THE REMARKABLE EXPEDITION: The Story of Stanley's Rescue of Emin Pasha from Equatorial Africa by Olivia Manning

THE REMARKABLE EXPEDITION: The Story of Stanley's Rescue of Emin Pasha from Equatorial Africa

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Reissue of the 1947 account (then entitled The Reluctant Rescue) of the Emin Pasha Relief Expedition into Africa in 1887-89 led by journalist Henry H. Stanley, who earlier rescued Dr. Livingstone; by the distinguished novelist of The Balkan Trilogy (itself a forthcoming British television miniseries, which may account for this reprint). Novelist Manning, who died in 1980, liked to write nonfiction when she didn't have a novel on the burner. The present book, while often vivid and prickly, is nonetheless thick with scholarly research. The maybe/maybe-not necessary opening chapters about the history of Egypt and the Southern Provinces have their sunbaked drama but certainly delay the grip of the story proper. And it is an entertaining story, with strong characterizations, often from the lips and pens of the participants themselves. The story first quickens with the beheading of Chinese Gordon at Khartoum at the hands of the troops of the Mahdi, the Moslem Messiah who was leading Arab tribes in a Holy War in the Sudan. Gordon had appointed Edouard Schnitzer, a sensitive, polylingual German surgeon, as Governor of Equatoria. Schnitzer, renaming himself Emin Pasha, was also skillful at chess and at playing Chopin and Mendelssohn on the pianoforte--at parties he was the merriest and the maddest. But when the world heard that he was stranded for years in Central Africa, following the murder of the towering hero Gordon, and that no government was hurrying to his rescue, the Emin Pasha Relief Committee was formed by popular subscription and chose Stanley to lead the quest. A former mercenary, adventurer, and traveling correspondent, Stanley accepted--expecting ""to carry ammunition in sufficient quantity to enable Emin Pasha to withdraw from his dangerous position in Central Africa in safety, or to hold his own if he decides to do so for any length of time. . ."" Stanley also expected to be greeted by another towering hero like Gordon. Every disaster possible dogged the expedition, which traveled a distance approaching one-fifth of the earth's circumference, through attacks by poison darts, poison sticks, disease, and absolutely deadly army ants that could devour a sleeping creature or man to the bones in minutes. When the big, boastful Anglo-American journalist met Emin Pasha, he found himself trying to come to grips with a total dreamer. In essence, Emin governed nothing, had few followers, and was in no danger whatsoever. But Stanley beat danger mercilessly into Emin (who thought Stanley an overbearing neurotic madman) until the poor little guy reluctantly agreed to go back to civilization. Again the disasters multiply, Stanley spending 30 months on his fruitless, pointless, quixotic quest. Considerable increase in likely readership since 1947, the exotic materials being more familiar today. Somehow the book seems to swing through its paces more freely than when it first appeared. Entertaining.

Pub Date: Sept. 30th, 1985
Publisher: Atheneum