Monday, January 7, 2008

Literature's loss

Discovering George MacDonald Fraser's Flashman series is one of those magical moments for a reader. Harry Flashman, a character lifted from Tom Brown's Schooldays, is a cowardly, lecherous, mendacious, avaricious charmer, a man with a constant eye out for the main chance and a willing woman and ever alert to the safety of his own hide. Fraser has just died and we lose. Though recent books have lacked the snap of the earlier ones, Flashman is a wonderfully realized comic character, an antihero who, like Zelig, was there for some of the most important moments of his era's history. You can learn a lot of 19th-Century history reading Flashman, along with enjoying a lot of laugh-out-loud moments. From the UK Telegraph:
... [T]he first novel took as its background the First Afghan War - for Flashman an odyssey of self-preservation justified by his being the sole survivor of the Retreat from Kabul. In Royal Flash (1970), which was later made into a film, he floundered his way through the Schleswig-Holstein Question, engaging Bismarck in fisticuffs and dallying with Lola Montez. Flashman at the Charge (1973) saw him accidentally lead the Light Brigade into the "Valley of Death".

To read the entire Telegraph article, click here.

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