Die Glocken von Lhasa
“Die Glocken von Lhasa” (The Bells of Lhasa) is the second novel I wrote. It is once again set in the Himalayas, partly in Nepal and partly in Tibet. And once again we meet Jonathan Harringdon, now married to a beautiful Frenchwoman, but otherwise still his old self. He has just received the sketch of a map, from his father in Kathmandu (whom we've already met in Der Südgipfel). This map was drawn up by a French explorer called Paul Marchand: he had crossed Tibet during the 1930s in the footsteps of two Jesuit monks (Ippolito Desideri and Emmanuel Freyre), who had done a similar journey in the 18th century. Marchand, having access to their reports and “travelogues”, was able to trace and follow their route. Jon, intrigued by the map and the man, sets out to find Marchand, his papers, further maps and descriptions.
It turns out that Marchand is long dead, but Jon discovers that the explorer seems to have found — and lost — a sort of treasure along the way. A treasure that Desideri himself had referred to in his writings: this strange treasure is somehow connected to a Mongolian Princess who had travelled with the two monks through Tibet and who had taken them (especially Desideri, it seems) under her wings.
Well, one thing leads to the next and before Jon can say so much as “Mount Everest”, he's back in Nepal and finds himself in the footsteps of old Marchand. With him is Sophie Marchand, the latter's grand-daughter and her boyfriend Serge. With the help of Jon's father Richard (who in a sense has started the ball) the group tries to find out more about Marchand, his journey, and this blasted treasure. And once again, the whole thing turns out to be much more than Jon had bargained for. He finds some things and he loses some things… but not at all what he was expecting…
The most fascinating aspect of this project is the fact that the two Jesuit monks and their writings actually exist(ed). Desideri and his companion Freyre did indeed travel from India to Lhasa; Desideri even lived there for a good while. He provided the West with the first reliable information about Tibet, the Tibetans and a strange figure called the Dalai Lama. Sadly, his writings disappeared in some library and were only re-discovered about a century ago, almost 200 years after his epic journey. The Mongolian princess and her treasure existed as well, though in the novel I've had to take some liberties in her description and actions as Desideri's account of her is suspiciously short and circumspect… Well, weaving the true story of Desideri and his Princess into the invented doings of Marchand and Jonathan was an interesting challenge.
The scan to the right (click to enlarge) shows a map with Desideri's actual travels: Agra, Delhi, Lahore, Baltistan, Leh, Tashigong, Saka (that's were the treasure got lost and found and lost again), Tingri, Shigatse, Lhasa… and finally, back to India via Kathmandu.
All my test readers found this manuscript to be at least as good as “Der Südgipfel”, if not better. It's certainly more of an adventure story than the first, which played more with psychological elements. Anyway, the only significant exception was my agent who said that it was a very good novel, but somehow not as “deep” as my first. And it seems he was right, as he was not able to sell the book. Then again, my first novel was not a big commercial success (though it's now, almost six years after publication, doing astonishingly well), so some reluctance on the part of potential publishers is understandable. Whatever, writing this tale proved to be an enormously interesting undertaking.
Anyone interested in reading the current version of the manuscript (which is all in German of course) should get in touch by leaving a comment on the contact page. The story is currently available as a PDF file, free of charge, but it is of course copyright 2008 by Thomas Lauer. And it may be withdrawn at any time, especially when and if a publisher requires me to do so.
More about the first volume of the Harringdon saga: Der Südgipfel.
$updated from: Die Glocken von Lhasa.htxt Sat 18 Jan 2014 13:14:22 thomasl (By Thomas Lauer)$