Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The African Queen

By C. S. Forester

Its always interesting to read historical literature which has been written in the distant past, for it opens windows providing views both to the time in which the book was written and to the time in which the story is set. Naturally, what you get is only the author's perspective but when the novel is a classic like 'The African Queen' then you can assume that as it was adopted by so many people, the novel must have had some kind of cultural resonance.

This novel is quite famous for its cultural resonance since it was adapted to the popular motion picture which won Humphrey Bogart his only Oscar, and although I haven't seen that film yet (I fully intend to do so soon) the movie was upper most in my mind when I read the book. I found myself constantly wondering why Catherine Hepburn had been cast in the role of Rose since she didn't seem to have any resemblance to the character at all. It wasn't hard to picture Bogart as Allnut though.

Having not paid much attention to the story before, I only realised what it was about when I wrote a blog post about the African steamer Liemba. That ship played the model for the German gun boat in the book, the K├Ânigin Luisa and it was interesting to see how Forester had interwoven his story with actual events.

The story is a good variant of the classic, 'metaphysical voyage up a tropical river', siilar in some ways to 'Heart of Darkness' or 'The Day of Creation', but with a greater subtlty and humour. On the whole, a really good book, and I wonder if the film will live up to it.

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