Saturday, January 24, 2009

Great book: "Men, Beasts, and Gods" by Ferdynand Ossendowski

A fascinating book about an area that seems to be very rich but has been overlooked: the upper Yenisei area of Siberia and Mongolia. It's mainly a story of adventure told by the author about his time being there during the Russian Civil War--albeit one the White side. Peoples encountered include Kalmycks, Tatars, Soyots, Buriats, Mongolians, Tibetans, Chinese, of course Russians, and miscellaneous tribal peoples of the area. The book has been criticized because it talks about the "King of the World" a figure who is supposedly the head of all the high lamas, like the Dalai Lama, and who supposedly lives in a large cavern underground. In point of fact the book only talks about this in what's an appendix, and it's pretty much proven that Ossendowski plaigarized this info from French mystic Saint-Yves d'Alveydre's book "The Mission of India". This information is just tacked on at the end and is obviously very different from the overwhelming bulk of the book, which is described in the first person in a realistic way, with verifiable people and places.

It's a treasure trove of a lost world, lost partly because of the forced settling of the nomadic tribes under the Soviet Union, something which is a black eye on that form of socialism. Available in various divers places via the web.

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