Much has been written about the life of Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th and current Dalai Lama, including his own comprehensive autobiography. But for readers who have never delved into the spiritual headman’s life before, Stephen Talty’s Escape from the Land of Snows is a good start.
In March 1959, 40,000 brutal Communist Chinese troops were stationed in and around Llasa, Tibet’s capital and the Dalai Lama’s home. The young monk, “central to every Tibetan’s sense of his or her own life in a way that no other leader, not even Mao in China … could equal,” had an important decision, and ultimately a treacherous journey to make. Escaping capture in the impending battle would render Mao Zedong’s goal of total Tibetan submission impossible. And so began the Dalai Lama’s escape: a two-week, near-death trek to India through the highest terrain in the world, and with thousands of Chinese soldiers biting at his heels.
The “harrowing flight” will no doubt capture the attention of readers, but so will its context. Talty delivers thorough background on Tibet’s political landscape prior to the 1959 uprising and telling details on the Dalai Lama’s isolated childhood. Even seasoned readers of the subject will find new understanding of the monk’s transformation from overwhelmed and mischievous child to compassionate world leader.