Friday, March 21, 2014

Aubrey Menen -- The Prevalence of Witches Intro

Typist's Introduction:

I am including only the first para of Menen's first Novel, the Prevalence of Witches, first published in 1947. The theme draws on his stint as a temporary education officer in service of the British government, among tribals in a jungle in central India. In the process of trying to 'civilize' them, but it is the tribals teach who Menen and his British colleagues a lesson or two.  In the typical Menen satirical style the novel pokes fun at everyone, especially the British. 
      By the way, Aubrey Menen was born and educated in England and had a Malayali (Menon) father and an Irish Mother.
-- Sajjeev Antony. 21 March, 2014]



Chapter One

I HAD COME TO LIMBO because I had always wanted to possess a country of my own. I did not want a large country that would be bound to get me into trouble with other large countries, but one quite small, and preferably round. There was a time when I almost entered the Church in order to become a bishop and have a cathedral of my own : or, to be precise, not so much a cathedral as a cathedral close. The word 'close' gets my meaning very well. Someone whom I met in another part of India, not far from Limbo, once told me that he often wished he had the courage to pitch a tent in the corner of his room and retire into it when he grew cross with the world. For me, a tent would be rather too small : the Federated States of Limbo were rather too big. They were six hundred and fifty miles of clumsy hills and jungle : not tangled jungle but the sort where trees grow straight and the only confusion comes from clumps of bamboos that spread out at the top like shaving brushes. But I thought it would do. On the map it was as beautifully round as it was blank. For a thousand years the inhabitants had shot at everybody who came into it with arrows and their aim was usually adequate to their purpose of keeping people out; where the bowmen failed to get home, the mosquitoes did not. Once a year one Englishman visits Limbo, surrounded by clouds of insecticide through which can just be discovered the Union Jack. During this visit, Limbo is a part of the British empire in India. When the Englishman has gone, the various Chiefs of Limbo, sighing with relief, take off their trousers and go hunting again with their bows and arrows, the mosquitoes come cautiously out to bury their dead, and Limbo is safe for odd persons like me who are determined to live in a country of our own, even if it kills us.