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As part of the author's experience as secretary to the high commissioner for South Africa, Lord Milner, between and , Buchan was acquainted with the African customs which did not only add to his experience as a writer but also made him a 'fanatical imperialist'. Buchan changed his focus of attention during the First World War when he worked for the British Intelligence. During that period, he retained the dream of the ever expanding British Empire but shifted his idea toward Islam and the decaying Ottoman Empire so as to address wider problems that destabilized the status quo like the rise of radical Islamic movements.
This paper argues that Buchan's Greenmantle falls into Edward Said's hypothesis of Orientalism since it expresses elitist ideas about the East and Muslims; also, the study investigates Buchan's historical background of Greenmantle in order to understand his overwhelming preoccupation with propaganda, his use of contemporary political events, and the influence of the Dutch orientalist, C.
Snouck Hurgronje , on his view of Islamic movements. Buchan's novels are, in fact, twofold: they are used as tools to influence the beliefs of a whole generation, and they echo the prevalent cultural and political views of Britain at that time. Since the 'historical context' of Greenmantle is 'vividly portrayed,' 2 the novel is analyzed as a historical document relative to the events that occurred before and during the First World War.
Indeed, the historical details in the novel are consciously used to propagate positive ideas of the British Empire and present negative stereotypes of the German and Turkish powers. James Buchan, the writer's grandson, said that his grandfather started working on Greenmantle in France 'after the battle of Loos in October '.
He resumed writing it 'between trips to view the fleet at Scapa Flow with Russian parliamentary delegates in February , and came back to France in March and June'. In his Greenmantle 's 'Preface', Buchan mentioned that the events taking place were not far from happening:. Let no man or woman call its events improbable.
The war has driven that word from our vocabulary, and melodrama has become the prosiest realism. Things unimagined before happen daily to our friends by sea and land. The one chance in a thousand is habitually taken, and as often as not succeeds. The writer admitted that the incidents narrated in the novel were actually happening in real life or at least not far from happening.
In addition to the historical details, many characters in the novel were taken from real persons like Major Richard Hannay, Sandy Arbuthnot, and Enver Bey. Even today a visitor to New Zealand or Canada is bound to notice the influence of Scottish architecture and of the Scottish educational and religious heritage; and in the Cameron Highlands of Malaysia, and the city of Blantyre, in Malawi, the imprint of Scotland is to be felt in numerous distinctive ways.
The battle flag of the Confederacy, indeed, displayed the cross of Saint Andrew; and I recently read an account of the revolution in Texas in which one of the proclamations under discussion featured a stirring line from the poetry of Robert Burns—the more impressive because it was unattributed and assumed to be familiar in the context.
Scotland, Christianity, and empire were the air in which Buchan moved. Born to a struggling minister of the Free Church of Scotland a congregation that had seceded from the established local church and stood for a flinty Calvinism , he revered the epic story of David Livingstone as a missionary in Africa, went out to serve as a member of Sir Alfred Milner's governing team during and after the Boer War, was elected to Parliament as a Scottish member on a liberal Conservative and Ulster Unionist platform , and ended his days in with the title of Lord Tweedsmuir and the office of governor-general of Canada.
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In his fiction Highland and Lowland dialects are employed in almost every chapter, and there are recurrent allusions to Scottish vernacular poetry and song. The famous contrast in the Scottish character is between the dour, stoic, and economical and the romantic, passionate, and rebellious. Buchan was a salient instance of this contradiction, which expressed itself mainly in the contrast between his life and his writing. He was continent in all matters; punctilious as to time and bookkeeping; deeply attached to his national Church; and a tightly buttoned scholar, civil servant, politician, and diplomat.
His every leisure moment was devoted to writing, with an output of novels, biographies, and histories that amounted to graphomania. His chief recreational outlets were riding, climbing, and walking. An ulcerated stomach compelled a strict dietary regime. No breath of scandal touched his public or private life. His attitude to authority and empire was trustful and loyal. But his writing shows an attraction first to the exotic and the numinous, and second to the underdog, the rebel, and the outsider. In many of his novels there are mysterious and evil women with hypnotic, magical properties—including the bewitching Hilda von Einem, in Greenmantle , and a female in The Three Hostages whose hands "were laid on the arms of the chair"; "hands more delicate and shapely I have never seen, though they had also the suggestion of a furious power, like the talons of a bird of prey.
The occult, especially as it derives from the East or from Africa, provides a continual undertone of fascination, attractive and repulsive in almost equal degrees. In a remarkable short story, "The Grove of Ashtaroth," the hero finds himself obliged to destroy the gorgeous little temple of a sensual cult, because he believes that by doing so he will salvage the health and sanity of a friend.
But he simultaneously believes himself to be committing an unpardonable act of desecration, and the eerie voice that beseeches him to stay his hand is unmistakably feminine. In a not dissimilar way Buchan found himself admiring the spirit of the defeated Boers, who with their stern Calvinism and equestrian tactics may have reminded him of clan fighters on the Scottish borders. One of his best-drawn fictional heroes is the Afrikaner tracker Peter Pienaar, Richard Hannay's tough and self-sacrificing sidekick in three of the novels.
Buchan wrote and rewrote a biography of the Marquis of Montrose, the seventeenth-century Scot who was perhaps best described as a Presbyterian Cavalier—the same coincidence of qualities that lends Andrew Lownie's new biography its subtitle.
Greenmantle within the Hannay series
And when put in charge of British propaganda during World War I, he made space for something more than a footnote in history by recommending that the American journalist Lowell Thomas go and see T. Buchan and Lawrence became close after the war; they shared an interest in the classics and an admiration for Montrose. But their concepts of asceticism and mortification were more discrepant than Buchan can possibly have guessed.
Buchan used to be far more readily acknowledged as the father of the spy thriller than he is today. Reviewing his last novel, Sick Heart River , in , Graham Greene wrote, "What is remarkable about these adventure-stories is the completeness of the world they describe. However, when Greene came to write his memoir Ways of Escape , forty years later, he recorded that by the time he sat down to begin This Gun for Hire , he "could no longer get the same pleasure from the adventures of Richard Hannay.
This is a less persuasive account of disillusionment than it appears on the surface. Buchan's most celebrated thrillers were written and published during the awfulness of World War I and the reaction to it that set in: The Thirty-Nine Steps in , Greenmantle in , and Mr. Standfast in The conflict is not presented as straightforwardly Manichaean: gallantry is attributed to Germans and to Turks.
Moreover, it was a fact of Buchan's life that he had many friends among the Red and anti-imperialist leaders on the proletarian Clydeside, and that he tried to do honor to these antagonists both in his novels and in his public speeches. Standfast"—and he would not, I think, take refuge in the claim that the name comes from Pilgrim's Progress in the first place. Buchan took Bunyan as a pattern in much of his writing, and his fine autobiography, Memory Hold-the-Door , was published in North America under the title Pilgrim's Way. It has been almost forty years since the first biography, by the Scottish writer Janet Adam Smith, was published; this more recent effort, by another Scot, is intended to acquit Buchan of charges of bigotry and also of obsolescence.
Lownie is in some respects as straight-faced and innocent as his subject: he records with perfect gravity that in Buchan agreed to become president of the Federation of University Conservative and Unionist Associations, a body with initials that were not amended for some years. As Lownie points out, one respect in which this is more a "Buchan world" than the formerly up-to-date might be willing to credit is this: Buchan understood very early that the United States would become the decisive actor. The rather cardboard American who comes to Hannay's aid in Greenmantle , a fat and rich but nonetheless brave and humorous figure named John Scantlebury Blenkiron, is included for no other purpose than to make this point.
As Canada's governor-general in the late s, Buchan made every attempt to establish cordial relations with President Franklin Roosevelt. It was a contradiction in this posture that he disliked Winston Churchill and tended to favor appeasement, but it's also clear that his dread of a second world war was conditioned above all by the shudder he experienced when contemplating the first one.
Like Greene and Evelyn Waugh and many others of the period, Buchan has been accused of anti-Semitism.
Two defenses have frequently been offered in these cases: that the alleged anti-Semite harbored a prejudice no greater than was commonplace at the time, and that he had many Jewish friends. A third possibility—that the offending words are uttered by fictional characters and not by the author—is sometimes canvassed. None of these will quite do in Buchan's case. The usual form they take is a reference to Judeo-Bolshevism—the sympathy of Jews, even rich ones, for the Russian Revolution. That, however, might be described as political anti-Semitism, just as Buchan's energetic support for the early Zionist movement might be called political philo-Semitism.
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