Escape from the Land of Snows : The Young Dalai Lama's Harrowing Flight to Freedom and the Making of a Spiritual Hero
On the evening of March 17, 1959, as the people of Tibet braced for a violent power grab by Chinese occupiers-one that would forever wipe out any vestige of national sovereignty-the twenty-four-year-old Dalai Lama, Tibet's political and spiritual leader, contemplated the impossible. The task before him was immense: to slip past a cordon of crack Chinese troops ringing his summer palace and, with an escort of 300, journey across the highest terrain in the world and over treacherous Himalayan passes to freedom-one step ahead of pursuing Chinese soldiers. Mao Zedung, China's ruthless Communist dictator, had pinned his hopes for total Tibetan submission on controlling the impressionable Dalai Lama. So beloved was the young ruler-so identified with his country's essence-that for him to escape might mean perpetual resistance from a population unwilling to tolerate an increasingly brutal occupation. The Dalai Lama's minders sent word to the Tibetan rebels and CIA-trained guerrillas who waited on the route: His Holiness must escape-at all costs. In many ways, the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, was unprepared for the epic journey awaiting him.
Drawing from written eyewitness accounts and interviews with survivors, Talty (The Illustrious Dead) describes the events in 1959 that irrevocably altered the future of Tibet. He skillfully moves between protests in Lhasa and the Dalai Lama's escape toward the border, tracing stories of the many people involved. Adding complexity to this narrative are details about CIA support of Tibetans fighting against the Chinese regime, the U.S. role in securing permission for the Dalai Lama's entry into India, and the worldwide media frenzy that shaped the public's perceptions of Tibet. Witness reports include those of the Dalai Lama's mother and brothers, rebels and refugees, members of the CIA's Tibetan Task Force, and former prisoners of the Chinese. From these multiple voices the author has woven a vivid picture of a dangerous journey and a country in crisis. The accompanying analysis provides context for the intricate events that changed the young leader into a "movable Tibet," and an isolated mountain society into an international cause and "a place of the mind." (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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January 17, 2011
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