Tuesday, October 18, 2005
Evelyn Waugh* Paul Scott* Henning Mankell
" 'I have been here before', I said; I had been there before, first with Sebastian more than twenty years ago on a cloudless day in June, when the ditches were creamy with meadowflower and the air heavy with all the scents of summer; it was a day of peculiar splendour, and though I had been there so often, in so many moods, it was to that first visit that my heart returned on this, my latest."
"I am not I: thou are not he or she
They are not they"
Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966)
The Raj Quartet, Paul Scott's saga about India in the final years of British rule is in a different league. Mr. Scott came from a humble background and it took him a long time to gain recognition. He went to India in 1943 as an air supplies offer and served in India and Malaya. The first volume of The Raj Quartet appeared in print in 1966. The final volume was published in 1974. The book brought him fame. It was made into a serial by Granada Television. The production did full justice to the book. For me, it revived the sights, smells and sounds of India I knew.
Some, including the author Salmon Rushdie, criticized Mr. Scott's depiction of India and Indians. I thought that the book came quite close to accurately describing the conditions that existed. That Paul Scott was able to capture the nuances during his brief stay in India and able to write about them with such clarity speak a lot about his talent. It was not an easy thing to do.
Paul Scott died in 1978 from cirrhosis of the liver. He was 58. His last years were plagued by his drinking problem. Shortly before his death he received the Booker Prize for "Staying On", a novel about an English couple who decided to remain in India after the end of the British rule.
"This is a story of a rape, of the events that led up to it and followed it and of the place in which it happened. There are action, the people, and the place; all of which are interrelated but in their totality incommunicable in isolation from the moral continuum of human affairs."
--The Jewel in the Crown, 1966; part one of The Raj Quartet
A fellow blogger, fogdux, wrote on October 9th about Henning Mankell, the Swedish author of mysteries. Her tribute to this gifted writer leaves nothing to add. I discovered Mankell a few years back and voraciously went through all the Kurt Wallander books that the library had. There was one that I didn't like--"The Dogs of Riga". Mankell's latest book, "Before the Frost" features Linda Wallander, Kurt's daughter, as a detective. I am looking forward to reading it.
"You know you've read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend."