Friday, November 18, 2005

INDIA WITH PEN AND SWORD, the "selected journalism" of F.G. Woolnough, edited by his grandson, Keith Woolnough, (inquiries to is an exceptionally idiosyncratic and interesting privately published book deserving of a wider audience. The text covers the years 1928-1931, when F.G. Woolnaugh was stationed in India with the British military forces of occupation, and reprints some of the articles previously published in English language newspapers in India dealing with "historical, military and humorous themes" as the editor puts it. From a literary standpoint, the author's fictional vignettes, inspired from an earlier tour of duty, 1919 to 1923 "to Quetta on the Afghan-Baluchi border" are quite original, presenting the character, undoubtedly drawn from life, of one Saman Khan, an "egg and poultry merchant" of Quetta. The editor, Keith Woolnough, born in Libya, became an English student of Islam, teaching himself to read and write Arabic. Somewhat disabled now, he still occasionally shows up, sometimes uninvited, at academic conferences dealing with pre-Islamic poetry, often scaring the pants off staid professors with his deeper knowledge of the field.