In the year 1938, Austria faced annexation into a torturous Nazi Germany, all for the sake of forming the “greater Germany”. It was a time when war would soon rage and leave scars upon millions. A time where every country had to be fully aware of any and all external threats that could infiltrate their homestead. Seven Years in Tibet is based on the true events that commenced the year following Austria’s annexation. The events he experienced gave Heinrich Harrer, author and main character, the ability to construe an extraordinary story of personal perseverance through escaping the internment camps of India and his struggle through the treacherous mountains of Tibet.

 

Harrer then reaches his final half of his seven year journey in which he reaches a place of wisdom and humble beginnings, a city that was once the home to the young (now currently living) Dalai Llama. A friendship soon developed with the Dalai Lama showing Harrer the ways of the Buddhist lifestyle, and of Harrer expressing the ways of the world that existed beyond the palace of a young and innocent Dalai Lama’s “Forbidden City”.

What has taken me aback in this farcical-like story is the absolute sense of truth that lies within each and every line that Harrer uses in order to create an elegant sense of imagery during every happening. There’s a moment when after a recorded seventy days of travel (via foot, I’m unsure if this is exaggeration . . .) and only five days of rest, he is finally confronted with the Forbidden City of Lhasa, the location of the infamous Potala Palace where the 14th Dalai Lama himself inhabited until being driven out in 1959.

”While there exists the ordeal of shimmying past the guards at the gate, Harrer makes it clear that the treatment he received following his entry was quite unusual’’

The strain of entering the city is made known through Harrer’s explanation of the government’s restrictions that the city of Lhasa (Forbidden City) had established. The acceptance of foreigners through the city gates was against the laws in place and even upon entry there existed no lodging for one to stay. While there exists the ordeal of shimmying past the guards at the gate, Harrer makes it clear that the treatment he received following his entry was quite unusual. Upon seeing Harrer and his compatriot, Peter Aufschnaiter, were foreigners, the people of Lhasa first dealt a small form of hostility, but once they caught glimpses of their “blistering feet” and the weariness in their faces, Heinrich and Peter were left alone to rest.

Even the inhabitants of the home where Heinrich sat in in front of had brought food and water to make up for the response that they first received. It is through Harrer’s ability to recollect so well the past scenes that he delivers a gentle and simplistic description of a cultural lifestyle that the Buddhist inhabitants maintained in their everyday lives.

”The story Harrer has shared with the world is one that gives readers a sense of wonder and understanding’’

The story Harrer has shared with the world is one that gives readers a sense of wonder and understanding of what life was like within the Dalai Lama’s childhood community and how those in the Buddhist religion truly believed everything they taught as well as living by every word without hypocrisy. Not only is one gaining a better understanding of an outside world and culture vastly impacted by Word War II, but also is able to bare witness to  firsthand memories through immensely detailed moments of Harrer’s life. These moments include his escape from a brutal internment camp that restrained him from the majestic scenery and competing peaks of the Himalayan Mountains, and the natural life-threatening situations that existed amidst their cliffs.

Seven Years in Tibet comes highly recommended for those who enjoy the details’’

Seven Years in Tibet comes highly recommended for those who enjoy the details, incredible imagery, as well as being presented with an in depth look at an outsider being accepted into such a unique culture and religious lifestyle that still goes on in our world today.

8.5/10

Matthew Johnson

 Image Credit: Matthew Johnson

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