INCOGNITO: The Astounding Life of Alexandra David-Neel
INCOGNITO: The Astounding Life of Alexandra David-Neel
INCOGNITO: The Astounding Life of Alexandra David-Neel
INCOGNITO: The Astounding Life of Alexandra David-Neel
INCOGNITO: The Astounding Life of Alexandra David-Neel
INCOGNITO: The Astounding Life of Alexandra David-Neel

INCOGNITO: The Astounding Life of Alexandra David-Neel

Regular price $15.00

ISBN 978-1-896559-33-9
188 pages, paperback,6.14 x 9.21 inches (royal octavo), 30 historical photographs, 9 line drawings

Young Adult Fiction, Buddhism, Tibet, Explorers, Women in History

INCOGNITO: The Astounding Life of Alexandra David-Neel

By Dianne Harke

Alexandra David-Neel (1868-1969) was an astounding explorer and world-traveler. She was one of the first Westerners to visit Tibet, and voyaged extensively through Africa, India, China, Indochina, Japan and Europe – all at a time when women were rarely seen in such a pursuit! Author of more than 30 scholarly books, decorated by the government of France for her contributions, and Vajrayana Buddhist adept, she was an inspiration to her peers and remains an icon for modern girls everywhere.

Journey “beyond the garden gate” with Alexandra David-Neel, spiritual seeker, opera singer, feminist journalist, intrepid explorer, Buddhist scholar and prolific author of over thirty books. Alexandra’s wanderlust takes her all over Asia, and several times into her beloved Tibet. She befriends the Crown Prince of Sikkim, interviews the 13th Dalai Lama and the 9th Panchen Lama, and lives as a hermit in a cave high in the Himalayas, studying Buddhism and the Tibetan language with a revered lama.

In 1923, at the age of 55, Alexandra embarks on one of the most courageous journeys ever made. She treks thousands of miles to the forbidden city of Lhasa, Tibet. By her side is Yongden, a young Sikkimese lama. They travel incognito, disguised as Tibetan mother and son; pilgrims on their way to the holy city. Alexandra’s hair is dyed black; her face is blackened with soot. Hidden under her clothing is a revolver. They outwit bandits, officials, and ferocious weather, to reach their goal.

In 1937, nearing 70 years of age, Alexandra travels once more into Tibet. She returns to France after the end of the Second World War as a living legend.

At 100 years of age, dreaming of another journey into the unknown, Alexandra renews her passport!

“Ever since I was five years old…I craved to go beyond the garden gate, to follow the road that passed it by, and to set out for the Unknown.” My Journey to Lhasa, Alexandra David-Neel

This novel weaves together tales of her adventures and reflections, sumptuously illustrated with archival material.


Were it not for Harke’s rigorous research grounding this story, the life of Alexandra would be difficult to believe simply because it is so very astounding, as the title of the novel suggests. The effect of the first person narratives reads like a first-hand description of lived Tibetan Buddhism during the mid-twentieth century. The author fairly channels Alexandra to give the reader a backstage pass into the spiritual seeker’s internal and external worlds.

There is one more success in Harke’s first novel that I wish to mention in case it is overlooked. Whether intentional or not, her renderings of the European cultural contexts behind Alexandra’s story are instructive. The glimpses into the modus operandi of the Theosophical Society gave me a sense of how Theosophy and Spiritualism dovetailed with Buddhism and Hinduism at the turn of the twentieth century.

–Kimberley Beek, Buddhist Fiction Blog

In a brilliant preamble Harke evokes Alexandra herself... Harke presents Alexandra as a multidimensional, fully developed woman who sometimes faltered in her roles as wife, mother, Buddhist, but nevertheless sought to live out those roles faithfully and truthfully to who she was. ...there is plenty to feast on here.


Read an interview with Dianne Harke about her book here:

Listen to a podcast interview with Dianne Harke here:


   Dianne Harke has been a teacher, and a teacher-librarian at a number of junior and senior high schools in Alberta.

She has also been a school library consultant for the Saskatoon Board of Education and a librarian at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in Edmonton. Dianne lives with her husband in Edmonton, Alberta.

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