In 2013 we sent R2952.83 on books, including this one at R167. In 2012 we spent R3940.40 on books, and in 2011 R2019.95. But when Val retired in 2014,In 2013 we sent R2952.83 on books, including this one at R167. In 2012 we spent R3940.40 on books, and in 2011 R2019.95. But when Val retired in 2014, we could not afford to go browsing in bookshops and just buying whatever took our fancy, so we rejoined the public library.
In 2014 our spending on books dropped to R1653.50, and in 2015 to R50.01. But browsing in a library is not the same as browsing in a bookshop. In a bookshop, the popular books will be stocking the shelves. In a library, the popular books will probably have been taken out by others. That is where books like this come in. OK, it's someone else's choice, and their taste may not coincide with yours, but you at least know that some book lovers think it is worth reading. And, to back it up, at the back of the book are some lists of winners of some of the major literary prizes. And if you don't find the book in question, another one by the same author might be worth a read.
The authors' list has descriptions of each book and why they think it is worth reading, so from those I've compiled a list, which I take to the library, at least when I remember to.
When this book first appeared in bookshops about 20 years ago I picked it up, read the blurb, and put it down again. One day perhaps I'll read it, butWhen this book first appeared in bookshops about 20 years ago I picked it up, read the blurb, and put it down again. One day perhaps I'll read it, but not yet, I thought.
Then I bought a book called The Modern Library (see What should I read next? | Khanya) and it recommended [book Captain Corelli's mandolin] as one of the best books published ion the second half of the 20th century. So when I fund it in the public library, I thought it was time to read it. And having read it, I'm very glad I did.
Do I regret not reading it at the time?
No, because when I first saw it in the shops I had not been to Greece. I had read a similar book about Greece in the Second World War, Eleni by Nicholas Gage, but that was non-fiction, as was about the author's search for the stories of his forebears in north-western Greece. I took it out of the library again when we were about to visit the area.
I'm sure that Captain Corelli's mandolin is a very good read whether one has visited Greece or not, but having been there, it helps to understand it better.
It is a story of war and peace, hardship and prosperity, and what war does to people and societies. The characters are memorable, the descriptions of both joys and sorrows are vivid. If you read this book, it will give you some idea of what war-torn societies like Syria are going through right now, and what the refugees are fleeing from, and what it feels like to be betrayed by the great powers fighting proxy wars in your home country.
1. Because of the "Rhodes must fall" movement, which began with the demand for the removal of a statue of Cecil J. Rhodes fWhy am I reading this book?
1. Because of the "Rhodes must fall" movement, which began with the demand for the removal of a statue of Cecil J. Rhodes from the campus of the University of Cape Town.
2. Because of the rise of Donald Trump in US politics. Cecil Rhodes seems to have been the Donald Trump of his day, an unscupulous businessman turned politician.
3. Because of family history. At least one member our family, Henry Green, went to Kimberley at the time of the diamond rush, and some of his children were either associates or admirers of C.J. Rhodea and Company, and gave names to their chuildren that reflected this - one child, for example, was named Cecil Leander, and, like his namesakes, he never married.
Concerning the first of these. it is mainly curiosity. I don't feel particularly strongly about statues of dead politicians, good or bad. Getting uptight about them seems rather pointless to me, and itmight be better to pay more attention to living politicians, who can do real damage, and more rarely, some good. About 20 years ago I was wandering through a park in Klin, in Russia, and there was a statue of Lenin. I suppose on the whole I'd prefer that it not be removed, but should stay as a reminder of history.
The resemblance to Donald Trump is more interesting, because Trump is a living politician who, like Rhodes, seems to have a cult following. According to Paul Maylam the cult of Rhodes seems to have arisen mainly after his death, fostered by his close associates who wrote biographies, and his will, which provided for various things by which he would be remembered, most notably the Rhodes Scholaships. Rhodes's funeral, too, which was a long drawn-out affair, seems to have been calculated to foster the cult. Trump, on the other hand, seems to have a cult following even while he lives, though it may die down if he fails to be elected as president of the USA in November, and cause him to be no more remembered than Tielman Roos.
I was interested to learn how Rhodes University in the Eastern Cape (a part of the world that Cecil John Rhodes had little to do with) got its name. It appears that they were hoping to get sponsorship from the Rhodes Trust, and thought that calling it Rhodes University would increase their chances. Now that's like certain sports reports I see on TV, when they say that a certain football team in the English Premier League has been "playing at the Emirates". I pictured them having a six-hour flight to and from the Gulf, and think they must be pretty exhausted with all that travelling. But no, the stadium is in London, and sponsored by the Emirates airline. So if Rhodes University changes its name and suddenly becomes Nandos University, you'll know why. The name of the university has little to do with the cult of Rhodes, and everything to do with sponsorship, marketing and branding.
The cult of Rhodes went way beyond the man himself, and was particularly strong in Southern Rhodesia, and Northern Rhodesia, the countries named after Rhodes, which jettisoned his name as soon as they became independent. Some white people in those countries named their children after Rhodes, even though they had no personal connection with him. But this also raises questions that Maylam does not deal with in the book. Rhodesia was conquered by Rhodes's British South Africa Company under a royal charter, and the company ruled until 1923, when Southern Rhodesia became a self-governing British colony, and Northern Rhodesia became a protectorate. It would be interesting to know whether and how the cult of Rhodes differed before and after this event, but Maylam does not tell us. Another weakness of the book is its repetitiveness. Maylam reiterates the same points in every chapter.
Though Paul Maylam does not admire Rhodes, and disapproves of the cult, his book supports the cult in a curious way, by punctuation. He uses "Rhodes'" for the possessive rather than "Rhodes's". In English that form is only used for revered figures from the ancient world -- Jesus, Moses, Socrates and so on. Maylam tells us that Rhodes admired classical civilisation, and liked to be identified with it, and his friend and admirer Sir Herbert Baker designed his memorial along classical lines for that reason, and every time I came across the possessive "Rhodes'" in the text I stopped short, and the cult came to the fore. Rhodes would have liked that.
Not all of his contemporaries admired Rhodes, and both his admirers and detractors compare him with other historical figures. As Maylam puts it,
Rhodes has been compared to many other historical figures -- Caesar, Napoleon, Cromweell and Bismarck. to name just a few -- but, as far as I know, he has never been compared to Shaka, the Zulu king. This would seem an unlikely comparison, and in many respects, it is. But it is not so much their lives that bear comparison, but their legacies and the way in which they have been represented and remembered. Both have come to be viewed in a polarised way, as hero or villain. Shaka has been represented as the heroic nation-builder, but also as a brutal tyrant; Rhodes as the great empire-builder, but also as the ruthles, dictatorial imperialist. Shaka has been revered by African nationalists, but hated by most white colonialists -- although some of them have shown a grudging admiration for the Zulu king as a "noble savage". Rhodes has been revered by imperialists, but loathed by African nationalists -- although again there is evidence that some African leaders, especially in the early twentieth centuiry, admired Rhodes as "a great man".
Some have also compared Rhodes with Robert Mugabe, and Maylam remarks, "Both men can be characterised as arrogant, authoritarian and vain. Both were land grabbers. And both were content to use force and violence to achieve their political ends."
Maylam also makes much of the resemblance of the Rhodes memorial in Cape Town to a pagan temple,
... the colossal bust of Rhodes portrays him as a great thinker -- which he was not. He had ideas, certainly, but as some biographers have observed, they were often boyish and immature... locating the bust in a "temple" amounts to the deification of Rhodes -- but Rhodes, although the son of an Anglican clergyman, was not a religious person. For many, the near deification of someone who was far from being saintly smacks of idolatry.
G.K. Chesterton, writing in 1912, said,
Rhodes had no principles whatever to give to the world. He had only a hasty but elaborate machinery for spreading the principles that he hadn't got. What he called his ideals were the dregs of a Darwinism which had already grown not only stagnant but poisonous. That the fittest must survive and that ony one like himself must be the fittest; that the weakest must go to the wall, and that anyone he could not understand must be the weakest.
Michael K is a gardener in Cape Town whose mother, a domestic servant, is ill, and fears she may lose her job, so he decides to take her back to PrincMichael K is a gardener in Cape Town whose mother, a domestic servant, is ill, and fears she may lose her job, so he decides to take her back to Prince Albert in the Karroo, where she grew up. But there is a war on, and people need permits to travel, and though he applies, the permit is lost in red tape, so he decides to set out on foot, with his mother in a home-made wheelchair. She takes a turn for the worse, and is admitted to a hospital in Stellenbosch, where she dies and is cremated. Michael K continues alone, with his mother's ashes, but has only the vaguest notion of the farm where she grew up from her description.
When he finds a farm that he thinks may be the right one, he find it abandoned, and so lives as a recluse, shunning human company and becoming self-sufficient, but though he has left the world, the world keeps breaking in on his solitude, and trying to remould him according to its own values.
It is well written, and has won several literary prizes. I found it more readable than other books by J.M. Coetzee, and quite a gripping story. The first part, about the journey to the farm, is reminiscent in a way of Sammy going south by W.H. Canaway, which describes a similar journey, though of a child rather than an adult. After Michael K becomes a recluse, it is quite different.
There is also a surreal quality to the book. It was first published in 1974, which was in the middle of the apartheid era, but there is no mention of apartheid in the book. Race is never mentioned, and so it seems unreal. The bureaucracy is there, but the people are more kindly than they were in that era. So while the book is set in South Africa geographically, it seems to be a South Africa in an alternative universe, as if it had taken a different turning, and developed in a different way. ...more
One normally reads travel guides before one visits a country. If you find it useful, you might take it with you on your visit, but I visited Albania 1One normally reads travel guides before one visits a country. If you find it useful, you might take it with you on your visit, but I visited Albania 16 years ago and I'm unlikely ever to travel there again unless we win the Lotto, which is unlikely even if I do remember to buy a ticket. So I took this book out of the library to remind me of our previous visit. Apart from anything else, I don't think this book was available when we visited Albania in 2000 -- the first edition seems to have been published in 2005.
So it's really for the memories, and perhaps to find out a bit more about the places and things we saw. ...more
I'm not quite sure why I took this book out of the library. I sometimes find that I like literary biographies of authors more than the books they wrotI'm not quite sure why I took this book out of the library. I sometimes find that I like literary biographies of authors more than the books they wrote, and I've never read any books by Gore Vidal.
After reading this one, I'm still not sure if I'll read any others, but I found this one quite interesting, and in many places, especially the earlier part, witty and humorous. As the title suggests, he jumps backwards and forwards in time, sometimes writing over what he has already written, and sometimes the chronology is a little confusing, especially when discussing people he had known for a long time.
As a writer he met lots of other writers, and the book is a cross between a literary who's who and a scurrilous gossip column. On the whole, however, he didn't much like the company of other writers, even though he had met quite a lot of them, and he seems to have had fallings out with those he knew quite well, among whom were Tennessee Williams the playwright and Truman Capote the novelist. I was most interested in what he said about Beat Generation writers, as I have been particularly interested in them, and he knew Allen Ginsberg quite well, and had met some of the others, including Jack Kerouac, in whose book The Subterraneans he appeared as Arial Lavalina.
There is also quite a lot of political gossip, which throws an interesting light on American politics in the early 1960s. Vidal and Jackie Kennedy Onassis shared a common stepfather, whom both of their mothers had married for his money. Vidal himself even stood (or ran) for election at the time that Jack Kennedy was running for President, though he did not have a high opinion of most of the other members of the Kennedy administration, or of Kennedy himself, whom he regarded as a warmonger.
Concerning his own life, Vidal hated his mother, and had only one true love, Jimmy Trimble, whom he met at school, and they were lovers from the age of 12 until the age of 19, when Jimmy Trimble was killed in the Second World War. Thereafter Vidal had a preference for casual anonymous sex, a preference which, he says, he shared with Jack Kennedy, and thought sex was inimical to friendship. He did have a lifelong companion, but according to Vidal their relationship was premissed on "no sex".
Vidal was also involved in film and television, and wrote several plays, some for television, some for the stage, and he also wrote the screenplay for several films. As a result quite a lot of his personal reminiscences involve actors, directors and producers in the film industry, and it is only his acerbic wit that keeps the parts of his book that deals with them from being a standard celeb gossip column.
An enjoyable read, and quite illuminating, but I'm still not sure if I'll try to read any of his fiction. ...more
This is a strange book. Written in the 1930s, it is set in the future, and in that it is similar to Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, which somehow seThis is a strange book. Written in the 1930s, it is set in the future, and in that it is similar to Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, which somehow seems to invite comparison. And there are comparisons, though these two eighty-year-old visions of the future are also very different. But both describe a hierarchical society. Huxley's book has a reservation for savages, those who do not fit in to the highly organised society of the civilised, where consumerism is taught from infancy.
In The Glass Bead Game, however, the reservation is not for savages, but for intellectuals, who live in the province of Castalia, where they are free to engage in their intellectual pursuits, untroubled by the world outside. It is an all-male society of elite schools whose students are picked by the elite.
The main part of the book is the story of one of these elite students, Joseph Knecht, who rises through the ranks to become the Master of the epitome of Castalian society, the Glass Bead Game. The book begins with a history of the Glass Bead Game, which explains nothing about the game itself -- how it is played, or how one wins or loses. In the course of his schooling Joseph Knecht meets a fellow student from the outside world beyond Castalia, a world to which he returns for his holidays, and he alone is critical of Castalian society and its values. He points out that there is nothing creative about it. They study creations of people of the past, art, music and science, without studying the past itself which produced them. Joseph Knecht alone has an interest in history, to the study of which he was introduced during a visit to a Benedictine monastery.
At the end of the book are some poems and three short stories, said to have been written by Joseph Knecht himself. And the three short stories are better than the entire book.
I nearly didn't read the three short stories. I thought the book was long, and I carried on reading because I wanted to see what happened, but I tired of the two-dimensional description of a two-dimensional world. Yet the short stories are in fact an essential part of the book, and are the key to understanding the rest of the story. ...more
Four years ago I read an Australian novel about families of Greek immigrants in Melbourne, The Slap. This one is about established Australian familiesFour years ago I read an Australian novel about families of Greek immigrants in Melbourne, The Slap. This one is about established Australian families a generation earlier, in Sydney. In spite of the differences of time and style, both books seemed intensely suburban. My wife and I kept comparing them, and we both thought that this one was rather better written than The slap..
Jack and Greta Cornock have no children of their own, but each of them has 30-something children from previous marriages, some single, some married, some divorced. Jack's daughter Sylvia Foley (divorced), who has been overseas in Europe for 20 years, returns for a brief visit to discover that her father has had a stroke, and her step-siblings are concerned about what he has left to their mother in his will. Like The Slap it goes into great detail about the minutiae of suburban life, and the concerns of middle-class suburban people, until one discovers that the older generation had a much harder time of it in their youth.
The book has a genealogical table in the front to help one to picture the complex relationship s between the main characters, and I found myself wishing that it also had a map of Sydney, so that one could picture the relationships between the places described, sometimes in great detail.. In spite of this, some details were rather fuzzy and blurred. In The Slap one was not told the ages of several of the children, so it was difficult to picture them. in The only daughter the ages of the children are given, but the makes and models of cars the characters drive around in are not. Perhaps that's a difference between South African and Australian culture, or perhaps it is a difference between small towns and suburbs. But I recall discussing who was visiting whom because we could see their cars parked outside someone's house.
But the book does give a rather detailed picture of suburban life and concerns in the 1970s.
It's set in the fictional English county of Loamshire at the end of the 18th century, which is some kind of rustic paradise until thIt's a love story.
It's set in the fictional English county of Loamshire at the end of the 18th century, which is some kind of rustic paradise until things start going wrong about halfway through the book. Unlike Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, whose romance novels are peopled with the landed gentry and their urban equivalents, this one is set among the yeoman class.
The book has been on our shelves forever, and I've been meaning to read it some day but kept putting it off, partly because of things I'd read about George Eliot, and partly because of plot summaries I'd read. Reading plot summaries can be a bad idea. It made it sound to simple, and a 600 page novel with such a simple plot must be boring, mustn't it, with all that padding?
But Eliot's descriptions of country life, though perhaps too idyllic, are part of the interest of the book, and she makes the characters sound interesting. I don't know how accurate her description of early Methodists is, but she probably knew several of them personally and perhaps some of her description is based on their recollections.
It's when the action starts that the plot holes appear. The reader is kept ignorant of somethings, which is a common device in fiction, but when the characters themselves appear to be ignorant, the suspension of disbelief gets a little strained. At one point there is a rather improbable Deus ex Machina, but it's still a good read. ...more
Some interesting thoughts about revolution and revolutionaries.
Fifty years ago I read the old man's description of Natalia Haldin, "It is hard to thiSome interesting thoughts about revolution and revolutionaries.
Fifty years ago I read the old man's description of Natalia Haldin, "It is hard to think I shall never look any more into the trustful eyes of that girl, wedded to an invincible belief in the advent of loving concord, springing like a heavenly flower from the soil of men's earth, soaked in blood, torn by struggles, watered with tears."
And that put me in mind of the Ascension Day hymn:
He shall come down like showers upon the fruitful earth; Love, joy, and hope, like flowers, spring in His path to birth. Before Him, on the mountains, shall peace, the herald, go, And righteousness, in fountains, from hill to valley flow.
Set in the Peak District of Derbyshire in England (which I have never been to), I kept thinking of the setting as similar tAn above-average whodunit.
Set in the Peak District of Derbyshire in England (which I have never been to), I kept thinking of the setting as similar to that of the detective novels of Peter Robinson with his detective Alan Banks, set just a bit further north in Yorkshire.
But unlike the Alan Manks series, and most other crimy mystery novels nowadays, the protagonis in this one is a junior officer, a mere Detective Constable, and not an inspector or chief inspector. He also is peculiar in not having lots of hangups and problems. He isn't an alcoholic, nor is he going though a messy divorce. His biggest decision is whether to move to town to be closer to his work.
The novel also poses some interesting questions about life in general, I rather liked this one on "community", in the mouth of one of the characters:
(Community) isn't something real, though. Is it? It's a word that we use in the titles of reports. Community liaison. Working with the community. Understanding the ethnic community. It's a word, Ben. It's not something you actually live in, not these days.
So if you enjoy crime fiction, this one is worth a look.
Spy novels seemed to flourish in the Cold War, especially in the 1960s and 1970s. Perhaps they were revived by the James Bond romances of Ian FlemingSpy novels seemed to flourish in the Cold War, especially in the 1960s and 1970s. Perhaps they were revived by the James Bond romances of Ian Fleming and given more impetus by the more serious and realistic novels of John le Carre, but they had been around for quite a while before that, and this is one set in the period of tension leading up to the Second World War. It's only about a third of the length of many of the Cold War spy thrillers, but that, if anything makes it more readable and more sharply focused. In looking for a postwar novel in the same genre I suppose the one that comes closest is The day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth.
It's not just a spy story, it's a crime novel as well, and perhaps even more so. In that respect the contrast with postwar crime novels is quite marked. I'd just finished reading Blood on the Tongue, which is set in much the same area of England, and what stands out is the difference in police procedures. In the prewar novel, the police circulate numbers of stolen banknotes to shops and railway booking offices in a town the size of London with remarkable efficiency for pre-Internet days. and everyone throughout the country is aware of the description of a wanted man. This makes it very easy to trace the suspect. In post war crime novels, the police have suspects, but can't find them, and when they do find out that they are not the perpetrators. They discover the real perpetrators by chance as often as not.
I suspect that the recent ones are more accurate, and the pre-war ones give an exaggerated idea of police efficiency and resources. Back then they never seemed to discuss the budget available for their investigations, though Graham Greene does have some digs at differences in medical treatment for people of different classes.
Sir Harry Smith arrived in the Cape Colony as Governor at the end of 1847, with a mandate to settle its affairs, and those of its neighbours as well.Sir Harry Smith arrived in the Cape Colony as Governor at the end of 1847, with a mandate to settle its affairs, and those of its neighbours as well. He was recalled in 1852, after a little more than four years, and his bungling cost the British taxpayers a lot of money, and impoverished and alienated most of the neighbours.
My main interest in reading his life was that a year before he arrived my wife Val's Green ancestors arrived, and since they had come with the British military, Sir Harry Smith was their boss for those four years, and his policies (and bungling) shaped their lives as well as those of many others.
Val's great great great grandfather, William Green, recently widowed, was transferred from Canada to the Cape Colony in about 1846, along with several of his children, including Val's great great grandfather Fred Green, who was about 17 years old. Fred's older brother Henry, like his father, joined the commissariat department, and another brother, Edward, joined the Cape Mounted Rifles as an ensign.
Edward enlisted in the middle of the 7th Frontier War, or 7th Kaffir War, as the British called it, otherwise known as the War of the Axe. It had begun when a man of the Ngqika tribe, Tlili, had been arrested for stealing an axe from a Fort Beaufort shopkeeper. His friends organised a jailbreak, and freed him by cutting off the hand of a fellow prisoner to whom he was handcuffed. The other prisoner subsequently died, so murder was added to the charges, and war was the result.
The British Secretary of State for War and Colonies, Henry Grey (the 3rd Earl Grey) in the Liberal government of Lord John Russell, decided to appoint Sir Harry Smith as Governor of the Cape Colony and Commander in Chief of British forces there to bring an end to the war (Harington 1980:88ff).
Harry Smith was a career soldier, and had served in the Cape Colony in the 1830s under Governor Sir Benjamin D’Urban, where he had taken part in the 6th Frontier War, and defeated the Xhosa tribes. He believed that the Xhosa people were tyrannised by their dictatorial chiefs, and thought that by deposing the chiefs he would liberate the Xhosas, so that they could be Christianised and civilised and become good citizens of the British Empire. On that occasion, when the Xhosa paramount chief Hintsa (who had taken little part in the fighting) came to the British camp under a flag of truce to negotiate peace terms, the British had treacherously kept him as a hostage, and finally treated him as a prisoner and murdered him while he was trying to “escape”. Smith then attempted to browbeat the other chiefs by intimidation and bluster, which he himself had referred to as “play-acting” so that, in effect, he pretended to rule them, and they pretended to surrender (Harington 1980:41ff).
Smith had then been transferred to India, where he had distinguished himself militarily against the Sikhs at the Battle of Aliwal, which had enhanced his reputation as a great military leader, and on the strength of this he was sent to the Cape Colony in three capacities – political (as Governor of the Cape Colony), diplomatic (as High Commissioner) and military (as Commander in Chief).
Smith arrived at Cape Town on 1 December 1847, when the Green family had been in the Cape Colony for about a year. He immediately set out on a tour of his domain.
With increasing numbers of British subjects (notably the Voortrekkers) from the Cape Colony settling north of the Orange River, the British government appointed Major Henry Douglas Warden as Resident in the area to keep the peace, and he settled on the farm Bloemfontein, near the Modder River in what was then known as Trans-Orangia. That, too, was to be on the itinerary of Smith’s grand tour.
The 7th Frontier War was almost over by the time Smith reached Port Elizabeth on 14 December 1847. Among those there to greet him was the Ngqika chief Maqoma, one of Smith’s old enemies from the 6th Frontier War. Maqoma had been neutral in the 7th Frontier War, and so had sat on his horse, unmolested, among the crowd who were waiting for Smith. Harington (1980:98f) describes what happened next:
From a window in the Phoenix Hotel [Smith] looked down upon an excited crowd that included many old friends and an old enemy, Maqoma himself, who astride his horse was especially prominent and noticed by Smith. To the amusement of the crowd the governor stared meaningfully at the chief, then half drew his sword. That should have been explicit enough, and sufficiently undignified, but Smith’s next actions show how success had gone to his head and affected his judgement. Though his intentions had always been good his earlier behaviour vis-à-vis the Xhosa had all too often been overbearing and eccentric, and he treated Maqoma in a manner that was outrageous, dangerous and foolish. He summoned the chief to his presence and when Maqoma offered his hand he was forced to prostrate himself in front of the governor who, having placed his foot upon his neck, poured forth a torrent of menacing vituperation over him, and threatened that all the other chiefs were going to get similar treatment. They were to be crushed and compelled to submit and obey.
Such was the man under whom three members of the Green family were to serve – William and his son Henry in the commissariat, and Edward as a Lieutenant in the Cape Mounted Rifles.
After browbeating the other Xhosa chiefs, Smith annexed their land between the Kei and Keiaskamma rivers under the name of British Kaffraria (later called the Ciskei), and told them that henceforth they would be under British rule.
In February 1848 Sir Harry Smith, after discussions with the Voortrekker leader Andries Pretorius, proclaimed British sovereignty over Trans-Orangia, and a village was laid out at Bloemfontein , with a fort and a garrison. The garrison consisted of the Cape Mounted Rifles, the 45th (Nottinghamshire) Regiment and the Royal Artillery88b:7). This was a mere ten years after the Great Trek.
The Sovereignty was challenged by the Boers, who proclaimed a republic at Winburg and marched on Bloemfontein, but were defeated by the British, lef by Sir Harry Smith, at the Battle of Boomplaats on 29 August 1848, where Henry Green was in charge of the commissariat. Henry Green remained in Bloemfontein, and eventually replaced the incompetent Major Harry Warden as British Resident in July 1852. In the mean time his younger brothers visited him there, and Henry seems to have found work for some of them to do, while Charles and Fred Green used it as a base for hunting expeditions to what is now Botswana. .
After a couple of years another frontier wart broke out (the 8th), and it is probably fair to say that Sir Harry Smith's arrogance and overbearing manner in dealing with the Xhosa chiefs made it much more bitter than the preceding seven wars. He sent optimistic reports back to Earl Grey in Britain about his victories, but in spite of all the battles he claimed to have won, the Xhosas still occupied their strongholds and kept the British tied up in their forts. Eventually Harry Smith was recalled.
There is more in the book about his life before this period, though his recall marked the end of his career. It was also William Green's last posting. In 1855 he retired on half pay, and went to live in London.
A book about the establishment of a hippie commune in 1968/69 in southern New South Wales.
The story is told by a retired postman, who discovers the mA book about the establishment of a hippie commune in 1968/69 in southern New South Wales.
The story is told by a retired postman, who discovers the manuscipt of an epic porm on the topic in the bottom of an old mail bag, The Ballad of Erinungarah . He asked a friend, Kimberley Moon, about the poem, and tried to follow up the events of 27 years previously, when the members are scattered or dead, and the children have grown up,
I found it an interesting and good read, and found it particularly interesting because the people involved in starting the commune were about my age, and in the same period I was involved in starting a commune, though of a rather different kind. Another reason for finding it interesting is that, though the location was fictional, the general area was at one time the home a relative of my wife Val. Her name was Agnes Green, and she lived a very interesting life, part of it in Southern New South Wales. Her first husband, William Wilson, was drowned in the Tuross River there, in 1852, when it was the scene of a gold rush.
In addition to starting the commune in a very isolated valley, the inmates also developed a neopagan cult, in which several of the males of the group emasculated themselves. The narrator, the eccentric retired postman D'Arcy D'Olivera, interprets this in the light of James Frazer's The Golden Bough, and sees parallels with the ancient cult of Cybele.
The style reminded me of some of the books of Peter Tinniswood, such as A touch of Daniel, which give a vivid picture of life in the vicinity of Manchester in England in the same period. Tinniswood's writing was contemporary, while Foster's book was written nearly 30 years afterwards, and occasionally makes remarks about not meing sure whether some things were true to the period. I'd be interested in knowing what people from Australia who were alive at that time think of its authenticity of description.
I enjoyed it, but perhaps younger people, who have no memories of that period, might not like it so much.
It is 50 years since I read this book, so I am reliant on my diary for what I thought. It was quite a thought-provoking book. When I read it, I had beIt is 50 years since I read this book, so I am reliant on my diary for what I thought. It was quite a thought-provoking book. When I read it, I had been in Britain for four months, I was living in digs in Streatham in South London, and driving buses for London Transport, and feeling homesick for South Africa, and rather alienated in Britain. That was why i bought the book and read it, and that coloured my attitude to the book.
It provoked two thoughts in me: first, that Laurens van der Post, though born in Africa, wrote about Africa like a European. That annoyed me, particularly because of my own circumstances at the time. Secondly, he wrote about forgiveness in a way that may have been reflected in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa thirty years later.
So this is what I wrote in my diary on 6 June 1966:
I read more of Venture to the interior and came to the conclusion that van der Post is above all things a European. He may have been born in Africa, but to him Europe is home. He writes about and sees Africa through European eyes. Alan Paton is one South African writer I know who writes as an African, as a non-European. There may be others, but I haven't read them. Much of what van der Post says is true, though, particularly about air travel. There is something about an international airport that is unlocated, almost like the in-between land of pools in The magician's nephew. It is neither here nor there. It is not a part of the world at all. A strange unreality pervades it, and an atmosphere that both attracts and repels. One is no longer located in time and space. One is not anywhere, but everywhere is a possibility. The possibilities are exciting. It is a sort of cocoon transitional stage, only here, you feel, can you make the choice. I am nowhere - where shall I be? London? Nairobi? New York? Karachi? Paris? Entebbe? Johannesburg? Rome? Salisbury? All are possibilities.
It bugs me, this European outlook, the assumption of European superiority. Even he, born in Africa, writes in terms of England as if England is the almighty bloody absolute from which everything else in the world is to be judged. It is understandable in an Englishman, who must describe new things in terms of what he already knows, but not in someone brought up on a Free State farm.
He writes very well at times, but I can't help feeling that he is a traitor to the land of his birth. He has become an Englishman. And what is this England, this soft land, where the corners of everything are rubbed off? Where so many things are blurred and ill-defined? The climate and geography are strange to me.
I have just been through an English spring, but it is completely different to spring back home. England in spring is like a great fat lazy cow chewing over the cud. It is not, as in South Africa, a sudden awakening. A fanfare of wattle blossoms to announce its arrival in August. Then silence.
Then spring, when in a few weeks of September everything turns green. The azaleas and bougainvillias flower. The winter brown turns to summer green, and again there is silence for a space, and then a fanfare of jacarandas to announce that the process is completed -- summer is here.
Not so in England. There is a blurring of the edges, a shading over from winter to summer. No grand dramatic displays and flourishes, but a little bit here, a little bit there. First this turns green, then that. One plant flowers, then another. Bushes blossom while the trees are still all dead. It is a much slower process, an unfolding, like a movie lap dissolve done very slowly, the new picture slowly emerging out of the old. In South Africa it is like a changing of lantern slides -- one disappears and the other takes its place. Both are beautiful, but I think I still prefer ours.
6 Jun 1966 - Van der Post on forgiveness
One thing that struck me in the first couple of chapters was his father's forgiving the British after the Boer War.
It has always been one of the more frightening ironies of Afrikaner life that people like my father, who with Smuts and Botha had fought and actually suffered in the war, could forgive and begin anew, whereas others, alive today, who were never in the heart of the conflict, can still find it so hard to forgive an injury that was not even done to them, and how can there be any real beginning without forgiveness?
I noticed something similar in my experience with war crimes officers, who had neither suffered internment under the Japanese, nor even fought against them. They were more revengeful and bitter about our sufferings and our treatment than we were ourselves. I have so often noticed that the suffering which is most difficult, if not impossible to forgive, is unreal, imagined suffering. There is no power on earth like imagination, and the worst, most obstinate grievances are imagined ones.
This seems to touch on the core of a rather big question of human behaviour, One is that we so often find it easier to forgive those who injure us than those who injure others; and this imagination business. Reading about life in Nazi Germany conjures up all sorts of horrors, but they are imaginary horrors, I have never experienced them. In South Africa there are probably the same horrors, but one gets used to them. This is why so many people emphatically deny that South Africa is a police state, because it does not fit their mental image of a police state. But Germans probably felt the same 30 years ago.
I seem to recollect Trevor Huddleston in his book Naught for your comfort saying how much harder it was to forgive things done to other people, because one can only imagine how they feel. And ]those who questioned] the value of Liberal Party rural meetings, because you know that you go to encourage them in the face of SB intimidation, but by going you only encourage the SB to step up their campaign of intimidation. But it is a selfish martyrdom attitude -- a sort of "I alone can bear the suffering" kick. But they too must bear their share of suffering -- we are not the ones to deny it to them. It is their privilege as members of God's kingdom.
H. Rider Haggard was a writer of adventure novels, often set in imaginary locations, and has been credited with creating the "lost world" genre of litH. Rider Haggard was a writer of adventure novels, often set in imaginary locations, and has been credited with creating the "lost world" genre of literature. Like many of his books, this one is set in Africa, in the imaginary kingdom, or perhaps one should say queendom of Mur, ruled by Maqueda, a descendant King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.
Richard Adams, a British medical doctor, who had wandered the world practising his trade, met and married an Egyprian woman in Cairo, and also met an Egyptologist, Professor Ptolemy Higgs, whom he cured of typhoid, thus earning his gratitude. Adams's wife dies, and their only son is kidnapped, and many years later Adams has news of his son who is a slave of the Fung tribe in North Central Africa. Maqueda's people, the Abati, are traditional enemies of the Fung, and avoid being conquered by the Fung because they live in an inaccessible valley surrounded by mountains. Maqueda tells Adams of a prophecy that the Fung will leave if their sphinx-like idol is destroyed, and if Adams does that, the Abati will help him release his son.
Adams returns to Britain, taking the Queen of Sheba's ring to prove his bona fides, and enlists Professor Higgs (who is drawn by Adams's stories of ancient artifacts) and a soldier, Captain Oliver Orme, with his sidekick Sergeant Samuel Quick, and they return to Mur with the explosives needed to blow up the idol, with the two soldiers having the necessary expertise in their use.
Unlike some of Haggard's earlier books, this one seems rather contrived and unconvincing. Queen Sheba's Ring was first published in 1910, by which time most of Africa had been colonised by European powers, and very few parts remained unknown to Europeans. Perhaps Mur was in the south of Libya, which had not yet been colonised by Italy. Soon after this book was written, modern communications ensured that most educated people in most parts of the world were at least aware of the existence of places and peoples living in continents other than their own, though I am sometimes surprised by the degree of geographical ignorance displayed by contestants in quiz shows. So Rider Haggard was pushing the "lost world" trope a bit hard, though the success of Tarzan stories, and later Indiana Jones, showed that there was still a little juice that could be squeezed out of it. But most writers looking for imaginary settings moved their stories to other planets, which gave them more scope for developing exotic civilizations.
In reading this book, however, I was constantly being reminded of the time in which it was written, because if strongly reflects the arms race that preceded the First World War.
In Britain, the Liberal Party, especially, reacted against the aggressive imperialism and violence that had led to the Second Anglo-Boer War. In Queen Sheba's Ring Haggard shows himself as a convinced militarist, stressing the need for arms production and military training and conscription. At times I wondered if he had been asked, or even paid by the "hawks" in the Conservative Party to write a book that would do this.