May 23, 2013

Return of a King: William Dalrymple at AWRF 2013

"Return of a King" is the title of his book, of course, but it could also be a tagline for William Dalrymple at AWRF 2013, back after a star turn three years ago at AWRF 2010. Mt. Albert Library's Robin Whitworth, who was there then and now, found that custom did not stale his infinite variety of charm and erudition.

Speakers at the Festival possessed varying degrees of fluency in their delivery; sometimes my enjoyment of a session was marred by hesitancy, monotonous voice, etc. When William Dalrymple cast off his jacket and strolled out from behind the podium, in full possession of the stage, I knew I was in the presence of a natural performer. 

He delivered a rollicking and entertaining history lesson, displaying total mastery of his material. A history lesson which America and its allies have failed to heed in their current engagement in Afghanistan. In 1839 the British launched an offensive out of fear of an imminent Russian takeover, and installed a puppet ruler in Kabul. Through ghastly incompetence and hubris on the part of administrators, politicians and the military (not least of whom was ‘our’ Lord Auckland), who ignored all expert advice, the occupation ended after a mere eighteen months. A massive retreat resulted in the death of over 18,000 who either were slaughtered or froze to death in the wintry Khyber Pass. 

Dalrymple has made a name for himself as an expert on the history of India, with a number of titles such as The Last Mughal, City of Djinns, In Xanadu, Sacred India. He claims to be the only author who has risked sniper fire to research the Afghan sources for this, his latest work Return of a King: the battle for Afghanistan,1839-42. 

--  Robin Whitworth

Ditulis Oleh : Karen Craig // 15:30
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