No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

#102: The Barbary Pirates -- Stanley Rogers

Utterly out of print; this copy came to me courtesy of a friend. An 1939 Boys' Own Adventure retelling of various encounters with the Barbary pirates. Full of derring-do and extreme political incorrectness. The corsairs ("swarthy-skinned, turbanned devils, striking down with their curved scimitars any who dared to oppose them") were lazy, cowardly and not very good at sailing: also, prone to broken English, acts of random violence and devious thinking. (The Spanish weren't much better: Rogers entitles one chapter "A Brave Spaniard", clearly feeling that de Vargas' defence of Algiers is a headline-worthy highlight in an otherwise benighted national history.) The English, of course, were good and brave and noble, and only ever killed their opponents when it was necessary, or if they felt like it.

All that said, Rogers does provide an interesting set of vignettes, and is not incapable of portraying some of the 'Turks' (a term that includes Moors, Arabs and Muslims in general) in a more flattering light -- though he feels the need to stress that those captains who acted honourably, those slave-owners who were kind to their slaves, were the exception rather than the rule. Some of the tales here come from Hakluyt: others were less familiar. (I hadn't known that Murad Reis sacked Reykjavik, for example.) I did get the feeling that the author's biases were even stronger than those of his original sources. But it was a fascinating read.

reposted here from LJ in order to keep all my reviews in one place

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