10 May 2006

Book Review: Zanskar, the Hidden Kingdom, by Michel Peissel, ****

The author, a very atypical Frenchman who writes in English, traveled across Zanskar in the seventies and wrote a detailed account of his personal experience. He conveys his emotions well and gives a lot of useful detail about the valley and its people. I read the book just before traveling to Zanskar in 2006, thirty years or so later than him, and found his book very useful to prepare my trip. I even met the (new) King of Zangla!

The book is made richer by a number of B/W and color photographs which help complete the narrative.

The only problem I have with the book is that the author every now and then falls into the trap of nostalgia of the good old days, before communication "spoiled" otherwise pristine regions... He even goes as far as arguing, half seriously, that inventing the wheel was a bad thing for Zanskar because it violated its blissful isolation. This despite the fact he himself points out how before communication everything was more difficult and more expensive for all of us...

All in all a highly recommended read to prepare your trip to Zanskar.