Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Seven Years In Tibet by Heinrich Harrer

Journey to The Roof of the World
review by Maryom

Austrian mountaineer Heinrich Harrer finds himself caught in British India at the start of WW2 and interned along with other foreign nationals. His determination to escape increases when he is moved to a camp at Dehra Dun in northern India, within sight of the Himalayas. With such a temptation on the horizon, he and a group of fellow climbers make a bid for freedom, travelling on foot over some of the highest mountain passes in the world, heading for the neutral but forbidden country of Tibet.

This is a book I've wanted to read since I first saw the film of the same title starring Brad Pitt. Every time I watch the DVD I say 'I must track down that book' and at last (thanks yet again to the library service) I have.
It's an utterly fascinating and astonishing account of Harrer's journey to and through Tibet, catching a snapshot of a culture soon to be over-run by Chinese invasion of 1950.
The film certainly gave no feeling of the difficulties they encountered, not so much getting into Tibet, but staying there as well, putting more emphasis on Harrer's friendship with the young Dalai Lama. I certainly wasn't aware that the Tibetans tried several times to expel him, that he had run-ins with bandits as well as officials or that most of the seven years had passed before he finally reached Lhasa.
In some ways the book is less personal than the film - for example there's no mention of the wife left behind in Austria or any hint of any friction between Harrer and expedition leader Aufschnaiter as seen in the film - but the reader still gets to know Harrer and share his disappointment when he has to leave Tibet. It's main loss, though, is the stunning scenery (though I discovered the film was shot in the Andes rather than the Himalayas due to political problems) and some photographs would have been nice.

All in all a fascinating real-life adventure book.

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Genre -
adult non-fiction, autobiography,

Buy Seven Years in Tibet (Paladin Books) from Amazon

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