Hindoo Holiday (New York Review Books Classics) (英語) ペーパーバック – 2000/1/31
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In the 1920s, the young J. R. Ackerley spent several months in India as the personal secretary to the maharajah of a small Indian principality. In his journals, Ackerley recorded the Maharajah's fantastically eccentric habits and riddling conversations, and the odd shambling day-to-day life of his court. Hindoo Holiday is an intimate and very funny account of an exceedingly strange place, and one of the masterpieces of twentieth-century travel literature.
J.R Ackerley (1896-1967) was for many years the literary editor of the BBC magazine The Listener. A respected mentor to such younger writers as Christopher Isherwood and W.H. Auden, he was also a longtime friend and literary associate of E.M. Forster. His works include three memoirs, Hindoo Holiday, My Dog Tulip, and My Father and Myself, and a novel, We Think the World of You.
Ackerley's intent was to be mischievous and outrageous and comic; and his book became both a critical hit and, to everyone's surprise, his most commercially successful work. The book is at its best in its humorous depictions of the Maharajah, his private secretary Babaji Rao, and the contingent of valets, including the endearingly sweet Sharma and Narayan. For the most part, Ackerley's portraits are nonjudgmental and fond; he reserves his venom for the British guests and, to a lesser extent, for his sycophantic tutor, Abdul, and clumsy servant-child, Habib.
Throughout "Hindoo Holiday" there is a disconcerting, even creepy, undercurrent that revolves around the sexual despotism of the Maharajah, whose predatory advances are directed towards the "Gods"--his name for the boys in his employ. "Boys" is Ackerley's term; at least one is identified as being twenty and several are married, so it's possibly more accurate to call most of them young men. But, whatever their age, these youngsters are compelled to have sexual relations with the Maharajah--and with his wife while he's watching. Complicating this issue is the subtly hinted possibility that the ruler is suffering from the advanced stages of syphilis. (The paternity of the palace's heirs is a great mystery, as well.) Only a few of the youths seem able to withstand his advances, and Ackerley often must come to the defense of Narayan, one of the "Gods" who refuses to comply.
Ackerley reports these incidents with disquieting aplomb. His own role in these matters is rather innocent; according to biographer Peter Parker, he limited his affections to kissing and holding hands: "If he had sexual relations whilst in India, he left no record of the fact." (And Ackerley was not known for being shy about such matters in either his journals or correspondence.) Nevertheless, intentionally or not, the goings-on in the palace are emblematic of the corruption, indolence, and decadence of the British Raj.
Most modern readers, then, will find much of the tone and material and humor in "Hindoo Holiday" a bit dated. Yet Ackerley's memoir is still an accurate portrait of the time--and there are moments of brilliant hilarity.
Published in 1932, I know that some will find this book dated and politically incorrect. I prefer to accept it as a product of its time. The journal covers the six months that Ackerley served as a private secretary to a Maharajah. The author pokes fun at the many arcane traditions and myths of the Hindu culture, without ever becoming malicious. The Indian King is somewhat of an incorrigible lech and maker of mischief as depicted by Ackerley. The stuffy British aren't spared the barb either. I particulary loved this exchange: "...'Do you like India?' Mrs. Bristow asked me. 'Oh, yes. I think it's marvelous.' 'And what do you think of the people?' 'I like them very much, and think them most interesting.' 'Oo, aren't you a fibber! What was it you said the other day about "awful Anglo-Indian chatter"?' 'But I thought you were speaking of the Indians just now, not the Ango-Indians.' 'The Indians! I never think of them.' 'Well, you said "the people," you know.' 'I meant us people, stupid.' 'I see. Well now, let's start again.'"
Openly homosexual, Ackerley has great fun documenting his flirtatious encounters with a number of the Maharajah's servants - "....And in the dark roadway, overshadowed by trees, he put up his face and kissed me on the cheek. I returned his kiss: but he at once drew back, crying out: 'Not the mouth! You eat meat! You eat meat!' 'Yes, and I will eat you in a minute,' I said, and kissed him on the lips again, and this time he did not draw away." Altogether disarming and delightful (and not at all exploitive). Highly recommended.
into Hindu India: social customs, caste issues and simpatico characters. Written with great affection, wit and charm.
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