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Tibet, Tibet: A Personal History of a Lost Land Hardcover – Deckle Edge, October 14, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

French first encountered the Dalai Lama as an English schoolboy, sparking a deep interest that led to his leadership of the Free Tibet Campaign. But after the 1999 journey recounted in this travel memoir and political history, he's pessimistic about whether outside agitation does anything other than harden the hearts of the occupying Chinese government. The grim depiction of a people living under "constant mental supervision" offers little hope, implicitly suggesting Tibet can never be free unless China is free as well. Though every interview is potentially life-threatening for the Tibetans, they share powerful stories of the abuse they suffered during the Cultural Revolution. (And amazingly, the author manages to walk right into the hospital room of a former political leader.) The historical sections have much to say about the invasion of Tibet in 1950 and subsequent atrocities, but also describe the horrors that befell the rest of China, including widespread cannibalism throughout the 1960s. Its assessment of modern Western attitudes toward Tibet is harsh, lambasting naive activists and would-be Buddhists for "Dalaidolatry" and ignorance about the country. And despite his great personal admiration for the Dalai Lama, French criticizes his political blunders that ruined possible reconciliations with the Chinese government, leading up to an interview with the Dalai Lama depicted with both reverence and disappointment. Colorful stories about previous incarnations of the Dalai Lama and examples of badly written signs throughout the country (e.g., "THERE ARE KINDS OF BEVERAGES") provide momentary relief from the brutality, without diminishing the impact of this starkly realistic portrait of a land that has become a shadow of its former self. Maps.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Prizewinning British author French does not allow his compassion for the long-suffering people of Tibet to cloud his sharp perceptions or derail his quest for facts and his commitment to telling the truth, however painful. And there is a great deal of pain in this finely woven blend of travelogue, reportage, and political analysis. In recounting his difficult journey across Tibet in 1999, he still shudders over the risks people took to speak with him, a foreigner and "known activist," then skillfully connects today's perils with the horrific, still festering wounds of Mao's reign of madness. French offers a taut and compelling overview of Tibet's past, but it is his conversations with Tibetans who have survived conquest, persecution, starvation, imprisonment, and torture that make this book so searing. French unflinchingly chronicles the aberrant crimes of the Communists then castigates the West for the superficiality of its trendy approach to Tibet's fight for freedom. Compelling in its shocking details, fictionlike in its narrative grace, and bracing in its frankness, French's portrait of Tibet is invaluable. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (October 14, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400041007
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400041008
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,877,693 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Jeffery Steele on December 31, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Near the beginning of this book, while describing the inordinate amount of media and celebrity attention Tibet has received in recent years, Patrick French writes a funny line that I think captures the essence of why he wrote this part history/part travelogue/part memoir: "[The attention] made me recall the days when you had to say `Lhasa, the capital of Tibet,' in the same way you might say, `Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso.'"
Tibet was once a place of remoteness to Westerners; today, it seems all too familiar to them, at least superficially. Its spiritual leader, its religion, and even some of its fashions are now widely recognized by many Europeans and Americans. Celebrities seem to fall hard for its causes. As a long-time advocate for Tibet, French, in some ways, assisted in this process and his book is something of a reassessment in how he looks at the place that is at once so familiar to many, yet remains widely misunderstood.
"Tibet, Tibet" is ostensibly about French's return to the Himalayan land to rediscover the place and people that have fascinated him since his teenage years. But along with personal observations made while traveling, he mixes in a good deal of Tibetan history, interviews with both prominent and unknown Tibetans, and, of course, large sections on the country that has dominated Tibet for most of the modern era: China. French writes in a discursive style, occasionally returning to subjects he has already covered to further elaborate on them.
The author is a man approaching middle-age who is revising his youthful views on Tibet and making the inevitable mental compromises that the young do not make. But this is not an angry repudiation or even mournful elegy of his former views; this is a mature work.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Spyral on July 23, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I read this book after a short trip to Lhasa, during which time I did a more limited and amateur version of what French has done in this book. As a college student I was familiar with the activist youth groups that have become standard fare on all U.S. campuses. As a student of East Asian studies I was also familiar with the Chinese counter-claims with respect to Tibet. When the opportunity presented itself to me I went to judge for myself. While there I reached a similar conclusion that French did during his own travels through China and Tibet. Suffice it to say that French is dismayed by both sides. The Chinese are not telling the truth, we all knew this, but neither are the Tibetans in exile and their Tibetophile Western cohorts a trustworthy source from which to base opinion from. French is under no delusion, horrible things happened in Tibet, especially during the Cultural Revolution, and there are still shady happenings going on in Tibet. The thing to remember, and the thing that French has laudably included in this work, is that similar things, and sometimes worse things, happened in China at the same time, and a "Free Tibet" is not possible without a free China. In this way French may anger many of those in the Free Tibet camp by forever linking the destiny of Tibetans with that of the nation of China. French even surprised me by speculating that perhaps the Western activist movement (A movement which French himself is, or at least was, involved in)has actually hurt, rather than helped the Tibetans, an opinion that had also started to form in my mind before reading this book. All in all I can say without a doubt that this is probably the best book written yet on the political and social conditions regarding Tibet and the Free Tibet Movement. My only problem with the work is that it was not longer.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on August 2, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This book operates on three levels - as a historical text that links the current Tibet back to its historical roots, as a travelogue that describes the author's journey through Tibet, the places he goes through, the sights he sees, &, finally, as journalistic interviews of seemingly ordinary people but who historically, or in the current context, represent a section of people who have shaped Tibet.

Together these three approaches create a very coherent & complete picture of Tibet both socio-politically within Chinese borders as well as in the world outside, particularly the West. French also seems to be a cogent analyst of events, & his objectivity comes across many-a-time when he discusses issues like the political lameness of the "Free Tibet" movement in the west, the Dalai Lama's political failures to take advantage of certain Chinese overtures in the past, & Tibet's own societal ideologies in the latter part of the second millenium that contributed to its fall to China.

And luckily, because histories mingle, this is also a book on China, the Cultural Revolution & its horrors, Chairman Mao's rise to power, his ruthless version of communism & other Chinese political currents & customs.

Overall, a most informative & analytical book - one that'll help the interested reader appreciate the current realities of Tibet holistically.

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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By J. Birchell on August 10, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Tibet, Tibet is the best possible book to read for anyone interested in Tibet. It goes beyond being a travel guide in its capacity as travel journal. It goes beyond being a collection of biographies in its capacity as the vehicle for many people's life stories. It goes beyond being a historical treatise in its function as a relayer of events from Tibet's past. In truth, it is all these things, but improved with considerable humor, warmth, good writing, detail and any number of similar virtues. It is pleasant to read, entirely informative, moving and outlook-changing. It is excellent. Perhaps its most powerful and useful feature is its revision of the traditional view of Chairman Mao. The book reminds and awakens the reader to the truth of the 20th century's greatest mass-murderer.
This book is admirable for its lack of false sentiment, its honesty without romanticizing. A true picture of Tibet, not an ideal.
Buy it.
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