Tibet. The Chinese authorities won't allow the filming there or even its showing in China. Tibet is unfree. Free Tibet!

  5. 5 out of 5

    AndrewP

    First off let me say that the writing of this book is nothing spectacular, it's adequate for this type of book and gets all the facts across without lots of embellishment. However, the content is an amazing travelogue of Heinrich Harrier's journey through Tibet and his eventual friendship with his Holiness the Dalai Lama. Quite a large portion of the seven years was spent actually travelling. Harrer doesn't go into a lot of detail about all the climbing and trekking his friend Peter and himself First off let me say that the writing of this book is nothing spectacular, it's adequate for this type of book and gets all the facts across without lots of embellishment. However, the content is an amazing travelogue of Heinrich Harrier's journey through Tibet and his eventual friendship with his Holiness the Dalai Lama. Quite a large portion of the seven years was spent actually travelling. Harrer doesn't go into a lot of detail about all the climbing and trekking his friend Peter and himself did and it's easy to skip over that accomplishment. It's easy to forget that Heinrich and Peter WALKED about a 1,000 miles and crossed many passes over 18,000 feet high all WITHOUT any equipment. If you look at a map, their trek started in North Western India and circumvented Nepal to get to Lhasa. Life in Lhasa is well described and I was surprised at how well educated the upper echelons of society were. In the time before the Chinese invasion, Tibetan culture had remained little changed in 2,000 years. In a sad postscript written almost 50 years later Harrer describes how all that culture has been wiped away. If you have seen the excellent movie by the same name then the book is certainly worth reading. Harrer was a consultant for the film and was most pleased with the decision to have Brad Pitt play him. Not for the fact that Mr Pitt was better looking than him, but for the fact that thousands of people probably went to see the movie just to see Brad Pitt, and in so doing learn't something of Tibet and became aware of that countries plight.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Maria V. Snyder

    This was an ideal book to read before going to visit Tibet. It helped to give me a deeper understanding of the place and the people.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Markus

    Sieben Jahre in Tibet By Heinrich Harrer This edition was published in 1956 in the German language. The book is a travellers recount of adventures based on diaries kept throughout these years. Reading, in the beginning, felt like a continuation of Sven Hedin’s “My Life as an Explorer.” Hedin had extensively travelled the same parts of the world at the end of the 19th century. This is my second reading of “Seven Years in Tibet”, the first one was in the 60ies, shortly after its first publication. In tho Sieben Jahre in Tibet By Heinrich Harrer This edition was published in 1956 in the German language. The book is a travellers recount of adventures based on diaries kept throughout these years. Reading, in the beginning, felt like a continuation of Sven Hedin’s “My Life as an Explorer.” Hedin had extensively travelled the same parts of the world at the end of the 19th century. This is my second reading of “Seven Years in Tibet”, the first one was in the 60ies, shortly after its first publication. In those years my liking of this book went entirely to the adventures of the heroes. Harrer and many other German, Austrian and Italian travellers happened to be caught up shortly after the end of WWII in a British concentration camp in India near Bombay. Harrer, an experienced mountaineer, had come to these parts of the world to climb the Himalaya and could not imagine staying a prisoner for long. He and some close friends soon planned to escape. They failed the first time but succeeded the second time. A daring escape, as the English would call it. Tibet was their aim, and in this direction, they hurriedly walked and hiked as fast as they could. Harrer and his friend Peter Aufschneiter had some poor road maps and a little money to buy food on the road, but money soon ran out, so they started selling what they could spare, their watch and first aid things and whatever. Unlike Sven Hedin, Heinrich and Peter had no arms for hunting, or to defend themselves against wild beasts like bears and coyotes, nor fight off any robbers of whom they met several and escaped unharmed by a miracle. They had no warm clothing and no shoes that could withstand hundreds of miles of walking in gravel ice and snow. At their first encounters with local populations and minor officials, they encountered enmity and stiff opposition against their project. Food could not be bought except for a high price, if at all. When finally reaching Lhasa in January 1946 against all the odds, they were in a state of poor refugees, unwashed and unshaved, starved for many days, blisters on their feet, barefoot and their clothing in shreds. At the first house, they entered fell to the ground and begged for food and shelter. The two men had successfully used a disguise as Indian traders to pass controls by officials on the road. The second part of the story is how they got introduced and accepted in Lhasa, by the population but more importantly by the monks and the Lamas and primarily by the Dalai Lama the God in Person and King of the country. Tibet was ruled for hundreds of years and still was at the time of Harrer’s reporting by a government of Buddhist Religious Monarchy. Tens of thousands of monks divided of several large monasteries ruled the country with an iron fist by legislation purely based on religious beliefs. According to the Buddhist religion, the population had been convinced to believe in reincarnation to a new body after death. Moreover, that new body could be any human or animal from the tiniest insect to a goat or an elephant. The Tibetan government did not have to raise taxes; the population gave their last penny to the Lamas at their monasteries to guarantee them a happy afterlife. There were no schools, other than monastery schools, no hospitals, no roads, no drainage system in the towns, no running water nor any basic sanitary installations. One only generator supplied electricity to the Palast printing shop to print religious books. Tibet is a potentially wealthy country in mineral resources and vast agricultural potentials if irrigated and managed. However, that potential needs to be modernised in order to be useful to the country. All influence from the outside world was restricted to the minimum and visits of foreigners forbidden. So the Buddhist monks hoped to remain in power forever. However, it is well known to historians that a country in such a weak position will inevitably attract the envy of a powerful neighbour. So it did. China started invading Tibet in 1950. The Dalai Lama at first fled to the south, but then returned to Lhasa, under the control of China. Peter Aufschneiter stayed in Tibet for another year and later went to Nepal to further adventures. Heinrich Harrer, our author, having lost his reason to remain there, left Tibet towards India in April 1951.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Chrissie

    Heinrich Harrer, the author of this book, was a mountaineer and an adventurer. He was the first to climb the North Face of the Eiger Mountain in Switzerland. He did this int the 1930s. This book, originally published in 1953, is an adventure classic that recounts Heinrich Harrer's 1943 escape from a British internment camp in India, his daring trek across the Himalayas, and his seven years in Tibet, coming to an end with the Chinese invasion. He became a dear friend of the fourteenth Dali Lama. Heinrich Harrer, the author of this book, was a mountaineer and an adventurer. He was the first to climb the North Face of the Eiger Mountain in Switzerland. He did this int the 1930s. This book, originally published in 1953, is an adventure classic that recounts Heinrich Harrer's 1943 escape from a British internment camp in India, his daring trek across the Himalayas, and his seven years in Tibet, coming to an end with the Chinese invasion. He became a dear friend of the fourteenth Dali Lama. Definitely interesting, but in that the narrations follows the time line of the events it was repetitive at points, i.e. a particular theme was discussed many times. One example of this is how white scarves are used in Tibet as a means of expressing respect and honor. People were handing out scares right and left......I kept wondering what was done with all these scarves. Finally near the end of the book it was mentioned that they were reused and handed out to others. And this leads to my next complaint. Listeners are left with questions. Terms are not clearly defined so you search for understanding, to make sense of what you are told. At one point, my husband and I, we were both listening to the audio book together, did not agree on who had been killed! Neurotic as I am to understand EXACTLY what has happened I rewound and listened again and again. Finally I understood. In fact I was right in the mini battle with my husband, but the point is that what you hear/read can easily be misinterpreted. So the book isn't perfect, but don't let that determine whether to pick it up or not. The reader follows an exciting adventure and there is a lot to learn here about old Tibet, before the Chinese invasion in 1950. One other point which I found intriguing is how there are so many rules to be followed.......but there is always a way to get around them. In the Buddhist philosophy no creature can be killed, so of course meat cannot be eaten. But, but, but, but people do need some meat so it is quite handy if the people in neighboring Nepal can provide this......then all is OK! This bothered me tremendously. Time and time again, the Nepalese were handy to have to do that which the Buddhist faith did not allow to be done in Tibet.And it bothered me that in sport events where it was determined that the Dali Lama must win, he of course always did win. Is that real competition? Never mind, just my own thoughts troubling me. It is amusing to picture a dike being built and a worm appearing on the shovel of dirt. That worm had to be carefully placed aside so no harm came to it. This all sounds so sweet, but to function as a nation bribery and conniving were necessary. I am very glad I read this book. I learned a lot, and it made me see into the reality of a Buddhist culture. It is very hard to get a view into Lhasa, the Forbidden City.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    Absolutely fascinating; it's a pity the prose was on the pedestrian side. One wonders what a Patrick Leigh Fermor or an Eric Newby would have made of the same material. Absolutely fascinating; it's a pity the prose was on the pedestrian side. One wonders what a Patrick Leigh Fermor or an Eric Newby would have made of the same material.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Clausen

    I read this book in fits and starts between breaks in class. Restlessness has been the case for me lately. Perhaps the cure is travel books like these. Books that are easy to pick up, put down, and pick up again. The book made no grand promises-- instead the author proposed to give me his notes plainly told about his journey through Tibet, a journey that began just prior to the second World War and ended a few years after it. The author did not over-promise, and sticking to his world, early on, I read this book in fits and starts between breaks in class. Restlessness has been the case for me lately. Perhaps the cure is travel books like these. Books that are easy to pick up, put down, and pick up again. The book made no grand promises-- instead the author proposed to give me his notes plainly told about his journey through Tibet, a journey that began just prior to the second World War and ended a few years after it. The author did not over-promise, and sticking to his world, early on, I found his writing to have a dry, clinical feel to it. Perhaps some of this had to do with it being translated from German, but I think some of it had to do with its limited pretensions. And yet, at least for long moments, I was utterly lost in the account. Perhaps travel writing is the best remedy for someone confined to a desk for any period of time. I marveled at Harrer’s adventurousness and resiliency. If his notes were dry, they often seemed to lack any kind of malice or ethnocentrism. More importantly, as I drifted off in my own thoughts, I found I could return to the book without losing too much of the story. The book demonstrates that substance is better than style, and that in order to be a good writer one should live an adventurous life. The parts I liked the most about the book were the little scenes where Harrer was making a new life for himself in Lhasa. Certainly, the earlier scenes where Herrer escaped from prison and managed to survive in the wilderness were exciting, but the scenes where he is creating a new life for himself with the help of the compassionate Tibetans were the most romantic and enjoyable. More than anything, they reminded me of my own small delights living and working overseas. In the end, this book seemed to me as much about home as about travel. As Harrer says at the end of the book, “Wherever I live, I shall feel homesick for Tibet.” A beautiful sentiment simply stated! More travel writing to come? We’ll see where my reading adventures take me next.

  11. 5 out of 5

    LindaJ^

    Fascinating non-fiction travelogue by Heinrich Harrer. Harrer was a skier and mountain climber. He was scaling a mountain in the Himalayas when the British declared war on Germany. He was taken prisoner but escaped many times. He escaped not because the prison camp was so bad but because he was at heart an adventurer. Eventually he, and others, reached Tibet, which was neutral in the war. But Tibet was also secluded and did not like foreigners to be traveling in their country. Harrer and another Fascinating non-fiction travelogue by Heinrich Harrer. Harrer was a skier and mountain climber. He was scaling a mountain in the Himalayas when the British declared war on Germany. He was taken prisoner but escaped many times. He escaped not because the prison camp was so bad but because he was at heart an adventurer. Eventually he, and others, reached Tibet, which was neutral in the war. But Tibet was also secluded and did not like foreigners to be traveling in their country. Harrer and another escape were able, eventually, to make their way to the capital of Tibet. They remained there until the Chinese invasion in 1950-51. Harrer became acquainted with the Dali Llama, before he had reached his maturity. In fact, the Dali Llama asked Harrer to tutor him about the world outside Tibet. In the book, Harrer not only describes his harrowing journey up the mountains from India to Tibet, but he also describes Tibetans, their religion, their festivals, and the beautiful country. It was really interesting and now Tibet is on my list of places to visit!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Molly

    Come on Heinrich! From what I’ve gathered independent of this book, Tibet is the shit. Have you heard of momos? Obviously Heinrich hadn’t. I get that they probably weren’t a thing before the Chinese invasion brought the dumpling but still, if you aren’t going to tell us about momos, then at least tell us what tsampa is, cause right now, 300 pages later, I’m picturing either some steamed weeds or a ball of paste. And no I won’t google it, you should have told me what it was more than once because Come on Heinrich! From what I’ve gathered independent of this book, Tibet is the shit. Have you heard of momos? Obviously Heinrich hadn’t. I get that they probably weren’t a thing before the Chinese invasion brought the dumpling but still, if you aren’t going to tell us about momos, then at least tell us what tsampa is, cause right now, 300 pages later, I’m picturing either some steamed weeds or a ball of paste. And no I won’t google it, you should have told me what it was more than once because your description of it was clearly not memorable. All I got from this book is that Tibet in the 40’s kinda looked like the land around Lake Erie but with more jagged mountains. And everyone ate a ton of butter, preferably in tea. What this all boils down to is, until Heinrich becomes buddies with the Dalai Lama in the last 40 pages, nearly nothing happens. And honestly, I don’t need anything to happen to like a book, generally I hate books where things happen, in my eyes, books should be about flawed characters doing minor things, badly. But Heinrich did an enormously bad job of describing the nothingness because from page one through to the end I had no idea who Heinrich was. Lesson 1 of exploration: When you fail at something or something doesn’t go as you intended, you have to show humility, not pretend it was part of the plan all along. How about that time you got a bad case of sciatica and were bedridden during the biggest festival of the year in Tibet? But oh, according to you, since you missed it, it’s actually like, not that big of a deal, the spring festival that you do end up going to is loads better, I wouldn’t have even bothered with that other festival. And Heinrich, don't tell me that you weren't the least bit jealous of your friend Aufschnaiter when he got all the praise. You guys both arrive in Lhasa together and without even trying Aufschnaiter is given a power plant to fix, then the city’s sewage system, then a reforestation project for the entire country - the government loves this guy, they can't do without him. And Heinrich, what job are you given? Gardening. You built the first decorative fountain for a rich guy's garden. Now, I'm in no way downplaying your role, I couldn't build a fountain if I wanted to but you were jealous, I know you were. And showing us how jealous you were could have brought this book from a 3 to a 5, easy. Instead, you took the so-called high road, but in taking the high road you deprived us readers of everything interesting and imperfect about you. Tell it to us straight Heinrich. However, I must hand it to you, the way you referred to the 14-year-old Dalai Lamai as the “boy king” when everyone else just referred to him as “god”, was rather gutsy, even if you didn’t say it to his face. So for that Heinrich, I’ll give you props.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    I’ve had this book for years and finally decided I needed to prioritize it as 2019 was the 60th anniversary of the occupation of Tibet and exile of the Dalai Lama. Let that sink in. 60 years have gone by and generations of Tibetans continue to live without justice. Heinrich Herrer describes his multiple escapes from imprisonment and his journey to Lhasa (an incredible experience in itself) toward the end of WWII. As he travels around Tibet, he describes the people and the culture, which seems to I’ve had this book for years and finally decided I needed to prioritize it as 2019 was the 60th anniversary of the occupation of Tibet and exile of the Dalai Lama. Let that sink in. 60 years have gone by and generations of Tibetans continue to live without justice. Heinrich Herrer describes his multiple escapes from imprisonment and his journey to Lhasa (an incredible experience in itself) toward the end of WWII. As he travels around Tibet, he describes the people and the culture, which seems to include butter tea all the time! Eventually he is summoned to meet the young Dalai Lama (despite the protests from his councillors), and Herrer describes the Dalai Lama’s fascination with Western culture, his mischievous nature, and his desire to learn about all things, not just religious teachings. This book is culturally and historically important, and it’s sad to think that it may very well be the last book to document a way of life that will never exist again. See more of my reviews: Instagram

  14. 4 out of 5

    Basham!

    I'll be the first to say the movie version is... well, awful. It sensationalized aspects of Harrer's life (although the part about leaving his pregnant wife turns out to be true and was interestingly omitted by Harrer from the book itself). The film also created a stupidly melodramatic fake love triangle and gave short shrift to just how riveting the journey to Lhasa must have been. Of course, this shouldn't be the surprise. "The book is better than the movie" is a common refrain. Once you get i I'll be the first to say the movie version is... well, awful. It sensationalized aspects of Harrer's life (although the part about leaving his pregnant wife turns out to be true and was interestingly omitted by Harrer from the book itself). The film also created a stupidly melodramatic fake love triangle and gave short shrift to just how riveting the journey to Lhasa must have been. Of course, this shouldn't be the surprise. "The book is better than the movie" is a common refrain. Once you get into this book it's a quite thrilling travelogue. I especially appreciate this book because it provides a different perspective on the Tibet issue than the typical information that I read on the Chinese news sites (which, as stories relate to sensitive domestic issues in China are "hilariously" biased and not entirely distinguishable from when The Onion parodied Chinese news in 2009). It doesn't provide a perfect picture of Tibet before the Chinese invaded either (namely Harrer details corruption and closemindedness among some of the monks and other bureaucrats). Tibet was a feudal society, after all. Nonetheless, there is no mistake here, this book is strongly in favor of Tibetan independence. That is not to say that this book rams politics down your throat (except maybe in the epilogue). But it is precisely because Harrer was somewhat of an objective observer of Tibet, able to report it from a "western" perspective and therefore tells the story in a relatable way for many foreign readers, that this book remains a powerful case for Tibetan independence. Plus, his stories about the young Dalai Lama's determination and intellectual curiosity at age 13 just make me admire him even more.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ido

    This is a wonderful book and significantly different that the movie with Brad Pitt. While Harrar and his fellow PoW escapee, Peter Aufscnaiter, were simply trying to be free from the British in India during WWII (although Harrar seemed more interested not in Tibet itself initially but just making his way across Tibet and through China to the Japanese lines since the Japanese were Germany's ally) they both seemed to quickly fall in love with the people and the land of Tibet. While at times the bo This is a wonderful book and significantly different that the movie with Brad Pitt. While Harrar and his fellow PoW escapee, Peter Aufscnaiter, were simply trying to be free from the British in India during WWII (although Harrar seemed more interested not in Tibet itself initially but just making his way across Tibet and through China to the Japanese lines since the Japanese were Germany's ally) they both seemed to quickly fall in love with the people and the land of Tibet. While at times the book did seem to drag - and it was clear that Harrar wrote this from a very personal perspective - he did an excellent job in detailing a lot of information about the land and the people of Tibet. Although he did seem to portray them as somewhat simple in nature I don't feel like he necessarily meant to. From his perspective he saw their lives as significantly simpler than his - and to an extent that can certainly be enticing. From the way Harrar wrote you can tell that he truly fell in love with the land and the people of Tibet and felt great sadness when the Chinese invaded in 1950 and took over. If you are interested in the land of Tibet and the people and their culture - this is an excellent book to start with as an introduction.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Horace Derwent

    watched the brad pitt film again and wanta hava good read

  17. 5 out of 5

    MichelleG

    While the writing style is somewhat dated and lacking, I still highly enjoyed the tales of Heinrich Harrer and his sojourn in Tibet. The settings are so well developed it allows you travel along with the adventures and the struggles. While the writing style is somewhat dated and lacking, I still highly enjoyed the tales of Heinrich Harrer and his sojourn in Tibet. The settings are so well developed it allows you travel along with the adventures and the struggles.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Bubba

    When the movie "7 Years in Tibet" came out I made my girlfriend get in the car and drive 50 miles with me, to another city, just to see it. Since that time it has been one of my favorite films, despite the fact that I like to quote Brad Pitt's lines in a horrible Austrian accent ("shut up peter!"). However, the movie departs from Heinrich Harrer's account on several key points. 1) He never mentions a troubled marriage or a son he left behind (maybe this is referenced in his other writings), 2) H When the movie "7 Years in Tibet" came out I made my girlfriend get in the car and drive 50 miles with me, to another city, just to see it. Since that time it has been one of my favorite films, despite the fact that I like to quote Brad Pitt's lines in a horrible Austrian accent ("shut up peter!"). However, the movie departs from Heinrich Harrer's account on several key points. 1) He never mentions a troubled marriage or a son he left behind (maybe this is referenced in his other writings), 2) He never becomes a Buddhist, as the movie implies, 3) The chronology is different, as in reality he and Aufschneiter only reached Lhasa when WW2 was over, 4) he and Aufshcneiter were friends from the beginning and were not antagonistic to one another, 5) Harrer does not come off as a loner/egomaniac who becomes human during his stay in Tibet. Still, there are several themes common to both, like his profound respect and love for Tibet, its people, culture, his personal relationship with the Dalai Lama, etc. His account is closer to "the Long Walk", a tale of endurance, with the added element of learning to live, and thrive, as an exile in an exotic culture. Being a mid-20th century European he also makes some paternalistic, superior-minded comments about Tibetans, but that is to be expected. Also, for those whose knowledge of Tibet stems solely from the publications and cultural festivals that revolve around the "Free Tibet" campaign, Harrer's book will be something of an eye-opener. While reading this I was reminded that until recently, perhaps even now in certain respects, Tibet was a feudal culture, which has its own forms of violence, oppresion, rigid social structure, etc. I don't mean to suggest that Tibet should be under the Chinese yoke. But, even I, who knows something of the history of this region, tends to forget that Tibet was/is not an idyllic, New Age/Hippy paradise. It is a conservative, ancient society, containing all the ills that plague other civilizations. I really enjoyed reading this. It's a chance to get a good look at an isolated society before it was colonized, once again, by "more civilized" neighbors. I still like the movie a lot, but the book is also a favorite now even though it is messy, unexpected and doesn't seamlessly conform to the dictates of a plotline.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jean

    Heinrich Harrer was an Austrian mountain climber. In 1939 he is in India when World War II breaks out. He is taken to a detention camp in Bombay. He escapes and heads toward Tibet. At that time Tibet did not allow outsiders into their country. He walks, hides and runs until he crosses the Tibet boarder. Then he has to use all his skills to trick and deceive his way past daunting Tibetan officials. He walks seventy days over rugged mountainous terrain before he reaches Lhasa, the capital of Tibet Heinrich Harrer was an Austrian mountain climber. In 1939 he is in India when World War II breaks out. He is taken to a detention camp in Bombay. He escapes and heads toward Tibet. At that time Tibet did not allow outsiders into their country. He walks, hides and runs until he crosses the Tibet boarder. Then he has to use all his skills to trick and deceive his way past daunting Tibetan officials. He walks seventy days over rugged mountainous terrain before he reaches Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. He makes friends and lives with a family; he becomes fluent in Tibetan. He comes to the attention of the government who consults him on various matters where he contributes tremendously, because of his western school training. He becomes a tutor to the Dalai Lama. I enjoyed his marvelous descriptions of his first sights of Tibet. He describes Tibetan life including their colorful ceremonies. Toward the end he also tells of the 1950 military takeover of Tibet by China and the Dali Lama and his government fleeing to India. In the afterword, the author tells of the Dalai Lama coming to his 90th birthday party in Germany. I enjoyed the afterword as it brought events up to the current date. I had no idea how badly Tibet has suffered under Chinese rule. This book was first published in 1952 and apparently has sold millions worldwide. I seem to be late on the scene having just discovered this interesting book. I read this as an audiobook downloaded from Audible. Mark Meadows does a good job narrating the book. I highly recommend this book, it is a fascinating read.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Alexis

    I read this on a train, and it was a perfect setting. This is one of those books that reminds you of how much we, "in the modern world" take for granted. I have to admit that a lot of the story relayed in this book is not written in a way to enthuse and engage it's reader. It reads like what it is, an account of an unexplored world where we're much more engaged in what is happening in our life than the mythologies that we build up around it. I had to take several pauses throughout my reading to I read this on a train, and it was a perfect setting. This is one of those books that reminds you of how much we, "in the modern world" take for granted. I have to admit that a lot of the story relayed in this book is not written in a way to enthuse and engage it's reader. It reads like what it is, an account of an unexplored world where we're much more engaged in what is happening in our life than the mythologies that we build up around it. I had to take several pauses throughout my reading to stare at the passing landscape and allow myself to hear the wind and the prayer flags rustling in a world that I have never occupied.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    This the second time that I've watched this movie and I've never got tired of it. This the second time that I've watched this movie and I've never got tired of it.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Shubhi Agarwal

    The best part about travel books...? You see the entire world sitting within the four walls. The wonderful things the writer saw, his exhilarating experiences, the people he meets, all seem like they're happening to us as a first person. Same applies to this travelogue. There is quite less the world knows about Tibet, and this book is the first person account of a German mountaineer who escapes British prison in India during WWII and seeks shelter in Tibet. His numerious encounters with Tibetan p The best part about travel books...? You see the entire world sitting within the four walls. The wonderful things the writer saw, his exhilarating experiences, the people he meets, all seem like they're happening to us as a first person. Same applies to this travelogue. There is quite less the world knows about Tibet, and this book is the first person account of a German mountaineer who escapes British prison in India during WWII and seeks shelter in Tibet. His numerious encounters with Tibetan people, escapades from authorities and wonderful description of the Tibetan natural beauty and simple people, make you want to visit this place as well. The book has excellent details about Tibetan festivals, culture, superstitions and most importantly, the Dalai Lama, who is the centre of Tibetan life there, with whom the writer strikes a friendship, and gives a never-before detailed story of Dalai Lama in 1940s. All in all, this book was a great read, but probably little fragmented, and lacked some continuity. Hence the 4 stars..

  23. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    What a great opportunity to revel in the culture of Tibet prior to the invasion by communist China! Thoroughly fascinating!! Harrer, an Austrian mountaineer & youth Nazi party member, is interned in India by the British during the start of WWII. He escapes with a few others and is determined to make his way through Tibet, a land that admits few foreigners to a limited area, to Japanese held territory. He endures many hardships and barriers a long the way but eventually, through perseverance and What a great opportunity to revel in the culture of Tibet prior to the invasion by communist China! Thoroughly fascinating!! Harrer, an Austrian mountaineer & youth Nazi party member, is interned in India by the British during the start of WWII. He escapes with a few others and is determined to make his way through Tibet, a land that admits few foreigners to a limited area, to Japanese held territory. He endures many hardships and barriers a long the way but eventually, through perseverance and guile, makes his way to Lhasa with a comrade. It is the beginning of his 7 years living among the Tibetan people and culminates in a remarkable relationship with the 14th Dalai Lama. He only leaves as it becomes inevitable that the Red Army of China will invade Tibet and change the lives and culture of all that remain. And he is saddened by that prospect and the knowledge that the 15 year-old Dalai Lama would never be able to "rule" his people as he also fled to India. Harrar apparently remained friends with the Dalai Lama until his death in 2006.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Calzean

    An oldie but still full of a lost time before Tibet was invaded by the Chinese. The writing is a bit dull but you have to pay homage to the author and his many talents that saw him an escape POW, mountaineer, traveller, teacher to the Dalai Lama, garden designer, civil servant, photographer and film maker (amongst many other achievements).

  25. 4 out of 5

    Avi

    Read the first half of this book for a true adventure. Read the second half if you're really, really interested in Tibetan culture in the mid-20th century, seen through a pair of alternately keen and myopic eyes. Read the first half of this book for a true adventure. Read the second half if you're really, really interested in Tibetan culture in the mid-20th century, seen through a pair of alternately keen and myopic eyes.

  26. 4 out of 5

    PorshaJo

    This book has sat on my shelves for years waiting to be read. I am sorry that I waited so long. It was such a great book with rich details of the journey, sites, festivals and customs of Tibet and the people. At times, it almost reads as a history of Tibet at one point in time.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Vishal Khatri

    "Some books, like some mountains, are lonely and unrivalled peaks." "Some books, like some mountains, are lonely and unrivalled peaks."

  28. 4 out of 5

    Elena N

    There is another way to know what happened to Harrer during those years and that is to watch the movie. Much better than the book.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Harinarayan Sreenivasan

    That was one hell of a travelogue. One of the most moving books I have read. The author writes about his journey through Tibet and how he became friends with a teenage Dalai Lama. The author was one of the handful Europeans who intimately knew Tibet, its people and their culture. The book ends with a sad note and leaves the reader with a sense of loss, for a very large percentage of Tibet as the author knew it is destroyed since the Chinese invasion of 1951. The author truly is fortunate to have That was one hell of a travelogue. One of the most moving books I have read. The author writes about his journey through Tibet and how he became friends with a teenage Dalai Lama. The author was one of the handful Europeans who intimately knew Tibet, its people and their culture. The book ends with a sad note and leaves the reader with a sense of loss, for a very large percentage of Tibet as the author knew it is destroyed since the Chinese invasion of 1951. The author truly is fortunate to have seen the Himalayas and the Roof of the World in their glory and to be a great friend with His Holiness for the rest of his life. Btw, though the movie helped spread awareness around the world of the Tibetan cause, doesn't do justice to the book. PS: Don't miss the epilogue.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ming Wei

    A very good adventure book into the unknow, how a European adapted within a strange land, and culture to his own. A old type of adventure book, before the age of mass travel around the world, a very interesting story based in a country, that up until that point very few european people had entered into. Well written book, the book is as good as the film in my opinion, I really enjoyed it, the story flows at just the right pace, which allows the reader to understand and process what is happening A very good adventure book into the unknow, how a European adapted within a strange land, and culture to his own. A old type of adventure book, before the age of mass travel around the world, a very interesting story based in a country, that up until that point very few european people had entered into. Well written book, the book is as good as the film in my opinion, I really enjoyed it, the story flows at just the right pace, which allows the reader to understand and process what is happening within the story, no editorial errors within its pages, maybe a better front cover could have been used, but this is not a big deal. i really enjoyed the book, well worth reading for those that like a old style adventure book. The wording within the book is clear, and the authors writing style allows the reader to quickly imagine the surroundings that the stroy is taking place within.

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