The tragedy that has befallen Tibet and its people over the past 50 years is easy to quantify, with the loss of several million lives and the wholesale destruction of the culture and natural resources in the name of "liberation". Yet the devastating reality of these events is better understood through the harrowing stories told by various refugees such as Ani Pachen. The story of her life is vividly recounted by Adelaide Donnelley in Sorrow Mountain, tracing the invasion and devastation of Tibet by the Chinese from the 50s down to the present-day as experienced by one very brave woman.
Ani Pachen vividly describes the peaceful traditional Tibetan way of life she knew during her youth even though the dark clouds of impending disaster were gathering in the east. She brings to life the valiant yet futile attempts by poorly equipped Tibetan fighters to drive back the Communist army, a fight in which she also took part until her capture and subsequent imprisonment.
She endured over 21 years of extreme brutality in prison, sustained only by her passionate faith in Buddhism and trust in the Dalai Lama. With a nobility of spirit that puts her jailers to shame, she was still able to pray, "let my pain take the place of others' suffering" while being tortured repeatedly. When she was finally released, with her spirit unbroken, she remained for a while in Lhasa, taking part in the freedom demonstrations of the 80s at great personal risk, before finally escaping to India where she recounted this story of her life. --Stephen Hodge