Thursday, January 20, 2005

that old anglo-saxon instinct for fair play ...

THIS is the first flat-out stupid review of the Elkins and Anderson books. He sets the scene with a loving description of the mobile gallows, tries to spread the muck around evenly, trivialises the seriousness of the charges and then says some unpleasant things about Elkins' style. Best then closes with an appeal to incredulity, and not to his, but that of the colonial professional classes!
I've just got my copy of the Anderson book and I have to say it's just as good as promised. Gulag (the Elkins one) will be here soon.
The L.A. Times Review is here. Meisler is sympathetic and well-informed. These two paras should serve:
In "Histories of the Hanged," Anderson tells the full story of the rise of Mau Mau and the brutal British suppression that followed. He insists that "no one in authority" — from the prime minister in London to the district officers in Kenya — "could claim that they didn't know" about the British abuses, including torture and wanton killing of detainees. "Their reaction," he writes, " … was to deflect and deny, disparaging the accusers or making light of the accusations." Anderson's narrative — bolstered by realistic descriptions of life in Kenya and informed analysis of the causes of the Mau Mau insurrection — is ample, judicious and elegant.
Elkins' "Imperial Reckoning" complements Anderson's book. Although she includes an analysis of the causes and politics of the insurgency, she is more concerned with documenting the full extent of the British brutality. Writing with white heat, she details the unsavory story of summary executions, rapes, sodomy with bottles, castration, flogging with chains and rhino whips, attacks by dogs, humiliation by nakedness and a host of torture techniques including electric shock, near drowning and sleep deprivation. The detail is sometimes numbing but always vital. Her thorough documentation is necessary to prove her case that the British, while suppressing the Mau Mau, were guilty of "creating one of the most restrictive police states in the history of the empire and deploying unspeakable terror and violence."

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