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Forbidden Journey: The Life of Alexandra David-Neel
     

Forbidden Journey: The Life of Alexandra David-Neel

by Barbara M. Foster, Lawrence Durrell (Foreword by)
 
Alexandria David-Neel, prolific author, inveterate explorer and traveler, pioneer feminist and authority on Buddhism, was called by Lawrence Durrell, "the most astonishing woman of our time." She was the first European to penetrate Tibet on the level of its learned hermits, nomads, and brigands, and the first foreign woman to enter its forbidden capital. She made her

Overview

Alexandria David-Neel, prolific author, inveterate explorer and traveler, pioneer feminist and authority on Buddhism, was called by Lawrence Durrell, "the most astonishing woman of our time." She was the first European to penetrate Tibet on the level of its learned hermits, nomads, and brigands, and the first foreign woman to enter its forbidden capital. She made her famous journey from Yunnan to Lhasa over the Trans-Himalayas in midwinter, disguised as a beggar, ignoring alike hunger, cold, bandits, and the threats of British imperial officials. Few have led a life of adventure equal to hers, or made so much of it.

The New York Times called Forbidden Journey, and earlier bestselling book on David-Neel by the Fosters, "a great human life, very well written up."

Harper's Bazaar called it, "the fascinating account of the life and exploits of the brilliant 20th century Frenchwoman."

Now, with a fresh outlook and discoveries made in the secret files of the India Office, London, and interviews with those who knew David-Neel and Tibet in the days of the British Empire, the authors revisit their subject. They reveal rare information about the mystical practices of Himalayan shamans, many of which were mastered by David-Neel- including out-of-body travel, mental telpathy, and self-generation of heat. The result is a vividly detailed chroncile of a heroic woman's quest to conquer her personal demons and of the journey that made her a celebrated figure. This compelling narration of David-Neel's adventures, her doomed love affair with the dashing maharaja of Sikkim, and above all her attachment to the land and people of Tibet, which lasted nearly her entire 101 years, recreates a tumultuous era, a gigantic landscape, and the life of a woman who followed her heart's desire. As National Geographic wrote, "She defied East and West in her quest to explore a forbidden land." Admirers of Alexandria David-Neel and her writings have included scholars and diplomats, Jacqueline Onassis, Barbara Walters, Senator Patrick Motnihan, and members of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee.

Editorial Reviews

Hugh Richardson
In a triumph of determined research, Barbara and Michael Foster have followed the varied and little known events in the life of this extraordinary woman -- courageous and fiercely independent... a difficult person but rich material for this vivid and absorbing story.

-Hugh Richardson, Britain's last diplomat in Tibet and author of A Cultural History of Tibet

Arlene Blum
An important and well-researched account of the like of one of the world's outstanding explorers, travelers, and Buddhist scholars.

-Arlene Blum, author of Annapurna: A Woman's Place

Kirkus Reviews
The authors' affection for their subject is warmly communicated in this biography of David-Neel (1868, 1969), the French Tibetophile who was the first European woman to explore the once forbidden (to foreigners) city of Lhasa. The Fosters already have one biography of David-Neel to their credit (Forbidden Journey, 1987). In their preface to this book, they present it as an entirely revised edition of the earlier one, incorporating information gleaned from additional source materials and interviews. The authors' characterization of their subject's many writings, "witty and entertaining," applies as well to their own.

The biography opens as a movie might, on David-Neel's surreptitious departure from Lhasa in May 1924, after having entered illegally following a perilous journey. Succeeding chapters flash back to her childhood, marriage, and first journeys east, culminating in the great trek by foot to Lhasa. The final chapters on the end of her life, back in France, also review her major writings, which include autobiography, novels, translations of Tibetan texts, and studies of Buddhism. The many epithets used throughout the book, in lieu of the heroine's name—the seeker, adventurer, pilgrim, scholar, orientalist, iconoclast—give some feel for the scope of her character and work. The authors present her as a Tantric mystic who scorned mystification; an ascetic who laid carpets in her Tibetan cave-dwelling; a radical democrat who, a colonialist still, condescended to her adopted Sikkimese son: in short, as the union of opposites that many deeply religious people are. The authors' principal concern is that David-Neel be remembered for her part in preserving Tibet'sreligious legacy, especially now that it is under attack, through the texts she translated and saved for the West, including Tibetan versions of works no longer available in the original Sanskrit from the early Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna.

From the joint talents of the authors (a librarian and a novelist) comes a winsome biography that takes its subject more seriously than itself.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780062503459
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
11/28/1987
Edition description:
1st ed
Pages:
363

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