French, Patrick 1966-
FRENCH, Patrick 1966-
PERSONAL: Born 1966, in England; married; children: Tenzin, Abraham. Education: Attended a Roman Catholic boarding school in Yorkshire, England; studied English and American literature at the University of Edinburgh. Politics: Green.
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Knopf, 1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019.
CAREER: Writer. Director and cofounder, Free Tibet Campaign (London, England), 1996-1999.
AWARDS, HONORS: Somerset Maugham Award, and Heinemann Prize, Royal Society of Literature, both 1995, for Younghusband: The Last Great Imperial Adventurer; named Sunday Times young writer of the year; offered Order of the British Empire (refused), 2003.
Younghusband: The Last Great Imperial Adventurer (biography), HarperCollins (London, England), 1994.
Liberty or Death: India's Journey to Independence and Division (history), HarperCollins (London, England), 1997.
Tibet, Tibet: A Personal History of a Lost Land, Knopf (New York, NY), 2003.
Author of articles for newspapers, including the Independent Sunday, Weekend Australian, Sunday Times, International Herald Tribune, Sunday Telegraph, and the New Yorker.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A biography of V. S. Naipaul.
SIDELIGHTS: Patrick French has established a reputation as a thorough, insightful writer who frequently challenges established notions about his subjects. His first publication was a biography of Sir Francis Younghusband, a military adventurer who is chiefly known as the officer in charge of the infamous 1904 British invasion of Tibet—an episode described by William Dalrymple in Spectator as "probably the most pointless and certainly the most morally indefensible adventure of high Victorian imperialism." In his later years, Younghusband became deeply involved in spiritual matters, writing and studying a great deal about Hinduism and Buddhism. In his biography, French gives insight into the many contradictions inherent in Younghusband, portraying him as both an aggressive imperialist and a spiritual pilgrim, deeply influenced by Eastern religions. Numerous critics expressed their appreciation of the author's handling of his complex subject. "What gives Patrick French's book its spice," wrote Times Literary Supplement contributor Patrick Marsden, "is the constant reminder that two apparently contradictory personae inhabited the same body." Richard Bernstein, a contributor to the New York Times Book Review, credited French's believable rendering of Younghusband's contradictions as being the key to the success of this "intelligent and readable biography." Dalrymple called Younghusband "a wonderful book: beautifully written, wise, balanced, fair, funny and above all extremely original," concluding that "Patrick French has made an altogether brilliant debut, and it seems extremely unlikely that a more amusing or more innovative biography will be written this decade."
French's 1997 book analyzed the events surrounding India's troubled road to independence and partition in 1947. Liberty or Death: India's Journey to Independence and Division drew widespread praise, though numerous critics found some flaws in it. Robin J. Moore, a contributor to Times Literary Supplement, found French's research somewhat limited but appreciated the book's accessibility, calling it "a reliable analytical narrative of some historical depth in a field crowded with specialist studies." A Publishers Weekly reviewer found the author's material familiar but allowed that "he does, however, succeed at filling in some gaps" in common knowledge, and his "travel notes and wit leaven the narrative somewhat." The reviewer cautioned, however, that "many readers will find that this demanding journey covers too much territory too quickly." On the other hand, Independent reviewer Sunil Khilnani considered French too eager and "determined to produce 'a radical reinterpretation' of history" that is ultimately "not quite delivered." Because his sources are limited and do not include Indian or Pakistani records, Khilnani concludes that "the result is very much a British view of the story, albeit a self-critical one."
French had been fascinated with Tibet since Tenzin Gyatso, the fourteenth Dalai Lama, had visited the Catholic boarding school the author attended when he was sixteen. Though the plight of Tibet and its people—who were brutally attacked by the Chinese government in 1959 and have since continued to be victimized—was not well known at that time, French's imagination was captured. When he was eighteen years old he traveled to Tibet to see it firsthand. Later, when he returned to London, he became the head of a Free Tibet Campaign, designed to protect the Tibetan people and culture from the ravages of the Chinese conquerors. He poured his energies into this effort, then returned to Tibet to research a new book on the region. The experience changed his outlook profoundly. He began to question the motivations and attitudes of Western activists, who, he felt, project false images onto the complex and changing reality of Tibet. His reflections are part of his book Tibet, Tibet: A Personal History of a Lost Land, published in 2003. Mixing history with his own travel stories and thoughts on the situation in Tibet, the book is described by Mick Brown in the Daily Telegraph as "an unsparing yet always compassionate portrait, far and away the best book on Tibet I have read." Donna Seaman, a reviewer for Booklist, credited French with offering "a taut and compelling overview of Tibet's past," but she found that it was his conversations with Tibetans who have suffered through years of persecution that "make this book so searing…. Compelling in its shocking details, fictionlike in its narrative grace, and bracing in its frankness, French's portrait of Tibet is invaluable."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Asian Affairs, June 1995, W. Peters, review of Younghusband: The Last Great Imperial Adventurer, p. 198.
Booklist, February 15, 1999, Jay Freeman, review of Liberty or Death: India's Journey to Independence and Division, p. 1034; October 15, 2003, Donna Seaman, review of Tibet, Tibet: A Personal History of a Lost Land, p. 383.
Daily Telegraph (London, England), September 5, 2002, Amit Roy, "Naipaul picks 'unique' biographer"; April 5, 2003, Mick Brown, review of Tibet, Tibet, p. 7; September 30, 2003, Amit Roy, "Historian turns down offer of the OBE."
Economist, April 5, 2003, review of Tibet, Tibet.
Evening Standard (London, England), March 31, 2003, Edward Marriott, "Meeting the Dalai Lama," p. 43.
Far Eastern Economic Review, October 5, 1995, Don Cohn, review of Younghusband, p. 70; June 12, 2003, Jason Overdorf, review of Tibet, Tibet, p. 56.
Financial Times, May 8, 2003, "Spiritual Matters: Observer Column," p. 12.
Guardian (Manchester, England), May 31, 2003, Isabel Hilton, review of Tibet, Tibet, p. 14.
Herald Sun (Melbourne, Australia), July 19, 2003, review of Tibet, Tibet, p. W29.
Independent (London, England), July 12, 1997, Sunil Khilnani, review of Liberty or Death, p. 6; April 12, 2003, Justin Wintle, review of Tibet, Tibet, p. 41.
Independent Sunday (London, England), July 20, 1997, Catherine Storey, review of Liberty or Death, p. 29; May 4, 2003, James Urquhart, "Compromise and Lies on the Roof of the World," p. 17.
Indian Review of Books, September 16-November 15, 1997.
Irish Times (Dublin, Ireland), April 26, 2003, Joe Culley, review of Tibet, Tibet, p. 60.
Journal (Newcastle, England), June 10, 2003, George Currie, review of Tibet, Tibet, p. 47.
Journal of Historical Geography, January, 1996, David Matless, review of Younghusband, p. 86.
Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2003, review of Tibet, Tibet, p. 1111.
Library Journal, October 15, 2003, Harold Otness, review of Tibet, Tibet, p. 81.
London Review of Books, December 22, 1994, pp. 13-14.
New Statesman and Society, August 4, 1995, p. 37.
New York Review of Books, June 12, 1997, Jeremy Bernstein, review of Younghusband, pp. 45-49.
New York Times, November 15, 1995, Richard Bernstein, review of Younghusband, pp. B5, C21.
New York Times Book Review, November 15, 1995, p. C21.
Observer (London, England), October 9, 1994, p. 18; October 16, 1994, p. 14; July 27, 1997, Hanif Kureishi, review of Liberty or Death, p. 18; April 6, 2003, Ed Douglas, review of Tibet, Tibet, p. 16.
Publishers Weekly, January 4, 1999, review of Liberty or Death, p. 82; August 25, 2003, review of Tibet, Tibet, p. 49.
Seattle Times (Seattle, WA), January 21, 1996, review of Younghusband, p. M2.
Spectator, October 1, 1994, William Dalrymple, review of Younghusband, pp. 35-36; November 18, 1995, p. 47; November 25, 1995, p. 49; July 12, 1997, Philip Glazebrook, review of Liberty or Death, p. 30; April 19, 2003, Michael Wharton, review of Tibet, Tibet, p. 36.
Sunday Telegraph (London, England), March 30, 2003, Justin Marozzi, review of Tibet, Tibet.
Sunday Times (London, England), July 13, 1997, Andrew Roberts, review of Younghusband, p. 6; April 6, 2003, Anthony Sattin, "Trouble in Paradise," p. 41; December 21, 2003, "Nothing Political about It, I Had to Turn down an OBE," p. 4.
Time International, June 23, 2003, Meenakshi Ganguly, review of Tibet, Tibet, p. 49.
Times (London, England), May 21, 2003, Iain Finlayson, review of Tibet, Tibet, p. 18.
Times Educational Supplement, August 8, 1997, Farrhouk Dhondy, review of Liberty or Death, p. 25.
Times Literary Supplement, October 21, 1994, Patrick Marsden, review of Younghusband, p. 32; August 22, 1997, Robin J. Moore, review of Liberty or Death, p. 28.
Washington Post Book World, November 5, 1995, p. 13.
Weekend Australian (Sydney, Australia), July 19, 2003, review of Tibet, Tibet, p. T10; August 2, 2003, Susan Kursawa, "Lost Horizons," p. B10.
Asia Week, http://www.asiaweek.com/ (August 8, 1997), Tarun J. Tejpal, review of Liberty or Death: India's Journey to Independence and Division.
World Tibet Network News, http://www.tibet.ca/ (March 17, 2003), Parsa Venkateshwar Rao Jr., interview with Patrick French.*