Book Review

The profound Tibet-expert Klemens Ludwig and his co-author Holm Triesch have published a novel which fascinates the reader from the very first till the end. But despite the novel's happy end, the reader is kind of sad after finishing, because how great it would be, if the end reflected real life: if it were not only suspenseful fiction, but the true story of the Panchen Lama, who has been kidnapped by the Chinese. Indeed the sad fact is that the boy Genduen Choekyi Nyima, who has been regarded as the youngest political prisoner in the world after being kidnapped by Chinese secret forces in May 1995, is still missing- 17 years after the kidnapping.

Despite massive intervention from governments and international human rights organisations, no one knows where the kidnapped man is, what his situation is and whether he is still alive. The public only knows why he has been kidnapped: Dalai Lama declared the boy as the reincarnation of the 10. Panchen Lama before the Chinese did it. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) couldn't accept such a loss of face. The boy had to disappear and the CCP chose a different candidate as Panchen Lama, a son of Party members, who is educated as an instrument of Chinese maintenance of power over Tibet.
But in Tibet, the "wrong" Panchen Lama will never be accepted, neither from the ordinary people nor from the clergy.

These are the basics from which the novel "Gendün" starts. The very beginning isn't like a novel, but rather a documentation of the facts of the kidnapping and the complications it caused. From these facts, the authors slowly revolve to fiction and follow a trace of wishful fantasy which will be alive in the heart of every friend of the Tibetans - that the "real" Panchen Lama is not only doing well as a prisoner of the Chinese, but that he might find a way to freedom in order to take on the responsibilities of the 11th Panchen Lama, at least in exile.
The novel develops a very convincing possibility of such an escape. The authors come closer and closer to the characters. The very detailed description of the landscape, the characters and the real situation in occupied Tibet create an intriguing atmosphere and lend the book great authenticity, although it remains Tibetan wishful fantasy.

There is a very touching side-story about the journey of a young exile Tibetan (living in the USA), who discovers a terrible secret about his father, a Chushi Gandruk-resistance fighter, which helps him to find his own identity. The vivid action and love scenes fulfil the expectations of ordinary readers who are not dedicated to Tibet, but are simply looking for a good suspense novel.

Franz Binder [in: Brennpunkt Tibet 1/2013