Thursday, June 2, 2011

Maraini, Fosco; 1952: Secret Tibet (Orig. Segreto Tibet)

This book pretty much started my interest in older books about Asia, so I wanted to start the whole blog with this post. Since I was just reading Wrede's Siberian trip,  that got to be the first after all.

My copy is a hardcover Finnish translation from 1953; Salaperäinen Tiibet, that I found by accident in my great-aunt's library that my parents had inherited. It amazes me how much interesting literature got translated so early. I can't imagine that the market for such books was huge in Finland.

Fosco Maraini 1912-2004, was an Italian photographer, ethnographer and mountaineer who followed the famous Professor and Tibetologist (and likely a closet-Buddhist) Giuseppe Tucci on two expeditions to the Roof of the World in 1938 and 1948. Secret Tibet is a synthesis of his experiences during these two trips.

Sikkimese princess Pema Chöki by Maraini
It's been some years since I read the book, so I can't delve too deep into the actual content right now. It has some cool photography (Maraini had an eye for female beauty too) from Tibet and gives a glimpse of life in the Himalayan kingdom before the Chinese "liberation".

The book is excellent on many levels. You can read it as a travelogue; Maraini does a good job on describing people in the expedition and who he meets on the way. It succeeds as an ethnographic record as well, describing arts and customs of the Himalayas. The author explains Buddhist concepts in the book to some depth. He has ample chance to gain insight with all the practitioners around and an Italian Buddhist professor as a tutor. Whatever your personal interests are, this book is entertaining.

Shortly:  Excellent and highly readable!

1 comment:

  1. Nice post. It shows how rich could a literature be in terms of translation.Through translating shows the rich blend of knowledge and culture in a society.Whether in Finnish translation or in any foreign language translation helps one to get acquainted with the thoughts, traditions, principles and actions of the people from the region.When we read books from a foreign country it seems like travelling in that country through the stories plot.We could recognize how they have been living afar from our own culture.