The Life Of My Choice

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Overview

Wilfred Thesiger is the last of the great British eccentric explorers, renowned for his travels through some of the most inaccessible places on earth. As a child in Abyssinia he watched the glorious armies of Ras Tafari returning from hand-to-hand battle, their prisoners in chains; at the age of 23 he made his first expedition into the country of the Danakil, a murderous race among whom a man's status in the tribe depended on the number of men he had killed and castrated. His books, "Arabian Sands" and "The Marsh...

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Overview

Wilfred Thesiger is the last of the great British eccentric explorers, renowned for his travels through some of the most inaccessible places on earth. As a child in Abyssinia he watched the glorious armies of Ras Tafari returning from hand-to-hand battle, their prisoners in chains; at the age of 23 he made his first expedition into the country of the Danakil, a murderous race among whom a man's status in the tribe depended on the number of men he had killed and castrated. His books, "Arabian Sands" and "The Marsh Arabs", tell of his two sojourns in the Empty Quarter and the Marshes of Southern Iraq. In this autobiography, Wilfred Thesiger highlights the people who most profoundly influenced him and the events which enabled him to lead the life of his choice.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Perhaps the last of the great romantic gentleman-explorers, Thesiger, author of Arabian Sands and The Marsh Arabs, here looks back on an extraordinary life. He was born in Abyssinia (Ethiopia) to British diplomatic parents who were friends of Emperor Haile Selassie. Thesiger remembers Addis Ababa, the capital, as a village with grass huts, no roads and colorful ceremonies. He attended Eton and Oxford, then returned to Africa for the first of many journeys, exploring the Awash River (home to the dreaded Danakil, whose warriors killed randomly to prove their manhood and collected their victims' genitals for trophies). As a district officer in the Sudan Political Service, Thesiger had further opportunities to travel in desert lands and meet nomadic tribes. During World War II, he served with Orde Wingate's troops, liberating Abyssinia from the Italians; later, he fought behind the lines in the Western Desert. In addition to superb adventure, Thesiger gives a fine portrait of the waning days of the British Empire in the Sudan and of the last revolution in Ethiopia. Photos. (March)
Library Journal
Best known for his accounts of the Marsh Arabs of Iraq and the ``Empty Quarter'' of Arabia, distinguished British explorer-writer Thesiger here focuses on Ethiopia, the place of his birth and early childhood, and the Sudan, where he served in the Sudan political service. He provides first-hand descriptions of the more remote areas and peoples of the region. Especially interesting is his account of the Italian campaigns of the 1930s, and his sympathetic portrait of Emperor Haile Selassie. This remarkable autobiography is a substantial book on the waning days of colonialism in northeast Africa. For area specialists as well as lay readers. Harold M. Otness, Southern Oregon State Coll. Lib., Ashland
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393334258
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/1/1988
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 492
  • Sales rank: 831,944
  • Product dimensions: 1.10 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 9.00 (d)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 14, 2003

    This book should be required reading for anyone contemplating a career in the foreign service

    This book is not only a marvellous insight into an adventurous world that has so often been depicted in adventure thrillers and Hollywood films, but it is a thought provoking study of how the Europeans mismanaged the administration of the colonies and protectorates. There are lessons to be learned as the same mistakes are made over and over. The White Europeans considering themselves civilised and the native people to be uncivilised savages, brought their patronising form of rule and religion to Africa and tried to enforce a totally different culture on an unwilling population. They never understood why the native population was not grateful and was glad to see the back of them. When war broke out the native people were encouraged or coerced into joining a conflict that was not theirs. Despite being a member of the colonial administration, Sir Wilfred Thesiger leaves no doubt of where his sympathies lay. As a travel book, this is way above National Geographic's glossy photo journalism, as a history of modern Africa, it should be required reading of aspirants to the foreign service, especially those trying to grasp an understanding of the East African and South Arabian people. The question that goes though one's mind is whether the people would have been better left alone with their own culture and customs. As a pure adventure story, it is an all night page turner, even more fascinating because it is true. Wilfred Thesiger came from a famous and remarkable family, with an upper class education, yet he spent his long life living outside of the British Empire sharing the hardships and culture of the people he lived among. This is a man who attended Emporer Haile Selassie's coronation, served with Orde Wingate in East Africa and Palestine, lived with the Marsh Arabs in Iraq for seven years and crossed Arabia's empty quarter. Sir Wilfred's death this year at the age of 94 was the close of an era of self reliant explorers.

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