Raban Revisited

When you think of Hampshire, you think of chalk streams and downland, military and naval enterprise, sailing and King Alfred, and Winchester Cathedral. But its literary heritage does not leap to mind. And yet Hampshire has played a surprisingly important role in nurturing the book. For the English novel reached its earliest flowering through the genius of Jane Austen, who was born and lived most of her life here. The world that she depicts in her exquisite novels, and her scintillating and detailed understanding of the human psyche, were born of the county and of her observation of her Hampshire neighbours and friends. But her Hampshire is only part of the story . . . 

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Through Writers’ Eyes: Hampshire

When you think of Hampshire, you think of chalk streams and downland, military and naval enterprise, sailing and King Alfred, and Winchester Cathedral. But its literary heritage does not leap to mind. And yet Hampshire has played a surprisingly important role in nurturing the book. For the English novel reached its earliest flowering through the genius of Jane Austen, who was born and lived most of her life here. The world that she depicts in her exquisite novels, and her scintillating and detailed understanding of the human psyche, were born of the county and of her observation of her Hampshire neighbours and friends. But her Hampshire is only part of the story . . . 

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Falling in Love with Books

Rose Baring and Barnaby Rogerson, the husband and wife team who run Eland were set identical questions by Georgia de Chamberet at The BookBlast® Diary - enjoy the answers!

Are (were) your parents great readers? Tell us a bit about yourself. 
ROSE: No, but there were books around. I was quite a lonely child and books were a marvellous escape and provided adventure, friends and role models – Noel Streatfield, E. Nesbit, Johanna Spyri, L. L. Montgomery, Louisa M. Alcott and Lucy M. Boston. Just remembering makes me want to get back under the sheets and counterpane with a pile of them.
BARNABY: No, I can remember them both being rather concerned that I was reading “yet another book” instead of riding a pony, or playing with the dogs.  There were many books in the tiny, dark Tudor cottage in which I was brought up, but they were mostly all inherited.  They included a vast shelf of bound Punch magazines and a full set of Jorrocks. At a young age I used my pocket money to acquire the Ladybird history books but before the age of seven I had graduated to Jackdaws – fascinating folders of facsimile historic documents and maps.

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Travels in a Dervish Cloak

Spellbound by his grandmother’s Anglo-Indian heritage and the exuberant annual visits of her friend the Begum, Isambard Wilkinson became enthralled by Pakistan as an intrepid teenager, eventually working there as a foreign correspondent during the War on Terror. Seeking the land behind the headlines, Bard sets out to discover the essence of a country convulsed by Islamist violence. What of the old, mystical Pakistan has survived and what has been destroyed? We meet charismatic tribal chieftains making their last stand, hereditary saints blessing prostitutes, gangster bosses in violent slums and ecstatic Muslim pilgrims.

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A Square of Sky

During the Second World War Janina David was smuggled out of the Warsaw ghetto, hidden in a convent and raised by Catholic nuns. Recently, Janina was delighted to have succeeded in getting the nuns recognised by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations.  To commemorate this achievement, and to remind ourselves of the trauma of war and exile, we revisited this moving description of Janina’s return, alone, to her native town in Poland back in the early 1960s. Both of Janina’s parents were killed by the Nazis in the extermination camps.

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Rebel in Pearls

It seemed apt that I should discover Juliet living in Russia when I was there. And apt that rather than living in Moscow like the vast majority of foreigners, she was living in Peredelkino, a retreat from the city where wooden dachas sheltered improbably but cosily, like mushrooms, in the all-encompassing forest. Like Churchill’s description of the country itself, she had always been to me something of ‘a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma’ . . .
    

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An Irishman in Somalia

Can a book save one’s life? I used to think so when stationed in Mogadishu, avoiding thoughts of murder or suicide in that sunburnt madness only by immersing myself in Gerald Hanley’s Warriors (1971). Day after day I would throw myself on to my bed after another utterly fruitless, pointless day in the president’s office, and lie down, sweating beneath squadrons of flies and mosquitoes, and try to forget about it all.

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Summer News

Growing

Seven Years in Ceylon by Leonard Woolf reviewed in The Oldie magazine by Jan Morris

This fascinating book is a kind of parable. It opens when one October morning in 1904 Leonard Woolf, aged 24, sets sail from Tilbury for Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, thena middle-sized component of the British Empire. He is to become a member of the Ceylon Civil Service,  but he is  an improbable imperialist. Rather weedy-looking, he has lately come down from Trinity College,  Cambridge, where he has been an active member of the ultra-intellectual Apostles club. His luggage includes 90 volumes of Voltaire’s collected works, 1784 edition,  andhe is  never out of touch with the most prominent of the Apostles, Lytton Strachey.
 
Almost at once he is plunged into the ambience of imperialism, in the late heyday of the imperial idea: the true diligence of it, the latent prejudices, the red tape, the accountings, the rural courts, the horse-back journeys, the red tape, the petty disputes, the occasional floggings,  the demands of religions and feudalisms – together with the hockey,  squash, bridge, tennis,  gossipings and ambitions that were the consolations of the imperialists themselves. In Ceylon their own community was layered too, civil servants, army officers and planters one and all looking down upon the business people who were, after all, almost never members of The Club. As Kipling made clear, it was a very provincial sort of society,  and  a far, far  cry from Voltaire  and the Lytton Stracheys . . .

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Spring News

Rupert Smith on Dilys Powell, author of THE VILLA ARIADNE

In January 1926 Elizabeth Dilys Powell married Humfry Payne, the brilliant young archaeologist whose pursuits and enthusiasm were to shape her early life. For the next ten years, until his death in 1936, she perched on the edge of his world, an interested observer, watching him and his colleagues with a mixture of admiration and bemusement, and coming to share his love of the landscape and the people of Greece . . .

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The Travellers’ Film Club

We are delighted to announce that a new series of the Travellers’ Film Club hosted by Waterstones, Piccadilly (203-206, Piccadilly, London)  starts this week on Wednesday 27th January, 7pm.

Antony Wynn, author of Persia in the Great Game: Sir Percy Sykes: Explorer, Consul, Soldier, Spy  will introduce and discuss GRASS: A Nation’s Battle for Life.

This 1925 silent documentary follows Haidar Khan and his Bakhtiari tribe on their Spring migration across the flooded Karun River and the snowbound Zagros Mountains of southern Persia to their summer pastures.  Filmed on location between Turkey and Iran, Grass is the first ethnographical account of the nomadic Bakhtiari people and was selected for preservation in the US National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being ‘culturally and historically significant’.  

Directed and photographed by Merian C. Cooper,  Ernest B. Schoedsack (who would later go on to produce ‘King Kong’) and Marguerite Harrison, Grass is deliberately styled as a story of man’s triumph over nature, as much a mythic narrative of migration and settlement as a simple travelogue.  Venturing through deserts, mountains, rivers and snowy wastelands in search of the life-sustaining grasslands, the Bakhtiari’s 50,000 strong caravan - complete with 500,000 cattle and goats - become the sole focus of the camera’s gaze.

Antony Wynn, who is Chairman of the Iran Society, lived in Iran for many years and has visited each end of this migration -  he has yet to ride the middle part.  

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