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H. Rider Haggard, Part I

Finally, a literary post, after so many photos and personal updates. I think my computer is working okay. Hm. So I am going to go ahead and talk about what I read while I was doing all those installations and reinstallations and waiting for the formatting jobs to finish.

This weekend, in Seoul, I was looking at the “Classics” and wondering which one I should read. I try to pick up one “Classic” novel every once in a while, just to fill out my knowledge of how people used to write. I didn’t get a lot of this kind of 18th and 19th century lit in during university, so I am trying to get some into my background now.

This time, I decided, I would pick up the book with the crazy image of the native at war, and see what old Haggard had to say.

Haggard, along with Kipling, provided my father with the raw material for dozens of the stories he told my sisters and me during our youth. I especially remember him telling me stories of Allan Quatermaine, shocked to discover that there had been a movie made about his adventure to a Lost City of Gold.

No, no, he said, the real adventure was to King Solomon’s Mines… (which, in fact, had previously been made into a movie, though neither of us knew it at the time). I wondered what he meant, because from what I had seen in the movie, “the real adventure” must have been quite far from the story I knew. I might have been a Dungeons&Dragons boy, but having an imagination didn’t mean being a fool. Now I know what he meant; it was a story he’d probably read himself as a boy, something that had simply been part of colonial literature, the way Kipling’s poems had.

Anyway, I’m about halfway through this book, and while yes, I see the racist and colonialist elements throughout, I also see something else. I am learning, here, how to write for young people, as well as how white people a hundred and some years ago looked at Africa, at the exotic. It’s useful to me, because, surprise of surprises, I am another one of these white writers living abroad in that strange space that expatriates, no matter how well-adjusted, always seem to live in.

I’ll have more to say when I finish the book. For now, I’m gonna go eat dinner. I’m meeting my friend Kim at 9pm, and I need to have eaten by then.

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