Seven Years in Tibet

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Seven Years in Tibet
First UK edition
AuthorHeinrich Harrer
Original titleSieben Jahre in Tibet. Mein Leben am Hofe des Dalai Lama
GenreTravel literature
PublisherRupert Hart-Davis (UK)
E.P. Dutton (US)
Publication date
Published in English
1953 (UK)
1954 (US)
Media typePrint (Hardback & Paperback)

Seven Years in Tibet: My Life Before, During and After (1952; German: Sieben Jahre in Tibet. Mein Leben am Hofe des Dalai Lama; 1954 in English) is an autobiographical travel book written by Austrian mountaineer and Nazi SS sergeant Heinrich Harrer based on his real life experiences in Tibet between 1944 and 1951 during the Second World War and the interim period before the Communist Chinese People's Liberation Army invaded Tibet in 1950.


The book covers the escape of Harrer and his companion, Peter Aufschnaiter, from a British internment camp in India.[1] Harrer and Aufschnaiter then traveled across Tibet to Lhasa, the capital. Here they spent several years, and Harrer describes the contemporary Tibetan culture in detail. Harrer subsequently became a tutor and friend of the 14th Dalai Lama.

It has been said that the book "provided the world with a final glimpse of life in an independent Tibetan state prior to the Chinese invasion."[2]


Seven Years in Tibet was translated into 53 languages, became a bestseller in the United States in 1954, and sold three million copies.[3]

At the beginning of the Flamingo edition of the book, a message from the 14th Dalai Lama praises the work: "Harrer has always been such a friend to Tibet. His most important contribution to our cause, his book, Seven Years in Tibet, introduced hundreds of thousands of people to my country." When Harrer died in 2006, the Dalai Lama repeated his praise of the author and sent a message of sympathy to Harrer's widow.[2]


Two films have been based on the book: Seven Years in Tibet (1956), a 76-minute documentary directed by Hans Nieter which includes both movies shot by Harrer during his stay in Tibet and various scenes from his adventures reconstructed by Harrer himself, and Seven Years in Tibet (1997), directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud and starring Brad Pitt as Harrer and David Thewlis as Aufschnaiter.[1]


There is also a David Bowie song entitled "Seven Years in Tibet", from his album Earthling (1997).


  1. ^ a b John Gittings (9 January 2006). "Obituary: Heinrich Harrer". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 August 2018.
  2. ^ a b "Dalai Lama says Harrer was a loyal friend". International Campaign for Tibet. 10 January 2006. Retrieved 31 August 2018.
  3. ^ Martin, Douglas Martin (January 10, 2006). "Heinrich Harrer, 93, Explorer of Tibet, Dies". The New York Times.

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