Fiction Patrick O'Brian Hussein

ISBN 13: 9780006513728

Hussein

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9780006513728: Hussein

A glittering adventure set in India at the height of the British Raj. The New York Times compared Patrick O'Brian's early novel to Kipling's Kim and called it "a gorgeous entertainment."Published when he was in his early twenties, Patrick O'Brian writes of Hussein: "In the writing of the book I learnt the rudiments of my calling: but more than that, it opened a well of joy that has not yet run dry." Hussein is a young mahout-or elephant handler-who falls in love with a beautiful and elusive girl, Sashiya, and arranges for another of her suitors to be murdered with a fakir's curse. The dead man's relatives vow vengeance. Hussein escapes and his adventures begin: snake-charming, sword-fighting, spying, stealing a fortune, and returning triumphantly to claim his bride.All of this is set against an evocatively exotic India, full of bazaars, temples, and beautiful women- despite the fact that O'Brian had never been to the East when he wrote the story.

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Review:

Patrick O'Brian's remarkable career could serve as the textbook model for a writer's life. An invalid in his childhood, he read voraciously, and produced his first novel, Caesar, at the age of 12, while his tutor wasn't looking. It was published three years later in 1930. Hussein (1938), his second novel, grew from a short story O'Brian submitted to an Oxford journal. Having been urged to expand the tale, he trotted out a thousand words a day until the book was done. Over the next eight decades, he produced more than 20 books, including the celebrated Aubrey/Maturin series on the British Navy during the Napoleonic Wars. In the new introduction to his first two novels (now reprinted after many years), O'Brian discloses that although he had met a few Indians, both Muslim and Hindu, he had never been to India at the time he wrote Hussein. "The book is largely derivative," he explains, "based on reading and the recollections, anecdotes and letters of friends and relations who were well acquainted with that vast country: and it has no pretension to being anything more than what it is called, an Entertainment."

A delicious blend of Kipling and the Arabian Nights, Hussein is the story of a Muslim mahout (an elephant keeper for the British Raj) whose bravery and curiosity lead him on a series of lively adventures. After a scandal involving a hated rival, a deadly curse, and a beautiful woman, Hussein is forced to leave government service and make his way as an itinerant snake charmer and storyteller. His stories open into other stories, which connect with the action of the novel, and eventually our hero finds himself in a situation in which, like Scheherazade, his life depends on how skillfully he tells his tale. Even though it isn't "the real thing" as far as nationality or cultural origins go, Hussein is most assuredly the entertainment that O'Brian promised, and the impressive early work of a natural writer. --Regina Marler

About the Author:

Patrick O'Brian, until his death in 2000, was one of our greatest contemporary novelists. He is the author of the acclaimed Aubrey-Maturin tales and the biographer of Joseph Banks and Picasso. He is the author of many other books including Testimonies, and his Collected Short Stories. In 1995 he was the first recipient of the Heywood Hill Prize for a lifetime's contribution to literature. In the same year he was awarded the CBE. In 1997 he received an honorary doctorate of letters from Trinity College, Dublin. He lived for many years in South West France and he died in Dublin in January 2000.

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Patrick O'Brian
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