978-0-09-479870-0 / 0094798702

Kitchener: The Road to Omdurman (History and Politics)

by Pollock, John




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About the book:

Kitchener stands splendidly moustachioed on the cover of John Pollock's biography, looking as upright, clear-eyed and fascistically handsome as the values he represented. This is the first volume of a projected two-volume biography of the man whose iconic pointing finger picked out ordinary men to fight in World War One, and although it only goes up to 1902, there is plenty of Imperial adventure to keep the reader happy. After a childhood seemingly marked by an amazing earnest piety Kitchener launched himself into his military career. He travelled widely in the near and middle east, eventually leading British troops to victory at Omdurman and thereby "liberating the Sudan" as Pollock puts it (from an admittedly non-Sudanese perspective). The parallel that suggests itself is with TE Lawrence; like Lawrence Kitchener spoke fluent Arabic, travelled widely in Arab dress, made maps and fought people. But Kitchener, at least by Pollock's account, seems to have lacked Lawrence's depths. In a gruff appendix at the end of the volume, Pollock denies the claim that Kitchener was gay as "ludicrous" and "offensive". This is strange, partly because the impression gained from the book itself is that Kitchener was so obviously gay (although severely repressed about it), but also because it's not clear why the thought that he might have been gay would be "offensive" in any way. But Pollock doesn't want to make his hero too complex: he presents him like the official portrait that graces the front of the book, in the bright colours and bold strokes of hero, plain and simple. --Adam Roberts

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