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Tibet, Tibet: A Personal History of a Lost Land [Paperback]

Patrick French
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

27 Jan 2011

From the author of India: A Portrait, Patrick French's Tibet, Tibet: A Personal History of a Lost Land has been acclaimed as the book that showed the real Tibet for the first time.

Tibet has long fascinated the West, but what really lies beyond our romantic image of a Buddhist mountain kingdom of peace and spirituality?

Travelling through the country, French meets warrior monks, nomads and a nun secretly fighting Chinese communist rule, but also young Tibetans with a more pragmatic attitude to their situation. Interweaving these encounters with little-known stories of war and turmoil from Tibet's past, he reveals a more nuanced, fascinating and surprising picture of this complex place than any other book has done.

'Mixes a compelling subject, magnificent prose and deep understanding'
  The Times

'Inspired and heartfelt ... shows that Tibet was never the peace-loving paradise so many generations of well-wishers have longed for it to be'
  Pico Iyer, Los Angeles Times

'Tibet, Tibet, so good they named it twice ... French is a writer of generous talents'
  Sunday Times

'French has produced something very different from what he calls "Tibetophile" literature, something greatly superior in its honesty and lack of false sentiment'

'A gripping mix of history, travel writing and personal memoir ... vividly told'

Patrick French is the author of Younghusband: The Last Great Imperial Adventurer, which won the Somerset Maugham Award and the Royal Society of Literature W. H. Heinemann Prize, Liberty or Death: India's Journey to Independence and Division, which won the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award, Tibet, Tibet: A Personal History of a Lost Land and, most recently, The World Is What It Is: The Authorized Biography of V.S. Naipaul, which was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize and won the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Hawthornden Prize.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (27 Jan 2011)
  • Language: French
  • ISBN-10: 0241950384
  • ISBN-13: 978-0241950388
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 448,102 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Mixes a compelling subject, magnificent prose and deep understanding (The Times )

Inspired and heartfelt ... shows that Tibet was never the peace-loving paradise so many generations of well-wishers have longed for it to be (Los Angeles Times )

Tibet, Tibet, so good they named it twice ... French is a writer of generous talents (Sunday Times )

French has produced something very different from what he calls "Tibetophile" literature, something greatly superior in its honesty and lack of false sentiment (Spectator )

A gripping mix of history, travel writing and personal memoir... vividly told. (Observer )

An accomplished writer and a keen observer (French) reports his findings vividly... French's reporting is excellent and this is an enjoyable and informative tour of Tibet. (The Guardian )

First hand accounts of everyday experiences gleaned from close contact with Tibetan priests, politicians and peasants illuminate this moving book of modern day Tibet. (The Times )

From the Back Cover

For centuries, Tibet has occupied a unique place in the Western imagination: romantic, mysterious, a remote mountain kingdom of incarnate lamas and nomadic herdsmen, of gold-roofed monasteries and hidden valleys which hold the secrets of eternal youth. In recent years, Tibet has acquired an additional resonance as the oppressed vassal of its mighty neighbour, China. Its plight has attracted Hollywood stars, and the exiled Dalai Lama has become the global embodiment of spiritual attainment and unflagging commitment to the cause. The effect of these myths has been more to obscure than reveal the historical and modern reality of the country, its people and their plight.

'Tibet, Tibet' has its origins in Patrick French's twenty-year involvement in the Tibetan cause. Part memoir, part travel book, part history, it is a quest for the true as opposed to the mythical Tibet. Rather than the peace-loving nation of popular Western perception, he finds a land with a long, warlike past and a complex interlocking relationship with China. Above all, he looks at how Tibet's recent history has affected the lives of individuals. He meets victims and perpetrators of Mao's Cultural Revolution, and young nuns who continue the underground fight against communist rule. He stays in the tents of nomads, and hears first-hand accounts of the hopeless battle against overwhelmingly superior Chinese forces which ended, in a single day, a way of life that had endured for thousands of years.

On his journey through Tibet, Patrick French is sidetracked by a cascade of information, thoughts and reflections on such subjects as how to blind a cabinet minister using a yak's knucklebones, the correct method of travelling across a desert by night, and the reasons for the Dalai Lama's transformation into 'an unknown dark-brown bird, bigger than a normal raven'. Following the acclaimed 'Younghusband' and 'Liberty or Death', Patrick French finds a new way of writing about a place and its history. He fascinatingly illuminates one of the most persistently troubling of international issues, and confirms his reputation as one of the finest writers at work today.

Acclaim for 'Younghusband':

'One of the most dazzling debuts British biography has witnessed in decades.'
Niall Ferguson, 'Daily Mail'

'This truly is a brilliant book, and brilliantly funny as well'
John Keegan, 'Daily Telegraph'

'Breathtakingly accomplished…Ranks as one of this years most thrilling biographies'
Jonathan Keates, 'Observer'

Acclaim for 'Liberty or Death':

'A fine, lucid book…vividly drawn with novel-like touches.'
Hanif Kureshi, 'Observer'

'Brilliant…It is also enormous fun to read'
Philip Ziegler, 'Daily Telegraph'

'A brilliant book on an important subject…There can surely now be no serious doubt French is the most impressive Western historian of modern India currently at work.'
Frank McLynn, 'Glasgow Herald'

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Clear-eyed and diligent 7 Sep 2003
The great strength of this book is the author's detailed personal knowledge of the subject, and of the personalities involved in modern Tibetan history. I found it a clear-eyed and credible picture of the country, her history, and her prospects. The trick with Tibet is to steer a course between Shangri-La romanticism on the one hand, and the Paul Theroux school of misanthropic travel writing on the other. French manages this very well. There is some fine, diligent journalism here, only very slightly marred with spots of New Left idiocy. "In December 1971, Henry Kissinger tried without success to perswuade China to invade India." Ah, Kissinger the Antichrist. However, these are small and occasional blemishes in an otherwise excellent and extremely informative book. French writes very well, too, and lots of images linger in the mind--the deranged storekeeper on p. 134, the packs of candy exploding in the thin air, a crushing glimpse of CNN's moronic Larry King, etc. etc. I enjoyed this book, and got a vivid picture of Tibet, both past and present, from it.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Illuminating, but a betrayal of hope 21 Sep 2003
By jb
On the cover of Patrick French's brilliant personal history of Tibet is a photograph that is not identified. It is a photograph of a beautiful Tibetan aristocrat's wife known as the 'Lhacham'. The photo was taken by Chandra Das, a British secret agent posing as a Buddhist pilgrim on an undercover trip to Lhasa in 1882. Chandra Das fell seriously ill on the journey and were it not for the Lhacham nursing him back to health, he might not have survived the journey--let alone have reached Lhasa. Das described the Lhacham as a goddess--his guardian angel. Five years later, when Chandra Das's role in revealing the secrets of Lhasa was discovered by the Tibetans, all those who helped him or gave him shelter were tortured and put to death. The beautiful Lhacham was thrown in prison--where she perished.
This sobering story, to my mind, has an eerie parallel to the structure of Patrick French's book, 'Tibet, Tibet'. The book sets out to show the plight of the Tibetans in the face of Chinese occupation, with a thoroughly researched and illuminating historical approach. And then the British author betrays all hope for the Tibetans, saying that Westerners should give up on them. Patrick French accuses Western supporters of being flakes and fantasists, yet he ends up producing a load of hot air of his own--asserting, for instance that he might be able to help Tibetans by 'promoting the free flow of information'. This is pure hokum, given the paranoid Chinese stance on blocking any kind of information from abroad, particularly the Internet. French slags off the Hollywood glitterati and their support for Tibet, and yet he arrives at a contradiction here: he tells us the movie 'Seven Years in Tibet' is banned in China, and is smuggled into Tibet. So much for the free flow of information then.
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4.0 out of 5 stars 4+ stars for this book 25 Jan 2012
By Boels
One of the best books about Tibet I've read. It's not just boring info about the country's history and struggles, but this seen and dissemated by personal experiences. You can tell that Patrick French's heart is beating for this place and he want's to put it in a bright but fair light.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The real Tibet 16 May 2011
This is an excellent book. Patrick French is a highly intelligent seeker of the truth. He manages to find out more about Tibet than we have known before and shows us the reality of this strange country. He does so at some risk to himself but his account must surely be the closest we can get to this country. It is an important book because it dispels many existing myths. It also gives a frank and very hostile view of China.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 25 July 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
thank you for the interesting book
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