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The Secret Lives of Alexandra David-Neel: A Biography of the Explorer of Tibet: A Biography of the Explorer of Tibet and Its Forbidden Practices Hardcover – 25 Mar 1999


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 329 pages
  • Publisher: Overlook Press; 2nd edition (25 Mar. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0879517743
  • ISBN-13: 978-0879517748
  • Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 3.3 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,478,367 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description

Synopsis

An illustrated account of the life of the female explorer.

From the Author

This is the biography of the intrepid explorer of Tibet.
Alexandra David-Neel, prolific author, inveterate explorer and traveler, pioneer feminist, and authority on Tibetan Buddhism, was called by Lawrence Durrell, "the most astonishing woman of our time." She was the first European to penetrate Tibet on the level of its learned hermits, nomads, and brigands, and the first foreign woman to enter its forbidden capital. She made her famous journey to Lhasa over the Trans-Himalayas in midwinter, disguised as a beggar, ignoring alike hunger, cold, bandits, and the threats of British imperial officials. Few have led a life of adventure equal to hers, or made so much of it. The New York Times called "Forbidden Journey," an earlier bestselling book on David-Neel by the Fosters, "a great human life, very well written up." Harper’s Bazaar called it, "the fascinating account of the life and exploits of the brilliant 20th century Frenchwoman." Now, with a fresh outlook and discoveries made in the secret files of the India Office, and interviews with those who knew David-Neel and Tibet before the occupation, the authors revisit their subject. They reveal rare information about the mystical practices of Himalayan shamans, many of which were mastered by David-Neel--including out-of-body travel, mental telepathy, and the self-generation of heat. The result is a vividly detailed chronicle of a heroic woman’s quest to conquer her personal demons and of the journey that made her a celebrated figure. This compelling narration of David-Neel’s adventures, her doomed love affair with the dashing maharaja of Sikkim, and above all her attachment to the land and people of Tibet, which lasted nearly her entire101 years, recreates a tumultuous era, a gigantic landscape, and the life of a woman who followed her heart’s desire. As National Geographic wrote, "She defied East and West in her quest to explore a forbidden land." Admirers of Alexandra David-Neel and her writings have included scholars and diplomats, Jacqueline Onassis, Barbara Walters, Senator Patrick Moynihan, and members of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee. Here are a few additional endorsements for The Secret Lives of Alexandra David Neel:-- "She was an extraordinary person who in her solitary ramblings accomplished more than many an organized exploring expedition in that part of the world."-- George Schaller, author of The Last Panda and Tibet’s Hidden Wilderness.-- "In a triumph of determined research, Barbara and Michael Foster have followed the varied and little known events in the life of this extraordinary woman--courageous and fiercely independent . . . a difficult person but rich material for this vivid and absorbing story."--Hugh Richardson, Britain’s last diplomat in Tibet and author of A Cultural History of Tibet.-- "An important and well-researched account of the life of one of the world’s outstanding explorers, travelers, and Buddhist scholars."--Arlene Blum, author of Annapurna: A Woman’s Place.-- "Blakean imagery in Alexandra David-Neel’s Magic and Mystery in Tibet magnetized me toward Buddhist meditation half a lifetime ago. Now her own vast sacred life record is happily accessible to her lineage descendents."--Allen Ginsberg-- "Alexandra David-Neel was an enthusiastic Buddhist and the first to introduce the real Tibet to the West."--H.H. The Dalai Lama.

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David Macdonald was napping after tea in May 1924. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 14 July 1999
Format: Hardcover
Somewhat disappointing is my initial reaction to this book. I am only half-way through so this must be borne in mind. And, even though I am less than satisfied with the actual writing I am still curious to continue reading to the end!! My dis-satisfaction is mainly due to the journalistic style of writing. I would have enjoyed a more scholarly approach, for example, in several places 'emotions' are ascribed to Alexandra David-Neel without the reader being given any indication of where the evidences for these feelings comes from. It may be the case that there are letters to support particular instances of what i am complaining about but the reader is not given this information. The bibliography reads very interestingly, and shows that a considerable amount of research has gone into the book, but for me the lack of reference within the text to sources suggests that a good biography of this woman has yet to be written. It also seems to me that the authors may not have a good understanding of Buddhism, as in one part they suggest that Alexandra might have been lying to her husband. Speaking the truth is such a basic expectation on this path that it seems to me, as a reader of Alexandra's works, inconceivable that she would have engaged in the devious, lying behaviour which is ascribed to her. And these behaviours are purely speculations of the authors, if not, one would like some concrete evidence. On the whole there is too much speculation and interpretation within the book for me to accept it other than as having some grain of truth with a lot of fiction thrown in for good measure.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 3 Aug. 1998
Format: Hardcover
David-Neel herself is a truly inspiring example of a woman following her own path to be all she could be in an life that spans the end of last century and the first half of this one.
This book is a well-written biography that reads very easily and story-like without being novel-ized. Authors are clearly pained about having limited access to some of her personal documents, but have worked hard to document and put together a cohesive picture of her life. They admit to having "read between the lines" in some cases. They also do a great job of conveying enthusiasm (almost envy ;-)for David-Neel's achievements and research into tibetan lore and buddhism.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 8 Feb. 1999
Format: Hardcover
I first found a photocopy of THE SECRET LIVES OF ALEXANDRA DAVID-NEEL in a book stall in Dharamsala, India. It was well-thumbed, obviously someone's guide to an adventurous life. I read it over and over as I trekked in the Himalayas, while imagining that I could see the nomads in tents, pilgrim Buddhists who crossed the countryside on foot, monks in red robes, bandits on horseback, grimy mystics meditating in caves, bears, huge curly-haired mastiff dogs, and all the beautiful brown, almond-eyed Tibetans that the French woman explorer saw in that vast landscape of mountains and incredibly blue sky. THE SECRET LIVES OF ALEXANDRA DAVID-NEEL is a guide to a land of mist and mystery that we will never see again. The explorer arrived in Lhassa in 1924, disguised as a beggar--a women who traveled with a wash cloth, bath tub, a pot to cook in, and dried cereal to eat. Eventually, she traveled with only what she could carry, without porters, guides or friends, except for her devoted adopted son, an enlightened boy monk who sought adventure. People wonder why she traveled alone to the Land of the Snows. I marvel that she did it at all. Highly recommended for world and arm chair travelers!
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 11 Mar. 1999
Format: Hardcover
An accomplished and exhaustively researched account of the life of Alexandra David-Neel, explorer, scholar, mystic and heroine to generations. The Fosters' meticulous research and obvious affinity for their subject results in a highly readable work that is part historical detective work, part travelog, and part cultural study. This book of broad based appeal will captivate students of history, armchair travellers, and anyone interested in Tibet and its people. There is no other comparable work available on this fascinating and timely subject.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 11 reviews
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Fascinating Biography 31 Oct. 2001
By Bernadette Miller - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
It is my great pleasure to let Amazon readers know about the exploits of Alexandra David-Neel, the explorer of Tibet, which the Fosters chronicle so vividly in the biography, THE SECRET LIVES OF ALEXANDRA DAVID-NEEL. This bio reads more like a novel or adventure tale due to the wonderfully-detailed scenes with such authentic touches I felt as if I were truly there, and often worried about David-Neel's ability to survive. Obviously the Fosters have done their research incredibly well and write graceful,lucid prose; I was captivated from the first sentence and actually resented having to put down the book to take care of chores. This is is one of the best biographies I have ever read. The story cries out to be told visually on the big screen.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Accomplished and exhaustively researched account 11 Mar. 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
An accomplished and exhaustively researched account of the life of Alexandra David-Neel, explorer, scholar, mystic and heroine to generations. The Fosters' meticulous research and obvious affinity for their subject results in a highly readable work that is part historical detective work, part travelog, and part cultural study. This book of broad based appeal will captivate students of history, armchair travellers, and anyone interested in Tibet and its people. There is no other comparable work available on this fascinating and timely subject.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Unique Woman Explorer at Turn of Century 16 Sept. 2001
By ZaneMason - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Little known crossdressing Victorian Frenchwoman undertakes a dangerous journey of discovery in forbidden country disguised as a monk and lives to tell her tale to the world. Thoroughly well researched,and well crafted The Secret Lives of Alexandra David-Neel is the biography of a remarkable woman. A woman born to the mannered and circumscribed Victorian era who chose to strike out on her own initiative to explore the spiritual secrets and she was among the first Europeans to report about it from inside to the rest of the world.
I found it a fascinating read about a remarkable woman of whom I knew nothing, a woman who accomplished amazing things in her life. I recommend this biography by Barbara and Michael Foster to anyone interested in tales of high adventure in exploration, in the golden age of exploration and of unknown exotic lands. If the story of resolutely fearless woman pursuing her dream of exploring Forbidden Tibet whets your appetite I recommned you read this well crafted biography. I can recommend it without reservation. ZaneMason
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
well-researched biography of a truly impressive woman 3 Aug. 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
David-Neel herself is a truly inspiring example of a woman following her own path to be all she could be in an life that spans the end of last century and the first half of this one.
This book is a well-written biography that reads very easily and story-like without being novel-ized. Authors are clearly pained about having limited access to some of her personal documents, but have worked hard to document and put together a cohesive picture of her life. They admit to having "read between the lines" in some cases. They also do a great job of conveying enthusiasm (almost envy ;-)for David-Neel's achievements and research into tibetan lore and buddhism.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
A Complete Guide to an Adventurous Life! 8 Feb. 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I first found a photocopy of THE SECRET LIVES OF ALEXANDRA DAVID-NEEL in a book stall in Dharamsala, India. It was well-thumbed, obviously someone's guide to an adventurous life. I read it over and over as I trekked in the Himalayas, while imagining that I could see the nomads in tents, pilgrim Buddhists who crossed the countryside on foot, monks in red robes, bandits on horseback, grimy mystics meditating in caves, bears, huge curly-haired mastiff dogs, and all the beautiful brown, almond-eyed Tibetans that the French woman explorer saw in that vast landscape of mountains and incredibly blue sky. THE SECRET LIVES OF ALEXANDRA DAVID-NEEL is a guide to a land of mist and mystery that we will never see again. The explorer arrived in Lhassa in 1924, disguised as a beggar--a women who traveled with a wash cloth, bath tub, a pot to cook in, and dried cereal to eat. Eventually, she traveled with only what she could carry, without porters, guides or friends, except for her devoted adopted son, an enlightened boy monk who sought adventure. People wonder why she traveled alone to the Land of the Snows. I marvel that she did it at all. Highly recommended for world and arm chair travelers!
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