Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Books I Am Reading (3)

Winston S. Churchill, The River War: An Account of the Reconquest of the Sudan.  I have only read Churchill's six volume history of the Second World War--this was written when he was much younger, and I think that his writing was even a bit more lyrical.  His description of the northern Sudan, where the war was fought against the Mahdi and his successor:

This great tract, which may conveniently be called 'The Military Soudan,' stretches with apparent indefiniteness over the face of the continent. Level plains of smooth sand--a little rosier than buff, a little paler than salmon--are interrupted only by occasional peaks of rock--black, stark, and shapeless. Rainless storms dance tirelessly over the hot, crisp surface of the ground. The fine sand, driven by the wind, gathers into deep drifts, and silts among the dark rocks of the hills, exactly as snow hangs about an Alpine summit; only it is a fiery snow, such as might fall in hell. The earth burns with the quenchless thirst of ages, and in the steel-blue sky scarcely a cloud obstructs the unrelenting triumph of the sun.
Through the desert flows the river--a thread of blue silk drawn across an enormous brown drugget; and even this thread is brown for half the year. Where the water laps the sand and soaks into the banks there grows an avenue of vegetation which seems very beautiful and luxuriant by contrast with what lies beyond. The Nile, through all the three thousand miles of its course vital to everything that lives beside it, is never so precious as here. The traveller clings to the strong river as to an old friend, staunch in the hour of need. All the world blazes, but here is shade. The deserts are hot, but the Nile is cool. The land is parched, but here is abundant water. The picture painted in burnt sienna is relieved by a grateful flash of green.
Churchill, Winston (2004-01-01). The River War An Account of the Reconquest of the Sudan (Kindle Locations 23-33). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition. 
It was free.  Parts of it are a bit too detailed about the order of battle in various engagements, but most of the time, he does a fine job of explaining the complex politics that leads to a British-led Egyptian expedition to reconquer the Sudan.  I find it that it is filling in many gaps in my knowledge of British-Egyptian relations--and it is a reminder that the battle between the West and Islam is not new, and not because of Israel.

1 comment:

John Cunningham said...

Check out Churchill's The World Crisis, a multi-volume history of WWI. it is outstanding, as is his bio of his ancestor, Marlborough.