, by John Buchan, author of The Thirty-Nine Steps
, which I read aeons ago but have pretty much forgotten... though I remember being annoyed at how different the movie is from the book. What would you call it? A spy/thriller-type novel. It does
read right along. I didn't expect to finish it but I'm finding it irresistible. It is somewhat reminiscent of Ian Fleming (or more likely vice versa
), though of course without the "sex, sadism, and snobbery."
I wish I'd thought to read it a decade ago, as it is all set in the Middle East, and the plot revolves around some German plot to make the Islamic world believe that Germany is allied with a new Islamic prophet... or something of the sort.
I'm fascinated by its quaint generalizations about national character, stuff like
The West knows nothing of the true Oriental. It pictures him as lapped in colour and idleness and luxury and gorgeous dreams. But it is all wrong. The Kaf he yearns for is an austere thing. It is the austerity of the East that is its beauty and its terror ... It always wants the same things at the back of its head. The Turk and the Arab came out of big spaces, and they have the desire of them in their bones. They settle down and stagnate, and by the by they degenerate into that appalling subtlety which is their ruling passion gone crooked. And then comes a new revelation and a great simplifying. They want to live face to face with God without a screen of ritual and images and priestcraft. They want to prune life of its foolish fringes and get back to the noble bareness of the desert. Remember, it is always the empty desert and the empty sky that cast their spell over them—these, and the hot, strong, antiseptic sunlight which burns up all rot and decay. It isn't inhuman. It's the humanity of one part of the human race. It isn't ours, it isn't as good as ours, but it's jolly good all the same.
There's also an American character, and Buchan shows how American is by having him say "stoodent" and "noos" and "nootral." I suppose the British say "styoodent" and "nyoos" and "nyootral." His characters keep getting into hopeless situations and then getting out of them by amazing coincidences.
It's assumed that readers know all about World War I and who "Enver" and the "Young Turks" are and where Erzerum is and why it's important, so it's keeping me busy Googling...
Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness; Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.