As readers of The Dalai Lama’s Cat will know, I am a big fan of the author F. Scott Fitzgerald – and more specifically his novel The Great Gatsby. There are a number of allusions to this in The Dalai Lama’s Cat – so much so that one blogger entitled his review ‘The Great Catsby,’ which I found very amusing. (There is a subtle allusion to a character from Gatsby in The Art of Purring. It’s early days, but so far no one has put their hand up on that one. No doubt, some sharp-eyed reader soon will).
One of the most oft-quoted lines from Gatsby is the very last: ‘So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.’
I am often reminded about the truth of that line. One case was last week when I happened to come across a most unusual Facebook page – Transhimalayan Heritage Arts, which has photographs of Tibet before the Chinese invasion, including some of the first ever taken of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama. Among the many photos were these beautiful photos of HHDL with a Tibetan terrier.
In my books, Kyi Kyi, who comes to share a basket with Marcel, under the counter of The Himalaya Book Café is a Lhasa Apso – Apso coming from a Tibetan word meaning ‘bearded.’ These dogs were bred in Tibet as indoor guard dogs in monasteries, their job to alert monks to intruders. Much loved by Tibetans, Lhasa Apsos are now a very popular breed right around the world.
in The Art of Purring, HHC comes to know more about the origins of one particular Lhasa Apso – the one after whom The Downward Dog School of Yoga is named. She discovers not only that she has connections to the dog, but so does the Dalai Lama.
When I wrote this fiction, I had no idea what contact, if any, His Holiness had with dogs in the 1960s. But from the photographs I discovered last week, it would seem he had a fair amount. A retrospective discovery of life imitating art.
At an ultimate level, is there any such thing as ‘fact’ vs ‘fiction’? Past vs present. How mysterious – and sometimes quite delightful – the ways in which, likes boats against the current, we are borne back ceaselessly into the past ….