Friday, May 18, 2007

John Buchan

Having just seen the weird stage production of The Thirty-nine Steps, I thought I'd look into one of John Buchan's later novels. Greenmantle, published in 1916, a year after The Thirty-nine Steps, again throws Major Richard Hannay into wartime intrigue.

The opening pages set a pleasantly bluff, breezy tone, but I make this comment because of Buchan's politics. One character -- one of the good guys -- offers less than flattering opinions about two groups against whom Germany took rather firm action in the war after the one during which this novel is set. The same character, though, offers an assessment of the Ottoman Empire that seems fresher than one might expect in a novel written more than ninety years ago: "The ordinary man again will answer that Islam in Turkey is becoming a back number, and that Krupp guns are the new gods. Yet -- I don't know. I do not quite believe in Islam becoming a back number."

Islam, the character says, just might be a force in world politics. He just might be right.

© Peter Rozovsky 2007

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Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

It could be like the French Revolution too soon to tell.

May 20, 2007  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

One never wants to rush to judgment. I feel the urge to muse coming on. If only I smoked a pipe. I'll have to be content with rubbing my chin thoughtfully.

May 20, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My closest-in-age sister and I loved the John Buchan books when we were young. I dimly recall there were five Hannay novels, and that our favourite was the one about the Polish airman, Mr Standfast.
I once posted about the book about the five characters who were taught to read the Times on a day a year ahead, and the effect it had on their lives.
There were many others by this great author, also Governer-General of Canada I believe (?), but sadly they are all lost in the dim recesses of time.

May 22, 2007  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Hmm, I'd have guessed that adventure and war stories would appeal more to boys than to girls. I suppose, though, that the female British upper lip can be just as stiff as its male counterpart and that girls can crave excitement as much as boys do. Come to think of it, my mother told me that she read John Buchan.

I read somewhere that Buchan wrote more than eighty books, and I think you're right that five of them were about Richard Hannay. Of these, The Thirty-Nine Steps, Greenmantle and Mr. Standfast are available for download or printing from Project Gutenberg,

And yes, John Buchan was governor-general of Canada. I believe that that was his last posting and that his final act was to sign Canada's declaration of war against Germany in the Second World War.

May 22, 2007  

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