Item description for Peter Aufschnaiter's Eight Years in Tibet by Peter Aufschnaiter...
This is a highly illustrated, personal account of Peter Aufschnaiter's eight-year sojourn in Tibet, characterized by his empathy for and understanding of Tibetan culture and enriched by his photographs and sketches. The text is a sensitive record of the Tibetans and their way of life and ends of the eve of the Chinese invasion that was to wreak such irreversible damage to this unique culture.
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Reviews - What do customers think about Peter Aufschnaiter's Eight Years in Tibet?
Tibet in the last years before the Chinese conquest: essential reading Jun 1, 2006
For fifty years after buying Harrer's "Seven Years in Tibet" I wondered why there seemed to be no parallel account by Peter Aufschnaiter - the fellow-Austrian he accompanied into Tibet from war-time interment in British India and who shared his seven years there, plus a bit more. Well here it is, put together from the rough draft left at Aufschnaiter's death thirty-three years ago. It's a gem.
The two books could hardly be more different. Harrer's book, written smoothly and edited skilfully, was directed to the popular market where it became a best seller and remained in print for decades, becoming in due course the subject of the blockbuster movie of the same name. In contrast, Aufschnaiter's book is a rough diamond, hardly literary at all in any usual sense, much of it like the diary jottings of a sensitive, scientifically trained individual - which is what Aufschnaiter was: a bit like Tibet, really - rough on the surface, but deep.
The two books are precisely suited to myself as I was when I read them, in 1956 and 2006: Harrer's book a great yarn for a teenager dreaming of adventure in exotic places; Aufschnaiter's book of greater value to a reader familiar with what it's like to be there, with the territory and the history, who understands perhaps just a little of the deep love of Tibet that is Aufschnaiter's subject.
There is surprisingly little of Harrer in "Eight Years". The two lived separately for most of their time in Lhasa, and Aufschnaiter's book includes extensive journeys he undertook in central Tibet after Harrer left.
People criticise the movie of "Seven Years" for casting Brad Pitt as Harrer the show-pony; but I reckon the choice was inspired. In the same movie, hardly anyone would know the name of David Thewlis, who played with brilliance the self-effacing Aufschnaiter.
Published, like a good many worthy books, in Bangkok, Aufschnaiter's book seems to have gone almost unnoticed. Three years after publication, in all of Australia it is held by only two public libraries and in no major academic library.
The production of the book is a delight. More than 150 photos, a third of them in colour, are of excellent quality and a wonderful record of central Tibet in the last years of its isolation, complemented by a dozen of Aufchnaiter's sketches and as many maps. A coloured fold-up map of Lhasa made by Aufschnaiter is not so much interesting as deeply saddening, the mediaeval city it depicts now largely torn down, and the little that remains swamped in a Chinese city many times its size. With its railway about to open, soon Lhasa will indeed be (to quote Henry Lawson's words) "with iron rails / tethered to the world".