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Seven Years in Tibet by Heinrich Harrer

Seven Years in Tibet (1953)

by Heinrich Harrer

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Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
Wasn't expecting to like this book, but I did. ( )
  pussreboots | Jul 20, 2014 |
While reading Seven Years in Tibet, Heinrich Harrer's sublime work of travel literature, I was struck by a disturbing question. Has the epitaph for travel literature already been written?

For centuries, armchair travelers have marveled at the tales of adventurers who have traveled to distant lands. From the works of Marco Polo and Ibn al-Battuta to the invaluable works of Charles Darwin to the amazing stories of Thor Hyerdahl, travel writers have taken readers to places they could only imagine, told stories of exotic people and extraordinary cultures.

But with the relatively recent advent of cheap flights, social media, the Internet and, most devastatingly, globalization, is the era of travel... real exploratory travel... finished? Well, until the advent of interplanetary travel, I think it just might be.

Let introduce the book and then let me explain.

In Seven Years in Tibet, Heinrich Harrer takes us inside one of the most insular cultures ever to exist on this planet. Not only was the Tibet that Harrer visited suspicious of outsiders, it had the luxury of being nestled on the other side of the almost impassable Himalayan mountain chain. When Harrer entered the country in the middle of the Second World War as an escaped POW he became one of only a handful of Europeans who had ever gained access to Tibet. Over his seven years in the country (just in case the title wasn't clear on that) he would meet less than a dozen other Europeans (conversely, I met over a dozen western expats on my first night in taiwan in 2002). There is literally no place on earth left that hasn't felt the impact of Western culture (aka globalization). In that sense, Harrer was given the rare opportunity to see one of the last nations on the planet completely untouched by the Western world prior to the Great Flattening.

To read the rest of this review please visit my blog: http://www.taiwaneastcoaster.blogspot.tw/2013/07/seven-years-in-tibet.html
1 vote TaiwanRyan | Jul 18, 2013 |
In many ways this is a fascinating insight to a closed and traditional feudal nation. The little stories around the religious rites and ways prove very entertaining, meaning that as a historical document, it has significant value. The author himself has clearly led an amazing life. An Olympic standard sportsman, who, not content with scaling the seemingly unassailable north face of the Eiger, sets out to climb in the Himalayan range. Due to timing, he manages to get stuck in an internment camp in India in 1939 when war breaks out, and spends most of the war there detailing his various escape attempts. When he finally gets past mountains and bandits, he manages to become a gardener, a graphologist and part-time teacher to the Dalai Lama amongst other things. It all sounds like the stuff of fantasy, and one cannot help but be slightly incredulous about the whole thing. Some editions have a foreword by the Lama himself which gives some gravity to the whole affair though.

However, it is not the fabulous tale that is told which proves to be the books biggest flaw. It is the writing style. Clearly not really an author, the book is often stilted, repetitive in style, and reads like a diary with the dates taken out (which I am presuming is exactly how it was written). Many times throughout the book, a glimmer of an interesting aside becomes visible, only to be glossed over for the next fact in line. Some of the weak style can probably be put down to a questionable translation, but the lack of follow up on the side stories clearly cannot be. The author’s attitude to all he sees around him could be viewed as offensive to the 21st Century reader, but to complain about this alone would be to see this work in an unfair context. It is hard to truly imagine how bizarre this must all have seemed to an Austrian visiting Shangri la.

All in all, well worth a read for the information alone (the old edition I have also contains some of his photos which added greatly to the experience), but slightly disappointing how it was all tied together. ( )
  maggotbrain | Jan 27, 2012 |
Instead of reviewing this book, I would like to point out that the 1997 movie of the same name bares little resemblance to this great novel. I found it very frustrating to watch. You have a love interest inserted into the story (pointlessly), large portions of the book that were left out (not a huge surprise, but the oracles seem important), major events have been changed (why?), and then, Brad Pitt's awful accent. I will point out that the movie does have some nice scenery. ( )
  crmass | Sep 12, 2011 |
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» Add other authors (27 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Heinrich Harrerprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fleming, PeterIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Graves, RichardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jordan, K. C.Mapsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Oldenburg Ermke, Fr. vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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By the end of August 1939 we had completed our reconnaissance.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0874778883, Paperback)

Originally published in 1953, this adventure classic recounts Austrian mountaineer Heinrich Harrer's 1943 escape from a British internment camp in India, his daring trek across the Himalayas, and his happy sojourn in Tibet, then, as now, a remote land little visited by foreigners. Warmly welcomed, he eventually became tutor to the Dalai Lama, teenaged god-king of the theocratic nation. The author's vivid descriptions of Tibetan rites and customs capture its unique traditions before the Chinese invasion in 1950, which prompted Harrer's departure. A 1996 epilogue details the genocidal havoc wrought over the past half-century.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:43:24 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

"Seven Years in Tibet" is the extraordinary true story of how a young Austrian adventurer became tutor and friend to the Dalai Lama. This timeless story illuminates Eastern culture, as well as the childhood of His Holiness and the current plight of Tibetans. A major motion picture will feature Brad Pitt in the lead role of Heinrich Harrer.… (more)

» see all 5 descriptions

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