Adam Hoffer's Reviews > Pema and the Yak: A Journey Into Exile

Pema and the Yak by Siofra O'Donovan
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it was amazing

Pema and the Yak is subjective documentary at its finest: it presents the everyday life of the Tibetan community in exile filtered through the experiences, understanding and sometimes dreams of the author. Síofra O'Donovan does not try to detach herself. She does not try to hide her own perplexity when facing the puzzles of Tibetan culture and philosophy, which makes the story she tells so compelling.

The book documents a double journey, both very subjective and intimate.

The first is the journey of the author visiting Tibetan / Buddhist communities in Northern India. While approaching the Tibetan border step by step, she explores the Tibetan language and culture and gets introduced to the private everyday lives of Tibetans in exile. Yet, just like the mountains of Tibet, certain domains of Tibetan philosophy and culture seem to stay out of her reach.

The second journey is the life-long odyssey of the Tibetan exile community, one made up of many individual journeys sharing the pain and suffering of escape and emigration. While Tibetans physically leave their country, they can never really break loose; their lives constantly and painfully revolve around their homeland. Forced to sell their herds and to settle in Indian cities, they have to give up everything and face uprootedness.


And finally, there is a third journey - the journey of the reader. I bought this book in Manali while on my way from the Zanskar Valley in Ladakh through Dharamshala to Delhi and back home. Kashmir was practically closed for tourists as both India and Pakistan were concentrating their troops by the Line of Control. The monsoon in Manali and Dharamshala was a big change after the desert-like climate and landscape of Ladakh and the Tibetans I met there were simultaneously familiar and foreign compared to the Ladakhis. This book was an excellent literary companion for my trip.
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Reading Progress

August 7, 2016 – Started Reading
August 22, 2016 – Shelved
September 26, 2016 – Finished Reading

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