Seven Years in Tibet (Library of Travel Classics)

by Heinrich Harrer

Paperback, 1982

Call number

299 B10



G. P. Putnam's Sons (1982), Edition: 1st, 318 pages


Religion & Spirituality. Travel. Nonfiction. In this vivid memoir that has sold millions of copies worldwide, Heinrich Harrer recounts his adventures as one of the first Europeans ever to enter Tibet. Harrer was traveling in India when the Second World War erupted. He was subsequently seized and imprisoned by British authorities. After several attempts, he escaped and crossed the rugged, frozen Himalayas, surviving by duping government officials and depending on the generosity of villagers for food and shelter.Harrer finally reached his ultimate destination-the Forbidden City of Lhasa-without money, or permission to be in Tibet. But Tibetan hospitality and his own curious appearance worked in Harrer?s favor, allowing him unprecedented acceptance among the upper classes. His intelligence and European ways also intrigued the young Dalai Lama, and Harrer soon became His Holiness?s tutor and trusted confidant. When the Chinese invaded Tibet in 1950, Harrer and the Dalai Lama fled the country together. This timeless story illuminates Eastern culture, as well as the childhood of His Holiness and the current plight of Tibetans. It is a must-read for lovers of travel, adventure, history, and culture. A motion picture, under the direction of Jean-Jacques Annaud, will feature Brad Pitt in the lead role of Heinrich Harrer.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member ngennaro
Good book, I would not rate it as a one of the "few great travel stories" but its a good memoir of Heinrich's adventure into Tibet. Ok book, little bit wandering but overall and interesting look at Tibet.
LibraryThing member cestovatela
Heinrich Herrer snuck into Tibet over the Himalayas after growing restless in an Indian POW camp. His book is the work of a typical 1950s macho man -- he barely dwells on the intriguing hardship of his nearly-barefoot journey over the mountains in the winter, but his later portraits of Tibet are
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fascinating. As pointed out in the preface, Herrer was one of few European explorers not to approach a developing country from a superior material position; when he arrived in Lhasa, he had nothing but the ragged clothes on the back, and his experience with the Tibetan people's generosity means his writing escapes the racial stereotypes prevalent in the travel literature of the time. His portrait of Tibetan society in its last days before the Chinese invasion is both awe-inspiring and heart-wrenching.
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LibraryThing member _eskarina
„Seven Years in Tibet“, an autobiographical travel book by Heinrich Harrer, is quite a good collection of short stories and personal reflections of Tibet.
However, writer’s style is too simple, sometimes boring - it is such kind of plain and tasteless descrip-tion children are taught at school
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when they start with stylistics. Harrer has so many interesting topics, so many outstanding landscapes to open to his reader, but he is unable to get out of them anything more than conventional phrases.
So my second criticism is that the book is too generalizing in some aspects, it does not try to distin-guish between what is deeper feature of Tibetian mentality and what is just individual disposition. (And it is also interesting how Harrer portays British and German soldiers, with respect to the broader context of WWII.)
But after all, it’s a nice introduction of Tibet and probably could serve as an impuls for further reading about it.
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LibraryThing member bungo
I'm reading this as an exercise in improving my German. However, native speakers warn me that the language is dated, and perhaps peculiar to Austria. Certainly, there are many words that aren't in my Langenscheidt.
LibraryThing member Pferdina
Account of the author's journeys through India and Tibet after being incarcerated by the British during World War II.
LibraryThing member zasmine
By Far,the best travel Book I've read
LibraryThing member maggotbrain
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
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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.
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LibraryThing member pussreboots
Wasn't expecting to like this book, but I did.
LibraryThing member JudithProctor
Fascinating book, not lest because there is so little information about Tibet before the Chinese invaded. This is a record of a life that doesn't exist any more. Be aware that the Dalai Lama is only a small part of the book. Most of it is about the writer's efforts to reach Lhassa in the days when
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foreigners were forbidden to enter Tibet at all. It's a strange land of kind individuals and heavy bureaucracy. It's also about surviving a very hostile environment with severe winters, and the lure of the mountains to an experienced climber.
It's about the skills that a Westerner can bring to a feudal culture, but also about the things that he can learn from that culture.
Also a heart-breaking awareness of the need for political allies in a world of military powers. Tibet's isolationism meant that it had no one to call on for help when the Chinese invaded, and the results of that invasion were of tragic proportions, both to Tibet's people and her culture.
Definitely worth reading.
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LibraryThing member RonWelton
"Seven Years in Tibet," by Heinrich Harrer is an interesting and inspirational read on several levels. First it is an autobiographical account of Harrer's life from his internment into a Indian British POW camp in 1939 and his subsequent escape until his return to India in March 1951. Harrer was an
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accomplished mountain climber, explorer, and world class athlete whose physical discipline and strength enabled him to suffer and endure considerable challenges during his long trek through Tibet. Then, after arriving in Lhasa completely destitute and worn out physically, managed to become a successful and useful member of Tibetan society. Like a Renaissance man, Harrer had many talents and he brought progressive developments to the near primitive technology of the Tibetans.
Harrer became the teacher and confidant of the young Dalai Lama. Through Harrer, we are able to follow the heart wrenching early life of this remarkable holy man.
The book is also a fascinating view of Tibetan culture during a time when the country was nearly completely cut off the rest of the world.
Because of the authors expertise in mountaineering, his descriptions of the magnificent beauty of the Tibetan country are fully detailed and alone worth reading the book.
The author describes Lhasa- " Behind these cloister walls the hands of time's clock seemed to have been put back a thousand years." Thanks to him, we too can glimpse this strange and distant place.
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LibraryThing member EricCostello
An interesting account by a former Wehrmacht soldier of his stay in the 1940s in Tibet; certainly one of the few detailed accounts of life in Tibet just before the Chinese takeover. Generally sympathetic, though slightly condescending, to the Tibetans. Longtime readers of the National Geographic
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will recognize some of the material. This edition, alas, has no photographs, and the maps are poor.
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LibraryThing member Grace.Van.Moer
CRAZY travel memoir, spent roaming through Tibet, on foot, nearly starving and half frozen.
LibraryThing member NatalieRiley
The story jumps right in with Harrer being arrested and detained as a POW and his efforts at escape. Once the escapees make it to Tibet, there are beautiful descriptions of the Tibetan people with their prayer flags, monasteries, and prayer wheels. In the midst of this interesting culture, the
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escapees encounter life threatening dangers and must be vigilant about their provisions. Harrer and his friends finally establish themselves in Tibet where they meet the Dali Lama’s parents and siblings, establish homes, and purposeful work. Gradually, Harrer developed a very close friendship with the Dali Lama. I loved reading how their relationship progressed from performing rather complicated tasks, such as taking videos of community events to building a movie theater. While teaching His Holiness English, their friendship blossomed. In 1951, the Chinese bestowed tragedy upon Tibet and its peaceful people and forced Harrer and the Dali Lama to flee the city. So heartbreaking! Harrer’s book definitely educates readers about Tibet and their Buddhist traditions. The book closes nicely with a biographical piece of Harrer.
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