Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Heinrich Harrer (6 July 1912 – 7 January 2006) was an Austrian mountaineer, sportsman, geographer, and author. He is best known for being on the four-man climbing team that made the first ascent of the North Face of the Eiger in Switzerland, and for his books Seven Years in Tibet (1952) and The White Spider (1959).
In 1948, Harrer became a salaried official of the Tibetan government, translating foreign news and acting as Court photographer. Harrer first met the 14th Dalai Lama when he was summoned to the Potala Palace and asked to make a film about iceskating, which Harrer had introduced to Tibet. Harrer built a cinema for him, with a projector run off a Jeep engine. Harrer soon became the Dalai Lama's tutor in English, geography, and some science, and Harrer was astonished at how fast his pupil absorbed the Western world's knowledge. A strong friendship developed between the two that would last the rest of their lives.
In 1952, Harrer returned to Austria where he documented his experiences in the books Seven Years in Tibet (1952) and Lost Lhasa (1953). Seven Years in Tibet was translated into 53 languages, and was a bestseller in the United States in 1954, selling three million copies. The book was the basis of two films of the same title, the first in 1956 and the second in 1997, starring Brad Pitt in the role of Harrer.
In Seven Years in Tibet, Harrer wrote:
Wherever I live, I shall feel homesick for Tibet. I often think I can still hear the cries of wild geese and cranes and the beating of their wings as they fly over Lhasa in the clear cold moonlight. My heartfelt wish is that my story may create some understanding for a people whose will to live in peace and freedom has won so little sympathy from an indifferent world. (read more) (7 years in tibet trailer)