Book review

Waiting for the dalai lama

Annelie Rozeboom

Blacksmith  books  978 988 17742 00

To Tibetans, the Dalai Lama is something much more than a religious leader, or a leader in exile. The Dalai Lama is part of their identity as Tibetans, a distinct people in the new China, however unwillingly. Tibet, and the Dalai Lama have also somehow established themselves in western consciousness in a way that few other struggles for cultural and political identity in the third world have accomplished.

Dutch journalist Annelie Rozeboom captures the importance of the Dalai Lama in contemporary Tibet, through a series of vignettes of Tibetans, in Tibet, in China and in exile. The value in this book lies in the range of vignettes, foreigners involved with Tibet, Chinese migrants in Tibet, Tibetans in exile and in China, people who have done well out of the coming of the Chinese to Tibet and those who haven’t. Through these little pen portraits Rozeboom manages to build a picture of the range of attitudes within the Tibetan community, both within and without Tibet.

This is not a didactic posturing book, it is a genuine attempt to show that the Chinese presence in Tibet is not a black and white issue, nor is the Dalai Lama automatically a figure of adoration within the greater Tibetan community. The truth as always, is rather more murky and ambiguous than some would have us believe.

As such Rozeboom’s book is a valuable contribution to understanding and describing contemporary Tibet, for all its contradictions and inconsistencies. Despite the undoubted repression of the Tibetan people, Rozeboom shows that some Tibetans have been able to take advantage of the Chinese presence, and rather neatly, that being able to improve their lot does not automatically translate to undying love for the Chinese presence.

Likewise her portraits of Chinese residents in Tibet help show that a range of attitudes exist among the Chinese.

As such this book forms a valuable source book for anyone interested in contemporary Tibetan politics and society.