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The Man Who Would Be King (English Edition)
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The Man Who Would Be King (English Edition) [Format Kindle]

Rudyard Kipling

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From Publishers Weekly

While many know Sean Connery as "The Man Who Would Be King," few know 19th-century maverick Josiah Harlan, whose adventures probably inspired John Huston's version of Kipling's tale. But the research of British journalist Macintyre (The Englishman's Daughter) gives readers both Harlan's story and a thought-provoking perspective on the history of superpower intervention in Afghanistan. Born to a Pennsylvania Quaker family in 1799, the self-educated Harlan studied Greek and Roman history before becoming a Freemason and shipping out to Calcutta at age 21. Jilted by his fiancée, Harlan decided to seek his fortune on the Asian subcontinent. Calling himself a doctor, he briefly served as a military surgeon with the British army in the Burma War, before tales of Afghanistan fired his imagination. Disguised as a Muslim holy man, Harlan wheeled and dealed his way to Kabul, buying up mercenaries and bribing tribal leaders like a seasoned Afghan warlord. In 1838, Harlan was crowned king of the fierce Hazara people, although the British overthrow of the sitting Afghan ruler soon forced his departure. While mapping Harlan's adventures, Macintyre entertains readers with odd episodes (e.g., Harlan visiting an Afghan sauna fueled by burning night soil) and myriad ironies (e.g., Freemason Harlan trading secrets with an old Rosicrucian sorcerer in an Afghan cave). Harlan's story alone is fascinating, but its resonance with modern-day struggles—Harlan urging the British to try "fiscal diplomacy" (i.e., gold) instead of "invading and subjugating an unoffending people"—makes it compelling. Maps not seen by PW.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From The New Yorker

A broken heart can lead men astray, but few have wandered as far off course as Josiah Harlan, a Pennsylvania Quaker. In 1822, after sailing to Calcutta on a merchant ship, he learned that his fiancée in America had married another man. He set out on a journey that ultimately brought him to Afghanistan, with the mad hope of carving out a kingdom for himself. Amazingly, he halfway succeeded. Trading on little more than a flair for diplomatic pomp, Harlan became a confidant of Afghan princes and a player in the Great Game between Russia and Britain. Macintyre recounts Harlan's travels with dispatch, and draws on unpublished journals to let his subject's voice seep through. Harlan was relentless in cataloguing his obsessions, which included camels, alchemy, and fresh fruit; the first American to visit Kabul, he wrote memorably about the sherbet sold in the bazaar there, made with snow carried by donkey from the Hindu Kush.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker

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  • Format : Format Kindle
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  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 40 pages
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208 internautes sur 209 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 One of Kipling's better short stories 19 septembre 2009
Par T. Simons - Publié sur
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
This is a story about two con men in British Imperial India who cook up a scheme to make themselves kings in Afghanistan. One of Kipling's better short stories, it was admired by writers as disparate as J.M. Barrie and H.G. Wells. It suffers a little from having had a zillion imitators in the intervening century or so, and like a lot of Kipling's works, there's an undertone of paternalistic imperialism that modern readers may find grating, but it isn't like he's showing the British in a positive light either -- this is Kipling at his best, and at his best he was too good a writer to let anyone, including the British, off the hook.

Read this if you're trying to figure out whether or not you like Kipling's works that are aimed for adults -- it's very different in tone from, say, The Jungle Book or _Just So Stories_, which were written for children. If you like this, I recommend you grab Plain Tales from the Hills, his first collection of stories set in British India; it should also be available online for free.

If you're interested in the historical background for this story, it was at least partially inspired by a real individual, an American named Josiah Harlan.
43 internautes sur 44 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A classic tale of British India 21 avril 2009
Par John Allgood - Publié sur
Format:Format Kindle
What a great short story. Greed, guts and struggles for glory. If you haven't read this story but have only seen the movie, you are missing out. True, you can't see Sean Connery but you easily get the flavor of the period. And it is free! This is a great short story to read on your Kindle Iphone app.
46 internautes sur 51 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Brutal story, subtle satire. 1 juin 2002
Par Knut Oyangen - Publié sur
The story of the man who would be king describes the journey of two half-mad yet determined Englishmen from obscurity in India to divine rule in far-off Kafiristan. The two men smuggle themselves into Afghanistan posing as a mad priest and his servant, steal some mules when their camels can go no further, trek over the vast mountains, and set themselves up as kings by demonstrating the power of the rifle to spear-brandishing natives (in the most murderous way, one might add). They later establish their status as gods by introducing Masonic mystery and orders to the mountain villages. Eventually, however, their humanity is exposed, thus wrecking the dream of empire.
The story itself is witty and exciting, driven by the raw prose and longing for exotic adventure characteristic of Kipling. At the same time, this short tale is remarkable as a summary of imperialism and its problems. The questionable motives and courses of actions of the imperialists are exposed, yet at the same time they are shown to reflect human nature more than ideology or political purpose. The ease with which a small number of people with superior technology can subjugate much larger numbers is also demonstrated in a non-sentimental fashion (it is certainly not a politically correct story by present standards). Finally, the ending emphasizes the impossibility of maintaining authority in the long run under such circumstances - technological knowledge must be revealed to maintain order, responsibility must be shared with intermediaries, and propaganda will eventually be appropriated for subversive purposes. If only historians could be as brief and straightforward as Kipling in recognizing these simple facts about how imperialism came about and how it was doomed to failure.
15 internautes sur 16 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 An American chapter in the Great Game 20 avril 2006
Par Diplo-cat - Publié sur
Most people who pick up this book will already have read some of the travelogues of the "mad dogs and Englishmen" who wandered through Central Asia in the 19th and early 20th century: Burnaby and Nazaroff's memoirs, as well as any of Peter Hopkirk's books on the era.

But here we have a real fish out of water story, and a fascinating one at that: an American Quaker leading, or joining, armies through Afghanistan and elsewhere in the name of, variously: the sitting ruler of Afghanistan, the deposed predecessor, his Sikh neighbor, the British Empire, and arguably himself as "Prince of Ghor."

The tale is fascinating because it's so poorly-known, despite the fact that Kipling's fiction, which I understand to be inspired by Harlan and other adventurers of the time, is so well-known.

Undoubtedly, Harlan's own financial misfortune and quiet death contributed to the obscurity of the narrative, but Macintyre does a great job of weaving the scraps together, and keeping the story's pace. An interesting read, and a bit of history which has earned its place in Central Asian lore.
7 internautes sur 7 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 The Man Who Would Be King: The First American in Afghanistan 23 août 2006
Par Michael Rubin - Publié sur
In Rudyard Kipling's The Man Who Would Be King, a young adventurer named Daniel Dravot penetrates feudal Afghanistan disguised as a cleric. In this nonfiction account with a similar title, MacIntyre, a columnist for The Times of London, tells the story of the real life adventurer who may have been Kipling's inspiration. He describes the life and adventures of Josiah Harlan (1799-1871), a young Quaker from Chester County, Pennsylvania, who set sail for China in 1822, telling his fiancée that they would marry when he returned. Upon reaching Calcutta, Harlan received a letter announcing that she was marrying another man. He resolved never to return home.

So began his adventures. After a failed stint in the Indian army--an action for which the Quakers excommunicated him--Harlan met Shujah al-Mulk (1792-1842), an Afghan king exiled to India in 1809 after just six years on the throne. Harlan offered a deal: he would raise an army, subdue Kabul, and restore the kingdom. In exchange, he would become vizier, the equivalent of prime minister. The deal struck, Harlan began recruiting native troops, using the U.S. flag as his own. In 1827, he and his army began their long march. But he soon had second thoughts about his army's loyalty. He picked a trusted team, paid severance to the others, and launched his Plan B: dressed as a dervish, he made his way to Kabul, arriving in 1828 just as an epidemic of cholera ravaged the city. Years passed and Harlan changed his allegiance to Shujah's rival, King Dost Muhammad Khan (1793-1863), to whom he became aide-de-camp. This Afghan king granted Harlan's wish for power. The itinerant Pennsylvania Quaker and stilted lover became prince of Ghor, today a province in central Afghanistan.

Harlan's story is riveting. MacIntyre describes his adventures, disillusionments, and eventual return to the United States as the only Afghan general to serve in the U.S. Civil War.

Harlan was not alone in his adventures. In the nineteenth century, a handful of men made dangerous journeys through Iran, Afghanistan, Central Asia, and Tibet. Not all survived. Author Peter Hopkirk has chronicled their stories.[1] But it is rare that so much new material surfaces in one book, and for this MacIntyre deserves special credit. After learning of this curious American from cursory references and footnotes in old travelogues gathering dust in the British Library, MacIntyre made it his mission to uncover the saga of this historical Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern. His quest took him to Punjab and Pennsylvania, Kabul and California. He scoured through the official records of the Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Lahore and poured over the intelligence archives of imperial India, whose agents were suspicious of Harlan's plots and schemes. Finally, in a Chester County museum, MacIntyre found a long-lost manuscript replete with love letters and sketches. Explanations of historical and cultural context weave together in his fluid prose. The result is impressive and well-worth reading.


1. See for example, Great Game (London: Murray, 1990); On Secret Service East of Constantinople (London: Murray, 1994); Trespassers on the Roof of the World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001)

Michael Rubin

Middle East Quarterly

Fall 2006
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