Dianne HarkeApr 1, 2023
The Astounding Life of Alexandra David-Neel
Sumeru Press 2016
I grew up with Alexandra David-Neel’s books on my mum’s bookshelf. She was part of the myth making process that led to my own fascination with Tibet, as something real, and as fantasy, a description that is often used to define Neel’s relationship and presentation of Tibet. She was either a key that helped open the door into the world of Tibet with its Lamas, Vajrayana Buddhism, and enormous mountains and planes, or another in the long line of westerners who turned Tibet into a romantic, western fantasy.
In this episode, I talk to Diane Harke, author of Incognito: The Astounding Life of Alexandra David-Neel (Sumeru Press, 2016). We look back at David-Neel, her life, and Tibet. She was also a life-long anarchist, feminist, explorer, and prolific author. We discuss her encounters with the 13th Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama and her legacy in creating an image of Tibet and Buddhism that enticed the likes of Alan Watts and Gary Snyder to venture Eastwards.