Tuesday, June 28, 2005

C.S. Forester

Commemorating Trafalgar...

Horatio Hornblower, the control freak of the Royal Navy (RN) in Napoleonic times, was my hero. Long, long before Valmont occupying that spot.
When, two decades ago, I made a data-base of my books, I gave the number 00001 to Kipling's "Kim" alright, but the first candidates to book-binding were - had to be - the Horatio Hornblower ones. Nice green leather, golden anchors in the cover and the smell of lost youth in the yellowed, dog-eared pages.

Hornblower books were genuine adolescent entertainment, the playstation-like quality time of my generation. There was adventure (implying more skill than force), there was history (hard not to become an anti-napoleonist after the third novel of the series) and there was romance too. The first time Hornblower and Lady Barbara Wellesley are by themselves on a West Indies sunset my heart was thumping like mad. I shamelessly identified myself with the courageous and self-doubting commander and was ready to conquer both Fame and the Beautiful Lady.
Is this a proper way to commemorate the battle of Trafalgar? - the Honourable Reader might rightly ask. All I can say is that those of us who read Forester's saga will always see Nelson with special spectacles on.. lens rose-tinted, perhaps.. giving a warm glow to the various Her Majesty's Ships.. the viewpoint of a boy with endless Time and Glory in front of him.. just before the crash of adulthood.

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