Seven Years in Tibet, by Heinrich Harrer, translated from the German by Richard Graves. Introduction by Peter Fleming. 288 pages, 1 colored frontispiece, and 25 black and white illustrations. London: Rupert Hart-Davis, 1953. Price 16/—. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc., 1954, 314 pages, 46 photographs, and 2 maps. Price, $5.00.
The author was a member of the 1939 German reconnaissance expedition to Nanga Parbat. On the way home he was picked up by the British and interned in a prisoner-of-war camp at the foot of the mountains in northwestern India. Escaping in May 1943, he was recaptured and brought back to the prison camp, where he escaped again in April 1944 and ultimately made his way with one German companion to Lhasa where he lived for five years until the Chinese invaded Tibet. This book is an account of how, by a combination of diplomacy, personal charm, guile, bluff and daring escapes over the passes, the author and his companion arrived in Lhasa after 21 months of effort. The book then details their life there for the next five years, where they worked as translators, engineers, sports instructors, etc., and the author became a personal friend of the Dalai Lama.
In his preface the author says, “As I have no experience as an author I shall content myself with the unadorned facts.” And this is precisely what he has done. The result is a simple, charming narrative, with no heroics, no metaphysics, no scorn of primitive conditions but a full recognition of the attractive and unattractive parts of Tibetan life. There are accounts of the great New Year’s Festival in Lhasa, of other celebrations, of daily life among monks, nobles, and commoners, of habits, dress, and the common occurrences of life. The book seems to me to give a better picture of life in Tibet than any other I know.
In reading books like this and No Picnic on Mount Kenya by Felice Benuzzi, one cannot help being struck with the incredible things that men can accomplish in pursuit of Liberty.
O. R. H.