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.