MQ Book Reviews
Summer reading suggested by Patrick Wilson
Tibet, Tibet. A Personal History of a Lost Land
Patrick French, Harper Collins, £20
The campaign to free Tibet ranks among one of the most popular international movements. Few people living in London, or any university city, can have missed the marches, the posters and the clothing that bear support for an oppressed people subject to Beijing's relentless policy of suppression.
Over the past couple of decades, the formation of the Free Tibetan movement around the world, backed by celebrities such as film star Richard Gere, have succeeded in helping raise Western awareness to the plight of a nation which has been wider Chinese control since 1950. Tibetans are not the only people subject to suppression, but it is easy to see the movement's appeal. The contrast between a repressive communist dictatorship hell-bent on domination, and a peaceful people following the values of benevolent Buddhist monks in the magical, spiritual surroundings of Tibet, is a striking one.
Patrick French was one of the directors of UK's Free Tibet campaign and this book chronicles his travels and meetings with people ranging from the local Tibetans to ex-Red Guards.
What is so refreshing about the book is that French is prepared to question the movement, which he has been a part of since leaving school. For example, he documents an elderly Tibetan who vehemently argues that: `It (Protesting) may make them feel good, but for us it makes life worse. It makes the Chinese create more controls over us'.
This is not, therefore, just a sycophantic study of an oppressed people.
It is much more than that, as his examination of the Dalai Lama's failed strategy in dealing with Beijing, highlights.
French also pours doubt on the official figure of 1.2 million Tibetan deaths resulting from Chinese rule. Despite this, what shines through is the remarkable dignity and resilience of the Tibetan people.
Tibet, Tibet is a brave, moving and powerful book which helps shed some much-needed light on the issues surrounding this exotic, but mysterious land and people.
Telegram from Guernica. The Extraordinary Life of George Steer, War Correspondent
Nicolas Rankin, Faber, £14.99
On 26 April 1937, the town of Guernica was bombed. The story of the destruction of this 'old patched town built largely of wood' was a shocking one, even by the standards of the Spanish Civil war. Yet only one journalist waited, investigated and, a day later exposed the true story behind an outrage that was to shock the world.
George Steer's report exposed the secret Nazi involvement in the devastating aerial attack on this heavily populated Spanish market town.
His damning revelations became headline news, and led Steer to be named on the Gestapo's Special Wanted List. It also inspired one of the most powerful anti-war images of the century - Picasso's famous black-and-white painting 'Guernica'.
Steer was vehemently anti-fascist. Indeed, while Guernica made him a household name, his first assignment signalled his intentions when he successfully alerted the world to the desperately unfair Italo-Abyssinian war.
His dispatches skilfully captured the true nature of a conflict in which Mussolini's troops, armed with tanks and machine guns, pitted themselves against locals still living in the 'Spear Age'.
Web site created by Mark Griffin