Wednesday, 30 April 2008



The Word for World is Forest is a science fiction novel by Ursula K. Le Guin, published in 1976 and based on her 1972 novella. It is part of the 'Hainish Cycle.


Several centuries in the future, humans from Earth have established a logging colony and military base named "New Tahiti" on a tree-covered planet whose small, green-furred, big-eyed inhabitants have formed a culture centered on lucid dreaming. Terran greed spirals around native innocence and wisdom, turning the ancient society upside down.

Humans have learned interstellar travel from the people of Hain (the origin-planet of all humanoid races, including the Athsheans, despite their appearance). The various planets have been expanding independently, but during the novel it is learned that the 'League of All Worlds' has been formed. News arrives via an ansible, a new discovery. Previously they had been cut off, 27 light-years from Earth, meaning a 54-year delay in question and response.

Athshe's plants and animals are similar to those of Earth, placed there by the Hainish people in their first wave of colonisation that also settled Earth. The Cetian visitor also states categorically that the native humans "came from the same, original, Hainist stock". It is not explained why they are green-furred and only one meter tall. Other distinctive humans such as the Gethenians are said to have been produced by genetic manipulation by the ancient Hainish colonisers.

The events of the novel occur after The Dispossessed, where both the ansible and the League of Worlds are unrealised dreams. Also well before Planet of Exile, where human settlers have learned to coexist. A date in the 24th century has been suggested.[1]

Plot summary

"The Athshean word for 'world' is the same as their word for 'forest'." Raj Lyubov, one of the novel's major characters.

Colonists from Earth take over a planet that the locals call Athshe, which means "forest," rather than "dirt," like their home planet. They follow the 19th century model of colonization: cutting down trees, planting farms, building mines, and enslaving indigenous peoples. The natives are ill equipped to comprehend this, since they're a subsistent people who rely on the forests, and have no cultural precedent for tyranny, slavery, or war. The invaders take the land of these tiny forest people without any resistance.

Earth has suffered some environmental disasters and people in North America have known starvation. The military culture has some familiar aspects, but there have been cultural shifts. Both drug-use and homosexuality are acceptable, even in the military. Some Terrans feel a rivalry with the other humanoid cultures, especially the Cetians. Former national rivalries have faded, with North Americans, Vietnamese and Indians working together harmoneously.

The innocent ingrained obedience of the Athsheans and the fact that they never seem to sleep makes them seem to be ideal slaves, practicing what in humans is called polyphasic sleep. One of the worst slave-masters is Captain Davidson (who is not the leader of the Terrans -- a common misconception), who regularly beats the "creechies", as he calls the Athsheans. But the fact is that they take a few dreamless catnaps spread throughout the day, and go into a state of lucid dreaming at will, and quite often. They also see the "dream-time" as a world just as real as the "world-time," and hate hallucinogens which the humans use, because they have no control over the dreams generated by the "poisons." Most of the "yumens" make no effort to understand this, and drive them harder when they catch them "daydreaming." Deprived of REM sleep, the slaves' mental and physical health deteriorates. The only human who begins to understand this is Corporal Raj Lyubov, who saves several slaves from grisly deaths at Davidson's hands. When a tiny native woman is raped by Davidson, and dies of her wounds, her husband, Selver, begins to dream of war.

No one had dreamed of war before, but Selver is able to share his dream, and sing his plans with the rest of his people. He organises a raid on a logging camp, killing more than 200 humans and humbling Davidson. To his people he has becomes a sha'ab, a word that means both a translator and a god.

Meantime a starship arrives bringing an ansible intended for another nearby world, and also two non-Terrans, a Cetian and a man of Hain. Via ansible, they learn that there is now a 'League of All Worlds' and that Terran colonial policies have changed. The ansible is left at the colony so that the Terrans can be controlled by their own superiors. Instructions are issued to free the Athshean slaves and generally moderate the policies.

Outraged by all this, and suspecting that the 'ansible' is a fraud or controlled by Cetians, Davidson secretly organises a raid and mass slaughter of a nearby Athshean tree-city. The Athsheans respond by organising a massive raid on 'Central', the main Terran base, which they manage to overrun.

One shocking detail is that the Athsheans intentionally kill the Terran women, reasoning that they will otherwise establish a fast-breeding Terran colony. This is indeed the intention, the settlers plan to make a permanent home on 'New Tahiti', not just to take its logs. For their part the Athsheans have no tradition of warfare and therefore no rules, and anyway their own women take part in the fighting.

The revolution upends the Athshean culture, but succeeds in ending Terran domination. For the atrocities he has committed, Davidson is exiled to an island of bare rock, that had been a thriving forest village before his rule, to be given food and medicine but no human contact for the rest of his life. The surviving humans (not including Lyubov, who was accidentally killed in the revolt) return home on the next ship to arrive.

Publishing history

The novella version, originally published in Again, Dangerous Visions, was a winner of the 1973 Hugo Award for Best Novella. Le Guin has stated in her introduction to the novel that the Vietnam War was a major influence on this work. Her original title was The Little Green Men, but Ellison changed it with Le Guin's reluctant consent.

An evidently relevant touch is the presence of Vietnamese people among the oppressor humans, presumably intended to convey the point that today's oppressed might turn into tomorrow's oppressor.

A copy of The Word For World is Forest is visible at the bedside of the character Joker in a scene set in Vietnam in Stanley Kubrick's film Full Metal Jacket (this is an anachronism as the movie takes place in and around 1968, while The Word For World is Forest was published in 1976).


External links


The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia is a 1974 utopian science fiction novel by Ursula K. Le Guin, set in the same fictional universe as that of The Left Hand of Darkness (the Hainish Cycle). The book won both the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award in 1975, and is notable for achieving a degree of literary recognition unusual for science fiction works.


The story has many themes, as well as the creation of the ansible, an instantaneous communications device that plays a critical role in Le Guin's Hainish Cycle. (The invention of the ansible places the novel first in the internal chronology of the Hainish Cycle, although it was the fifth Hainish novel published.

The story is set on Anarres and Urras, the twin inhabited worlds of Tau Ceti. Cetians are mentioned in other Ekumen novels and short stories. An Anarian appears in the short story The Shobies' Story. Urras before the settlement of Anarres is the setting for the short story The Day Before the Revolution. In The Dispossessed, Urras is presented as having much in common with cold-war era Earth. It is divided into several states which are dominated by the two largest ones, which are rivals. In a clear allusion to the United States and the Soviet Union, one has a capitalist economy and patriarchal system and the other is an authoritarian system that claims to rule in the name of the proletariat.

In the last chapter of The Dispossessed, we learn that the Hainish people arrived at Tau Ceti 60 years ago. Terrans are also there, and the novel occurs some time in the future. A date of 2300 has been suggested.

Plot summary

The story takes place on the fictional planet Urras and its moon Anarres (since Anarres is massive enough to hold an atmosphere, this is often described as a double planet system). In order to forestall an anarcho-syndical workers' rebellion, the major Urrasti states gave the revolutionaries the right to live on Anarres, along with a guarantee of non-interference, approximately two hundred years before the events of The Dispossessed. Before this, Anarres had had no permanent settlements apart from some mining.

The protagonist Shevek is a physicist attempting to develop a General Temporal Theory. The physics of the book describes time as having a much deeper, more complex structure than we understand it. It incorporates not only mathematics and physics, but also philosophy and ethics. The meaning of the theories in the book weaves nicely into the plot, not only describing abstract physical concepts, but the ups and downs of the characters' lives, and the transformation of the Anarresti society. An oft-quoted saying in the book is "true voyage is return."

Anarres is in theory a society without government or coercive authoritarian institutions. Yet in pursuing research that deviates from his society's current consensus understanding, Shevek begins to come up against very real obstacles. Shevek gradually develops an understanding that the revolution which brought his world into being is stagnating, and power structures are beginning to exist where there were none before. He therefore embarks on the risky journey to the original planet, Urras, seeking to open dialog between the worlds and to spread his theories freely outside of Anarres. The novel details his struggles on both Urras and his homeworld of Anarres.

The book also explores the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, that language shapes culture. The language spoken on the anarchist planet Anarres, Pravic, is a constructed language that reflects many aspects of the philosophical foundations of utopian anarchism. For instance, the use of the possessive case is strongly discouraged. In one scene, Shevek's daughter, meeting him for the first time, offers him "You can share the handkerchief I use,"[3] rather than "you may borrow my handkerchief", thus conveying the idea that the handkerchief is not owned by the girl, merely carried by her.

Cover of first paperback edition

The Dispossessed is considered by some libertarian socialists to be a good description of the mechanisms that would be developed by an anarchist society, but also of the dangers of centralization and bureaucracy that would easily take over such society without the continuation of revolutionary ideology. Part of its power is that it gives us a spectrum of fairly well-developed characters, who illustrate many types of personalities, all educated in an environment that measures a person not by what he owns, but by what he can do, and how he relates to other human beings. Probably the best example of this is the character of Takver, the hero's partner, who exemplifies many virtues: loyalty, love of life and living things, perseverance, and desire for a true partnership with another person.

The work is sometimes said to represent one of the few modern revivals of the utopian genre, and there are certainly many characteristics of a utopian novel found in this book. Most obviously, Shevek is an outsider in Urras, following the "traveler" convention common in utopian literature. All of the characters portrayed in the novel have a certain spirituality or intelligence, there are no nondescript characters. It is also true to say that there are aspects of Anarres that are utopian: it is presented as a pure society that adheres to its own theories and ideals, which are starkly juxtaposed with Urras society.

However, the work is subtitled "An Ambiguous Utopia", and one of the major themes of the work is the ambiguity of different notions of utopia. Anarres is not presented as a perfect society, even within the constraints of what might define an anarchist utopia. Bureaucracy, stagnation, and power structures have problematized the revolution, as Shevek understands through the course of the novel. Moreover, Le Guin has painted a very stark picture of the natural and environmental constraints on society. Anarres citizens are forced to contend with a relatively sparse and unfruitful world. Hardship caused by lack of resources is a prominent theme, reflected in the title of the novel. Anarres citizens are dispossessed not just by political choice, but by the very lack of resources to possess. Here, again, Le Guin draws a contrast with the natural wealth of Urras, and the competitive behaviors this fosters. Le Guin's foreword to the novel notes that her anarchism is closely akin to that of Pyotr Kropotkin's, whose Mutual Aid closely assessed the influence of the natural world on competition and cooperation. Le Guin's use of realism in this aspect of the work further problematizes — ambiguates — a simple utopian interpretation of the work. Anarres is not a perfect society, and Le Guin shows that no such thing is possible.

Influences for the novel

Le Guin's title is in reference to Dostoyevsky's novel The Possessed.

One flashback in the novel was likely inspired by the Stanford prison experiment. Childhood Shevek and some friends – curious about Urras and what prisons must be like – decide to play prison and enact a game very similar in design and results to the actual experiment, including its being cut short.


French: "Les Dépossédés".
German: "Planet der Habenichtse", later "Die Enteigneten", 2006.
Korean: "빼앗긴 자들", 2002
Russian: "Обездоленные", 1994, "Обделённые", 1997, 2002.
Serbian: "Čovek praznih šaka".
Turkish: "Mülksüzler".
Hungarian: "A kisemmizettek", 1994
Finnish: "Osattomien planeetta", 1979
Spanish: "Los desposeídos", 1998
Chinese: "一无所有", 2008


...if it is the future you seek, then I tell you that you must come to it with empty hands. You must come to it alone, and naked, as the child comes into the world, into his future, without any past, without any property, wholly dependent on other people for his life. You cannot take what you have not given, and you must give yourself. You cannot buy the Revolution. You cannot make the Revolution. You can only be the Revolution. It is in your spirit, or it is nowhere.
– Shevek, page 241

For we each of us deserve everything, every luxury that was piled in the tombs of the dead kings, and we each of us deserve nothing, not a mouthful of bread in hunger. Have we not eaten while another starved? Will you punish us for that? Will you reward us for the virtue of starving while others ate? No man earns punishment, no man earns reward. Free your mind of the idea of deserving, the idea of earning, and you will begin to be able to think.
– Odo, page 288

A child free from the guilt of ownership and the burden of economic competition will grow up with the will to do what needs doing and the capacity for joy in doing it. It is useless work that darkens the heart. The delight of the nursing mother, of the scholar, of the successful hunter, of the good cook, of the skilful maker, of anyone doing needed work and doing it well, — this durable joy is perhaps the deepest source of human affection and of sociality as a whole.
– Odo, page 207

With the myth of the State out of the way, the real mutuality and reciprocity of society and individual became clear. Sacrifice might be demanded of the individual, but never compromise: for, though only the society could give security and stability, only the individual, the person, had the power of moral choice — the power of change, the essential function of life. The Odonian society was conceived as a permanent revolution, and revolution begins in the thinking mind.
– Page 276

You see, what we're after is to remind ourselves that we didn't come to Anarres for safety, but for freedom. If we must all agree, all work together, we're no better than a machine. If an individual can't work in solidarity with his fellows, it's his duty to work alone. His duty and his right. We have been denying people that right. We've been saying, more and more often, you must work with the others, you must accept the rule of the majority. But any rule is tyranny. The duty of the individual is to accept no rule, to be the initiator of his own acts, to be responsible. Only if he does so will the society live, and change, and adapt, and survive. We are not subjects of a State founded upon law, but members of a society formed upon revolution. Revolution is our obligation: our hope of evolution. The Revolution is in the individual spirit, or it is nowhere. It is for all, or it is nothing. If it is seen as having any end, it will never truly begin. We can't stop here. We must go on. We must take the risks.
– Shevek, page 296

In the afternoon, when he cautiously looked outside, he saw an armored car stationed across the street and two others slewed across the street at the crossing. That explained the shouts he had been hearing: it would be soldiers giving orders to each other.

Atro had once explained to him how this was managed, how the sergeants could give the privates orders, how the lieutenants could give the privates and the sergeants orders, how the captains... and so on and so on up to the generals, who could give everyone else orders and need take them from none, except the commander in chief. Shevek had listened with incredulous disgust. “You call that organization?” he had inquired. “You even call it discipline? But it is neither. It is a coercive mechanism of extraordinary inefficiency — a kind of seventh-millennium steam engine! With such a rigid and fragile structure what could be done that was worth doing?” This had given Atro a chance to argue the worth of warfare as the breeder of courage and manliness and weeder-out of the unfit, but the very line of his argument had forced him to concede the effectiveness of guerrillas, organized from below, self-disciplined. “But that only works when the people think they're fighting for something of their own — you know, their homes, or some notion or other,” the old man had said. Shevek had dropped the argument. He now continued it, in the darkening basement among the stacked crates of unlabeled chemicals. He explained to Atro that he now understood why the Army was organized as it was. It was indeed quite necessary. No rational form of organization would serve the purpose. He simply had not understood that the purpose was to enable men with machine guns to kill unarmed men and women easily and in great quantities when told to do so. Only he still could not see where courage, or manliness, or fitness entered in.

See also

Anarchism in the arts
Libertarian socialism


Anarchism and The Dispossessed
John P. Brennan, "Anarchism and Utopian Tradition in The Dispossessed", pp. 116-152, in Olander & Greenberg, editors, Ursula K. Le Guin, New York: Taplinger (1979).

Samuel R. Delany, "To Read The Dispossessed," in The Jewel-Hinged Jaw. N.Y.: Dragon Press, 1977, pp. 239-308 (anarchism in The Dispossessed).

Neil Easterbrook, "State, Heterotopia: The Political Imagination in Heinlein, Le Guin, and Delany", pp.43-75, in Hassler & Wilcox, editors, Political Science Fiction, Columbia, SC: U of South Carolina Press (1997).

Leonard M. Fleck, "Science Fiction as a Tool of Speculative Philosophy: A Philosophic Analysis of Selected Anarchistic and Utopian Themes in Le Guin's The Dispossessed", pp. 133-45, in Remington, editor, Selected Proceedings of the 1978 Science Fiction Research Association National Conference, Cedar Falls: Univ. of Northern Iowa (1979).

John Moore, "An Archaeology of the Future: Ursula Le Guin and Anarcho-Primitivism", Foundation: The Review of Science Fiction, v.63, pp. 32-39 (Spring 1995).

Larry L. Tifft, "Possessed Sociology and Le Guin's Dispossessed: From Exile to Anarchism", pp. 180-197, in De Bolt & Malzberg, editors, Voyager to Inner Lands and to Outer Space, Port Washington, NY: Kennikat (1979).

Kingsley Widmer, "The Dialectics of Utopianism: Le Guin's The Dispossessed", Liberal and Fine Arts Review, v.3, nos.1-2, pp. 1-11 (Jan.-July 1983).

Gender and The Dispossessed

Lillian M. Heldreth, "Speculations on Heterosexual Equality: Morris, McCaffrey, Le Guin", pp.209-220 in Palumbo, ed., Erotic Universe: Sexuality and Fantastic Literature, Westport, CT: Greenwood (1986).

Neil Easterbrook, "State, Heterotopia: The Political Imagination in Heinlein, Le Guin, and Delany", pp.43-75, in Hassler & Wilcox, editors, Political Science Fiction, Columbia, SC: U of South Carolina Press (1997).

Mario Klarer, "Gender and the 'Simultaneity Principle': Ursula Le Guin's The Dispossessed", Mosaic: A Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature, v.25, n.2, pp.107-21 (Spring 1992).

Jim Villani, "The Woman Science Fiction Writer and the Non-Heroic Male Protagonist", pp. 21-30 in Hassler, ed., Patterns of the Fantastic, Mercer Island, WA: Starmont House (1983).

Language and The Dispossessed

Deirdre Burton, "Linguistic Innovation in Feminist Science Fiction", Ilha do Desterro: Journal of Language and Literature, v.14, n.2, pp. 82-106 (1985).

Property and possessions

Werner Christie Mathiesen, "The Underestimation of Politics in Green Utopias: The Description of Politics in Huxley's Island, Le Guin's The Dispossessed, and Callenbach's Ecotopia", Utopian Studies: Journal of the Society for Utopian Studies, v.12, n.1, pp. 56-78 (2001).

Taoism and The Dispossessed

Elizabeth Cummins Cogell, "Taoist Configurations: The Dispossessed", pp. 153-179 in De Bolt & Malzberg, editors, Ursula K. Le Guin: Voyager to Inner Lands and to Outer Space, Port Washington, NY: Kennikat (1979).

Utopian literature and The Dispossessed

John P. Brennan, "Anarchism and Utopian Tradition in The Dispossessed", pp. 116-152, in Olander & Greenberg, editors, Ursula K. Le Guin, New York: Taplinger (1979).
Bülent Somay, "Towards an Open-Ended Utopia", Science-Fiction Studies, v.11, n.1 (#32), pp. 25-38 (March 1984).

Peter Fitting, "Positioning and Closure: On the 'Reading Effect' of Contemporary Utopian Fiction", Utopian Studies, v.1, pp.23-36 (1987).

Kingsley Widmer, "The Dialectics of Utopianism: Le Guin's The Dispossessed", Liberal and Fine Arts Review, v.3, nos.1-2, pp. 1-11 (Jan.-July 1983).

Additional references

Judah Bierman, "Ambiguity in Utopia: The Dispossessed", Science-Fiction Studies, v.2, pp. 249-255 (1975).

James F. Collins, "The High Points So Far: An Annotated Bibliography of Ursula K. LeGuin's The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed", Bulletin of Bibliography, v.58, no.2, pp.89-100 (June 2001).

James P. Farrelly, "The Promised Land: Moses, Nearing, Skinner, and Le Guin", JGE: The Journal of General Education, v.33, n.1, pp. 15-23 (Spring 1981).

Kingsley Widmer, "The Dialectics of Utopianism: Le Guin's The Dispossessed", Liberal and Fine Arts Review, v.3, nos.1-2, pp. 1-11 (Jan.-July 1983).



Tuesday, 29 April 2008



Monday, 28 April 2008


Talking about "Cyrano de Bergerac" ,do you remember Jean-Paul Rapeneau's version ? In that movie Gerard Depardieu played the leading role.

I think that this version is just the best of all the ones I've ever seen.

Have you seen the movie ? If you did maybe you'll remember Cyrano/Depardieu talking about his nose :

« C'est un roc !… C'est un pic !… C'est un cap  !… Que dis-je, c'est un cap ?… C'est une péninsule ! »


Riverworld is a fictional universe and the setting for a series of science fiction books written by Philip José Farmer.

The five novels in the series are as follows :

To Your Scattered Bodies Go
The Fabulous Riverboat
The Dark Design
The Magic Labyrinth
Gods of Riverworld (later published as The Gods of Riverworld)
There are also several Riverworld short stories. The first of these appeared in Farmer's anthology:
Riverworld and Other Stories (a Farmer anthology with one Riverworld story, titled Riverworld)
In the early 1990s, it was decided to turn Riverworld into a shared universe anthology series, with numerous authors being invited to participate. Only two volumes were released:
Tales of Riverworld (includes one story written by Farmer: Crossing the Dark River. A second story, A Hole In Hell, was written by Farmer under the Pseudonym Dane Helstrom)
Quest to Riverworld (includes two stories written by Farmer: Crossing the Bright River and Coda.)



Located at an indeterminate distance from the Sol system and millennia in the future, the Riverworld is an Earthlike planet whose surface has been terraformed to consist solely of one staggeringly long river-valley. The river's source is a small North Polar sea, from which it follows a course tightly zig-zagging across one hemisphere before flowing back up the other along an equally labyrinthine path to return to the same sea. The river has an average depth of 2.5 km, and is shallow near the shore but plunges to enormous depths towards the channel. The banks are generally smooth and gentle, expanding into wide plains on either side, then climbing into ever more jagged hills before leaping up into a sheerly impenetrable enclosing mountain range, taller than the Himalayas. The valley averages 15km in width, but variations on the basic geography exist, including narrows and occasional widenings into lakes with islands. From source to mouth, the river is 32 million kilometres (or 20 million miles) long (Books I , II, & III state the river is 16.09 million km long).

The weather is absolutely controlled; there are no seasons, and daily variations are metronomic. The only animal life consists of fish and soil worms. The vegetation is lush and of great variety, including trees, flowering vines, several kinds of fast-growing bamboo and a resilient mat of grass which covers the plains and continues on along the riverbed for as far down as anyone has ever been able to reach. The Riverworld has no visible moon, but a great number of stellar objects in the sky, including gas sheets and stars which are close enough to see a visible disk. These objects provide enough light for "valleydwellers" to see at night and have led to speculation, by valleydwellers and fans, that the Riverworld is located in the galactic core.

The story of Riverworld begins when almost the whole of humanity, from the time of the first homo sapiens through to the early 21st century, is simultaneously resurrected along the banks of the river. The number of people is given as "thirty-six billion, six million, nine thousand, six hundred and thirty-seven" (36,006,009,637). Of these, at least 20% are from the 20th century, due to the high levels of population in later centuries compared to earlier ones. There is also a cut-off point, as no one from the twenty-first century or later is resurrected. Originally the specific cut-off year was given as 1983 (which was still a speculative date when the novels were first published) but this has been somewhat stretched in later stories. The ostensible reason for the cut-off was that it indicated the point at which the entire human race had been accidentally annihilated during a catastrophic first contact with aliens visiting Earth.

In each area, there are initially three groups of people: a large group from one time period and place, a smaller group from another time and place, and a very small group of people from random times and places (most of the twentieth and twenty-first century humans are spread across the river as part of this last group).


Everyone awakens in a body equivalent to that of their twenty-five year old selves, except in perfect health and free of any previous genetic or acquired defects (for instance, all chemical addictions are gone). Over time it is further discovered that these bodies do not age and can regenerate nearly any non-fatal injury, including dismemberments and blindings. The new bodies are completely free of infection and seem resistant to it (though later it is discovered that this has as much to do with the fact that there are no hostile bacteria or viruses on the Riverworld). Initially completely hairless, the bodies grow head hair and pubic hair at a normal rate. However, men do not have foreskins or grow facial hair. Women are resurrected as biological virgins (i.e, with intact hymens). It is impossible to conceive children on Riverworld, though whether this is because the men, women or both sexes are sterile is not revealed until much later in the series.

Anyone who died at an age younger than 25 is resurrected into a body equivalent to that lesser age, which then ages at a normal rate before stopping at 25. No one who was less than five years old at death is resurrected on the Riverworld (it is eventually revealed that children under the age of five were resurrected on another planet, Gardenworld). In addition to all the benefits of their Riverworld-bodies, the resurrected human race is effectively immortal as, should an individual die, they will soon find themselves once again reincarnated, whole in body, somewhere else along the banks of the river. Some people even utilize this "Suicide Express" to travel randomly.

Since all the languages of mankind are represented in Riverworld, Esperanto spreads as a common tongue.

One of the themes of the series is the way historical characters change as a result of this cosmopolitan setting. The Fabulous Riverboat, amongst other threads, portrays a tormented, drug-addicted Hermann Göring who ends up as a missionary of the Church of the Second Chance, a peaceful religion.

Awakening hairless and naked on the alien world without explanation, the psychological shock to the collective human species is staggering. Apparently left to their own devices, the people set about recreating their Earthly societies and coming to terms with an afterlife no religion ever described.


The resurrected each awaken with a container tied to their wrist. Made of a nearly indestructible material, these containers are commonly called "grails" and produce food, drink, pieces of cloth, and occasional luxury items, such as alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, hair care utensils and an hallucinogenic drug called "dreamgum". To operate, grails have to be placed onto large, mushroom-shaped "grailstones", found at regular intervals along the riverbanks, which produce an electrical discharge to power the grails three times per day (corresponding to the times of breakfast, lunch and dinner). As agriculture is absent and impossible on the Riverworld, the grails are vital to an individual's survival (though if they do die, they are resurrected with a new grail). A grail is genetically coded to its owner, thus it is impossible for anyone else to open one. Nevertheless, "grail slavery" is not uncommon, in which a person is held captive and the contents of their grail, after being retrieved by the owner, are taken by force by the captor. The slaver will usually provide the slave with enough food to keep them alive, as once a person dies their grail becomes useless.

Of special value are so-called "free grails" that were originally found atop each of the grailstones as a demonstration of how the grails functioned. After the first grail-powering on Resurrection Day, it was apparently expected that the newly-resurrected inhabitants would examine the container and thus infer its purpose. Free grails can be opened by any individual, and so are valued because they can provide an extra ration of goods at each charging interval.

Natural Resources and Travel

Though the grails provide for all needs and the climate is hospitable, any further attempts to affect the environment are frustrated by the near-complete lack of metals and ores on the planet. The only building materials available are bamboo, wood, and human or fish bones and hides. Pockets of flint (eventually to be depleted) provide material for tools. With technology limited to the paleolithic level, the bordering mountains are completely impassable, thus the only possible directions of exploration are either upriver or downriver.

However, even this travel is hindered as the Riverworld soon finds itself divided into thousands of tiny nations; empires, monarchies, republics and every other social system ever invented, each only a few kilometers long (though still with high populations; the Riverworld averages 90 people per square kilometer). Because the distribution of populations along the river seems to have been random, the character of these nations can vary wildly within a very short span. Thus, one can enter dangerously unknown and potentially hostile territory in less than a day's journey.


The reason behind the existence of Riverworld is initially a complete mystery. In Farmer's books a number of historical figures - including Sir Richard Burton, Alice Hargreaves, Samuel Clemens, King John of England, Tom Mix, Mozart, Jack London and Hermann Göring - interact with fictional characters in a quest to discover the purpose behind the creation of Riverworld and their reincarnation. Another character, Peter Jairus Frigate, bears a striking resemblance to Farmer himself, and shares his initials. There are two versions of the character - one who appears early in the sequence, and another, being the "real" version, who concludes that the first was his brother who died as a baby, resurrected and used as a spy by the creators of the Riverworld.

During the course of the story it is revealed that the Riverworld had been created as a form of moral test for humanity. In the Riverworld universe sapience is not a naturally occurring phenomenon but is the result of a type of artificially created soul, known as a wathan. Wathans are created by a generator, a technology developed and seeded among various worlds by an unknown ancient alien race. Wathan generators create wathans which attach themselves to sufficiently advanced chordates. Wathans are indestructible but become detached from the body upon physical death and wander the universe aimlessly and apparently mindlessly.
The first race to create wathans were only extraordinarily adept tool users up to that point, but lacked individual sapience. Once the first wathans were created, however, their civilization was transformed. Self-awareness increased their capabilities by an order of magnitude, and as the creators of wathan technology, they understood it to the degree that they were able to "catch" wathans released by their own deaths, resurrecting themselves endlessly - or so they thought. They began to have difficulties in reattaching certain wathans to physical bodies, eventually finding it impossible. As this occurred only to the wisest and most ethically advanced wathans, they came to the conclusion that they were "passing on", a process comparable to the Indian religious concept of Moksha.

With this in mind, they began wandering the universe, placing wathan generators on worlds with life that could host wathans, thereby creating other sentient species. Once they create a species they determined they could trust, they tasked them with creating yet more sapient species after the whole of their own species had "passed on". This cycle occurred several times until relatively recent times, and the creation of humanity.

Humanity's creators are a race of aliens known, among their human allies at least, as "the Ethicals." The only alien Ethical who is seen in the stories is Monat Graatut, who poses as an ally and friend of Richard Francis Burton. Monat is a tall long limbed humanoid alien who would be instantly recognizable as non-human. The Ethicals were the ones who originally brought Wathan technology to Earth, installing both a generator and a collector. The collector would catch and store Wathans--and the human personas and memories accumulated by them--for later retrieval.

The reason for this change of policy was that humans were, to them, extraordinary. That is, humans could be both extraordinarily civilized (capable of "passing on" within a single lifetime, such as the Buddha), and extraordinarily barbaric (capable of brutality unimaginable to any of their species, such as Nazis, the Spanish Inquisition, etc). The best of humanity was more than worthy of carrying on the cycle of creation, yet the worst of humanity obviously couldn't be trusted with wathan technology. To solve the conundrum, the Ethicals decided to put humanity to a test - the Riverworld.

Deeming that children who died before age five had not had a sufficient "chance" at life on earth they resurrected these children early on a planet known as "Gardenworld". Gardenworld was a physical paradise where the children would be raised as Ethicals by the aliens. Eventually the human and alien Ethicals began work on terraforming the Riverworld. The idea was that every human being who ever lived on Earth would be resurrected on this planet and given another chance to embrace their better natures, thus proving themselves worthy of continuing the cycle of creation.

The entire construction of the Riverworld ecology was meant to help further this process of moral contemplation. The repetitive nature of the physical environment was supposed to encourage a concern with inward rather than outward issues. The poverty of natural resources was meant to prevent the development of a higher technology and the same old kinds of human society, and the food provided by the grails, the presence of abundant water and potential shelter, and the resurrections were meant to obviate the need for an economy or the need to strive for survival. Alcohol, marijuana, and the LSD-like dreamgum were provided for recreational purposes and as emotional enhancements to help the process to contemplation along--although the use of the drugs does not always take humans in that direction.


The original Riverworld story was titled Owe for the Flesh and ended with the protagonist (called Richard Black in this version) finding the tower at the end of the river. Farmer entered a scifi contest run by Shasta Press and subsidized by Pocket Books, submitting his 150,000-word entry. He won the contest, but received no money. The work was never published and was lost in its original form. A later, revised manuscript (itself lost for decades) was discovered and published in 1983 as River of Eternity.

Sunday, 27 April 2008





“Arabs may have the oil, but we have the matches.”
source: Friedman, Robert I. Zealots for Zion: Inside Israel's West Bank Settlement Movement (New York, New York: Random House, 1992), 132-52.
"The Jewish settlements are not a barrier to peace, the Jewish settlements are a barrier to war."

"Free women and men everywhere must wage an incessant campaign so that these human values become a generally recognized and practised reality. We must regretfully admit that in various parts of the world this is not yet the case. Without those values and human rights the real peace of which we dream is jeopardized." (Nobel Prize Lecture, December 10, 1978)

"The hour of decision has arrived. You know what I have done, and what all of us have done, to prevent war and bereavement. But our fate is that in the Land of Israel there is no escape from fighting in the spirit of self-sacrifice. Believe me, the alternative to fighting is Treblinka, and we have resolved that there would be no Treblinkas. This is the moment in which courageous choice has to be made. The criminal terrorists and the world must know that the Jewish people have a right to self-defense, just like any other people." (Knesset address prior to invasion of Lebanon, June 5, 1982)


The Palestinians are like crocodiles, the more you give them meat, they want more.
in the Jerusalem Post, Aug. 30, 2000.
It is not in our hands to prevent the murder of workers… and families… but it is in our hands to fix a high price for our blood, so high that the Arab community and the Arab military forces will not be willing to pay it.
As quoted in Warrior: the autobiography of Ariel Sharon (1989)

Saturday, 26 April 2008


"We looked death straight in the face, and it lowered its eyes before us"
Shmuel Gonen ('Gorodish'), commander of the 7th Brigade in the 6-Day War

"If you can't face death you can run. But remember, if you run, you can't run just a mile. You must run a thousand miles."
Attributed to Haganah officers addressing recruits - from Israel there's nowhere to retreat to

"He would wake up with a hundred ideas. Of them ninety-five were dangerous; three more were bad; the remaining two, however, were brilliant."
Ariel Sharon [on Moshe Dayan]

"Courage is a special kind of knowledge; the knowledge of how to fear what ought to be feared and how not to fear what ought not to be feared."
David Ben-Gurion, 1st prime minister

"In Israel, in order to be a realist you must believe in miracles."
David Ben-Gurion, 1st prime minister

"Now you'll be able to aim better".
[Jocularly, while visiting a wounded soldier, who lost an eye]
Ezer Weizman, former Airforce commander and State President

interviewer Sam Donaldson: "But on Friday, you were very pessimistic. You said, 'No good,' when someone asked you how things were going."
PM Ehud Barak: "No, I'm saying even now, if I have to summarize the situation - in one word it's good, in two words, not good."
[an Israeli figure of speech]
Attribution: Interview with Prime Minister Ehud Barak on ABC News, September 10, 2000


-A legal decision depends not on the teacher's age, but on the force of his argument.
-A tree in the desert is still a tree.
-Better an ounce from the ground than a pound from the roof.
-Breed not a savage dog, nor permit a loose stairway.
-Do not attempt to confute a lion after he's dead.
-Don't use the conduct of a fool as a precedent.
-Doubt cannot override a certainty.
-He who promiseth runs in debt.
-He who sacrifices a whole offering shall be rewarded for a whole offering; he who offers a burnt-offering shall have the reward of a burnt-offering; but he who offers humility to God and man shall be rewarded with a reward as if he had offered all the sacrifices in the world.
-Into the well which supplies thee with water, cast no stones.
-Iron sharpens iron; scholar, the scholar.
-The world is only saved by the breath of the school children.
-Throw no stones into the well whence you have drunk.
-Underneath the wings of the seraphim are stretched the arms of the divine mercy, ever ready to receive sinners.
-Trust not your own powers till the day of your death.
-Join the company of lions rather than assume the lead among foxes.
-Sheep follow sheep.
-The burden is equal to the horse's strength.
-Let your left hand turn away what your right hands attracts.
-When choosing a wife look down the social scale; when selecting a friend, look upwards.


For the sake of peace one may lie, but peace itself should never be a lie.

God said: you must teach, as I taught, without a fee.

He that gives should never remember, he that receives should never forget.

Live well. It is the greatest revenge.

Never expose yourself unnecessarily to danger; a miracle may not save you...and if it does, it will be deducted from your share of luck or merit.

Who can protest and does not, is an accomplice in the act.

Whoever destroys a single life is as guilty as though he had destroyed the entire world; and whoever rescues a single life earns as much merit as though he had rescued the entire world.


Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton KCMG FRGS (March 19, 1821October 20, 1890) was an English explorer, translator, writer, soldier, orientalist, ethnologist, linguist, poet, hypnotist, fencer and diplomat. He was known for his travels and explorations within Asia and Africa as well as his extraordinary knowledge of languages and cultures. According to one count, he spoke 29 European, Asian, and African languages.

Burton's best-known achievements include traveling in disguise to Mecca, making an unexpurgated translation of The Book of One Thousand Nights and A Night (the collection is more commonly called The Arabian Nights in English because of Andrew Lang's abridgment) and the Kama Sutra and journeying with John Hanning Speke as the first white men guided by the redoubtable Sidi Mubarak Bombay to discover (for himself and his contemporaries) the Great Lakes of Africa in search of the source of the Nile. He was a prolific author and wrote numerous books and scholarly articles about subjects including travel, fencing and ethnography.

He was a captain in the army of the East India Company serving in India (and later, briefly, in the Crimean War). Following this he was engaged by the Royal Geographical Society to explore the east coast of Africa and led an expedition guided by the locals which discovered Lake Tanganyika. In later life he served as British consul in Fernando Po, Damascus and, finally, Trieste. He was a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and was awarded a knighthood (KCMG) in 1886.

Early life and education (1822–1841)

Burton was born in Torquay, Devon, at 9:30 p.m. on 19 March 1821 (in his autobiography, he erroneously claimed to have been born in the family home at Barham House in Elstree in Hertfordshire). His father, Captain Joseph Netterville Burton, 36th Regiment, was an Irish-born British army officer of Anglo-Irish extraction, the son of the Rev. Edward Burton, a Church of Ireland clergyman from Westmorland, England, and an Irish mother; his mother, Martha Baker, was an heiress of a wealthy Hertfordshire squire, Richard Baker. He had two siblings, Maria Katherine Elizabeth Burton and Edward Joseph Burton. He was baptised on 2 September 1821 at Elstree Church in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire.

Burton's family travelled considerably during his childhood. In 1825, his family moved to Tours, France; over the next few years, they traveled between England, France and Italy. Burton's early education was provided by various tutors employed by his parents. He showed an early gift for languages and quickly learned French, Italian and Latin, as well as several dialects, such as the Neapolitan dialect. During his youth, he was rumored to have carried on an affair with a young Romani (Gypsy) woman, even learning the rudiments of her language. Some adduce this as a possible reason why he was able later in life to learn Hindi and other Indic languages almost preternaturally quickly, as Romani is related to this language family. However, these same Indian languages are members of the Indo-European family of languages, along with English, French and German. The peregrinations of his youth may have encouraged Burton to regard himself as an outsider for much of his life. As he put it, "Do what thy manhood bids thee do, from none but self expect applause..."

Burton entered Trinity College, Oxford, in the autumn of 1840. Despite his intelligence and ability, he soon antagonized his teachers and peers. During his first term, he is said to have challenged another student to a duel after the latter mocked Burton's moustache. Burton continued to gratify his love of languages by studying Arabic; he also spent his time learning falconry and fencing. In 1842, he attended a steeplechase in deliberate violation of college rules and subsequently dared to tell the college authorities that students should be allowed to attend such events. Hoping to be merely "rusticated"— that is, suspended with the possibility of reinstatement, the punishment of some less provocative students who had visited the steeplechase— he was instead permanently expelled from Trinity College. In a final jab at the environment he had come to despise, Burton reportedly trampled the College's flower beds with his horse and carriage while departing Oxford.

Army career (1842–1853)

In his own words "fit for nothing but to be shot at for six pence a day",Burton enlisted in the army of the East India Company at the behest of his ex-college classmates who were already members. He hoped to fight in the first Afghan war but the conflict was over before he arrived in India. He was posted to the 18th Bombay Native Infantry based in Gujarat and under the command of General Sir Charles James Napier. While in India he became a proficient speaker of Hindustani, Gujarati and Marathi as well as Persian and Arabic. His studies of Hindu culture had progressed to such an extent that "my Hindu teacher officially allowed me to wear the Janeu (Brahmanical Thread)" although the truth of this has been questioned since it would usually have required long study, fasting and a partial shaving of the head. Burton's interest (and active participation) in the cultures and religions of India was considered peculiar by some of his fellow soldiers who accused him of "going native" and called him "the White Nigger". Burton had many peculiar habits that set him apart from other soldiers. While in the army, he kept a large menagerie of tame monkeys in the hopes of learning their language. He also earned the name "Ruffian Dick" for his "demonic ferocity as a fighter and because he had fought in single combat more enemies than perhaps any other man of his time."

He was appointed to the Sindh survey, where he learned to use the measuring equipment that would later be useful in his career as an explorer. At this time he began to travel in disguise. He adopted the alias of Mirza Abdullah and often fooled local people and fellow officers into failing to recognise him. It was at this point that he began to work as an agent for Napier and, although details of exactly what this work entailed are not known, it is known that he participated in an undercover investigation of a brothel said to be frequented by English soldiers where the prostitutes were young boys. His life-long interest in sexual practices led him to produce a detailed report which was later to cause trouble for Burton when subsequent readers of the report (which Burton had been assured would be kept secret) came to believe that Burton had, himself, participated in some of the practices described within his writing.

In March 1849 he returned to Europe on sick leave. In 1850 he wrote his first book Goa and the Blue Mountains, a guide to the Goa region. He travelled to Boulogne to visit the fencing school there and it was there where he first encountered his future wife Isabel Arundell, a young Catholic woman from a good family.

First explorations and journey to Mecca (1851–1853)

Burton in Arabic dress.

Motivated by his love of adventure, Burton got the approval of the Royal Geographical Society for an exploration of the area and he gained permission from the Board of Directors of the British East India Company to take leave from the army. His seven years in India gave Burton a familiarity with the customs and behaviour of Muslims and prepared him to attempt a Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca and, in this case, Medina). It was this journey, undertaken in 1853, which first made Burton famous. He had planned it whilst travelling disguised among the Muslims of Sindh, and had laboriously prepared for the ordeal by study and practice (including being circumcised to further lower the risk of being discovered).

Although Burton was not the first non-Muslim European to make the Hajj (Ludovico di Barthema in 1503 is believed to hold that distinction), his pilgrimage is the most famous and the best documented of the time. He adopted various disguises including that of a Pashtun to account for any oddities in speech, but he still had to demonstrate an understanding of intricate Islamic ritual, and a familiarity with the minutiae of Eastern manners and etiquette. Burton's trek to Mecca was quite dangerous and his caravan was attacked by bandits (a common experience at the time). As he put it, although "...neither Koran or Sultan enjoin the death of Jew or Christian intruding within the columns that note the sanctuary limits, nothing could save a European detected by the populace, or one who after pilgrimage declared himself an unbeliever." The pilgrimage entitled him to the title of Hajji and to wear green head wrap. Burton's own account of his journey is given in A Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al-Medinah and Meccah (1855).

Early explorations (1854–1855)

Following his return to Cairo from Mecca, Burton sailed to India to rejoin his regiment. In March 1854, he transferred to the political department of the East India Company and went to Aden on the Arabian Peninsula in order to prepare for a new expedition, supported by the Royal Geographical Society, to explore the interior of the Somali Country and beyond, where Burton hoped to discover the large lakes he had heard about from Arab travelers. It was in Aden in September of this year that he first met Captain (then Lieutenant) John Hanning Speke who would accompany him on his most famous exploration. Burton undertook the first part of the trip alone. He made an expedition to Harar (in present day Ethiopia), which no European had entered (indeed there was a prophecy that the city would decline if a Christian was admitted inside). This leg of the expedition lasted three months, although much of the time was spent in the port of Zeila, where Burton, once again in disguise, awaited word that the road to Harar was safe. Burton not only travelled to Harar but also was introduced to the Emir and stayed in the city for ten days, officially a guest of the Emir but in reality his prisoner. The journey back was plagued by lack of supplies, and Burton wrote that he would have died of thirst had he not seen desert birds and realised they would be near water.

Following this adventure, he prepared to set out for the interior accompanied by Lieutenant Speke, Lieutenant G. E. Herne and Lieutenant William Stroyan and a number of Africans employed as bearers. However, before the expedition was able to leave camp, his party was attacked by a group of Somali tribesmen (the officers estimated the number of attackers at 200). In the ensuing fight, Stroyan was killed and Speke was captured and wounded in eleven places before he managed to escape. Burton was impaled with a javelin, the point entering one cheek and exiting the other. This wound left a notable scar that can be easily seen on portraits and photographs. He was forced to make his escape with the weapon still transfixing his head. However, the failure of this expedition was viewed harshly by the authorities, and a two-year investigation was set up to determine to what extent Burton was culpable for this disaster. While he was largely cleared of any blame, this did not help his career. He describes the harrowing attack in First Footsteps in East Africa (1856).

In 1855, Burton rejoined the army and travelled to the Crimea hoping to see active service in the Crimean War. He served on the staff of Beatson's Horse a corps of Bashi-bazouks, local fighters under the command of General Beatson, in the Dardanelles. The corps was disbanded following a "mutiny" after they refused to obey orders and Burton's name was mentioned (to his detriment) in the subsequent inquiry.

Exploring the lakes of central Africa (1856–1860)

Routes taken by the expeditions of Burton and Speke (1857–1858) and Speke and Grant (1863).

In 1856 the Royal Geographical Society funded another expedition in which Burton set off from Zanzibar to explore an "inland sea" which was known to exist. His mission was to study local tribes and to find out what exports might be possible from the region. It was hoped that the expedition might lead to the discovery of the source of the River Nile, although this was not an explicit aim. Burton had been told that only a fool would say his expedition aimed to find the source of the Nile because anything short of that would be regarded as a failure.

Before leaving for Africa, Burton became secretly engaged to Isabel Arundell. Her family would never accept the marriage since Burton was not a Catholic and was not wealthy.

Speke again accompanied him and on the 27 June 1857 they set out from the east coast of Africa heading west in search of the lake or lakes. They were helped greatly by their experienced local guide, Sidi Mubarak (also known as "Bombay"), who was familiar with some of the customs and languages of the region. From the start the outward journey was beset with problems such as recruiting reliable bearers and the defalcation of equipment and supplies by deserting expedition members. Both men were beset by a variety of tropical diseases on the journey. Speke was rendered blind for some of the journey and deaf in one ear (due to an infection caused by attempts to remove a beetle). Burton was unable to walk for some of the journey and had to be carried by the bearers.

The expedition arrived at Lake Tanganyika in February 1858. Burton was awestruck by the sight of the magnificent lake, but Speke, who had been temporarily blinded by a disease, was unable to see the body of water. By this point much of their surveying equipment was lost, ruined, or stolen, and they were unable to complete surveys of the area as well as they wished. Burton was again taken ill on the return journey and Speke continued exploring without him, making a journey to the north and eventually locating the great Lake Victoria, or Victoria Nyanza. Lacking supplies and proper instruments Speke was unable to survey the area properly but was privately convinced that it was the long sought source of the Nile. Burton's description of the journey is given in Lake Regions of Equatorial Africa (1860). Speke gave his own account in The Journal of the Discovery of the Source of the Nile (1863).

Both Burton and Speke were in extremely poor health after the journey and returned home separately. As usual Burton kept very detailed notes, not just on the geography but also on the languages, customs and even sexual habits of the people he encountered. Although it was Burton's last great expedition his geographical and cultural notes were to prove invaluable for subsequent explorations by Speke and James Augustus Grant, Sir Samuel Baker, David Livingstone and Henry Morton Stanley. Speke and Grant's (1863) exploration began on the east coast near Zanzibar again and went around the west side of Lake Victoria to Lake Albert and finally returning in triumph via the Nile River. However, crucially, they had lost track of the river's course between Lake Victoria and Albert. This left Burton, and others, unsatisfied that the source of the Nile was conclusively proven.

Burton and Speke

Lake Tanganyika photographed from orbit. Burton was the first European to see the lake.

Burton and Speke's exploration to Tanganyika and Victoria was, arguably, his most celebrated exploration but what followed was a prolonged public quarrel between the two men, which severely damaged Burton's reputation. From surviving letters it seems that Speke already mistrusted and disliked Burton before the start of their second expedition. There are several reasons why they became estranged. It seems obvious that the two men were very different in character, with Speke being more in tune with the prevailing morality of Victorian England and imperialistic attitude to other cultures. There was obviously a great element of professional rivalry. Some biographers have suggested that friends of Speke (particularly Laurence Oliphant) stirred up trouble between the two. It also seems that Speke resented Burton's position as expedition leader and claimed that this leadership was nominal only and that Burton was an invalid for most of the second expedition. There were problems with debts run up by the expedition that were left unpaid when they left Africa. Speke claimed that Burton had sole responsibility for these debts. Finally, there was the issue of the source of the Nile, perhaps the greatest prize of its day to explorers. It is now known that Lake Victoria is a source, but at the time the issue was controversial. Speke's expedition there was undertaken without Burton (who was incapacitated by several illnesses at the time) and his survey of the area was, by necessity, rudimentary, leaving the issue unresolved. Burton (and indeed many eminent explorers such as Livingstone) were very sceptical that the lake was the genuine source.

After the expedition, the two men travelled home to England separately with Speke arriving in London first. Despite an agreement between them that they would give their first public speech together, Speke gave a lecture at the Royal Geographical Society in which he made the claim that his discovery, Lake Victoria, was the source of the Nile. When Burton arrived in London he found Speke being lionised, and felt his own role was being considered as that of sickly companion. Furthermore, Speke was organising other expeditions to the region and clearly had no plans to include Burton.

In the subsequent months, Speke did much to attempt to harm Burton's reputation, even going so far as to claim that Burton had tried to poison him during the expedition. Meanwhile Burton spoke out against Speke's claim to have discovered the source of the Nile, saying that the evidence was inconclusive and the measurements made by Speke were inaccurate. It is notable that in Speke's expedition with Grant he made Grant sign a statement saying, amongst other things, "I renounce all my rights to publishing... my own account [of the expedition] until approved of by Captain Speke or the R. G. S. (Royal Geographical Society)".

Speke and Grant undertook a second expedition to prove that Lake Victoria was the true source of the Nile, but again, problems with surveying and measurement meant not everybody was satisfied the issue had been resolved. On 16 September 1864 Burton and Speke were due to debate the issue of the source of the Nile in front of the British Association for the Advancement of Science at that body's annual meeting in Bath. Burton was regarded as the superior public speaker and scholar and was likely to get the better of such a debate. However, the previous day Speke died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound while hunting on a relative's nearby estate. There were no direct witnesses to the shooting, and it has been widely speculated that he might have committed suicide; however, the coroner declared it to be a hunting accident. Burton was at the debate hall in Bath waiting to give his presentation when the news of Speke's death arrived and, considerably shaken, he elected not to give his planned talk.

Diplomatic service, scholarship, and death (1861–1890)

Richard and Isabel Burton's tomb at Mortlake, Surrey.

Close up of inscription on the tomb.

In January 1861, Richard and Isabel married in a quiet Catholic ceremony although he did not adopt the Catholic faith at this time. Shortly after this, the couple were forced to spend some time apart when he formally entered the Foreign Service as consul at Fernando Po, the modern island of Bioko in Equatorial Guinea. This was not a prestigious appointment; because the climate was considered extremely unhealthy for Europeans, Isabel could not accompany him. Burton spent much of this time exploring the coast of West Africa.

The couple were reunited in 1865 when Burton was transferred to Santos in Brazil. Once there, Burton traveled through Brazil's central highlands, canoeing down the Sao Francisco river from its source to the falls of Paulo Afonso.

In 1869 he was made consul in Damascus, an ideal post for someone with Burton's knowledge of the region and customs. However, Burton made many enemies during his time there. He managed to antagonize much of the Jewish population of the area because of a dispute concerning money lending. It had been the practice for the British consulate to take action against those who defaulted on loans but Burton saw no reason to continue this practice and this caused a great deal of hostility. He and Isabel greatly enjoyed their time there and befriended Lady Jane Digby, the well-known adventurer, and Abd al-Kader al-Jazairi, a prominent leader of the Algerian revolution then living in exile.

However, the area was in some turmoil at the time with considerable tensions between the Christian, Jewish and Muslim populations. Burton did his best to keep the peace and resolve the situation but this sometimes led him into trouble. On one occasion, he claims to have escaped an attack by hundreds of armed horsemen and camel riders sent by Mohammed Rashid Pasha, the Governor of Syria. He wrote "I have never been so flattered in my life than to think it would take three hundred men to kill me."

In addition to these incidents, there were a number of people who disliked Burton and wished him removed from such a sensitive position. Eventually, to resolve the situation, Burton was transferred to Trieste (then part of Austria-Hungary) during 1871. Burton was never particularly content with this post but it required little work and allowed him the freedom to write and travel.

In 1863 Burton co-founded the Anthropological Society of London with Dr. James Hunt. In Burton's own words, the main aim of the society (through the publication of the periodical Anthropologia) was "to supply travellers with an organ that would rescue their observations from the outer darkness of manuscript and print their curious information on social and sexual matters". On February 5, 1886 he was awarded a knighthood (KCMG) by Queen Victoria.

He wrote a number of travel books in this period that were not particularly well received. His best-known contributions to literature were those considered risqué or even pornographic at the time and which were published under the auspices of the Kama Shastra society. These books include The Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana (1883) (popularly known as the Kama Sutra), The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night (1885) (popularly known as The Arabian Nights), The Perfumed Garden of the Shaykh Nefzawi (1886) and The Supplemental Nights to the Thousand Nights and a Night (sixteen volumes 1886– 1898).

Published in this period, but composed on his return journey from Mecca, The Kasidah has been cited as evidence of Burton's status as a Sufi. The poem (and Burton's notes and commentary on it) contain layers of Sufic meaning, and seem to have been designed to project Sufi teaching in the West. "Do what thy manhood bids thee do/ from none but self expect applause;/ He noblest lives and noblest dies/ who makes and keeps his self-made laws" is The Kasidah's most oft-quoted passage.

Other works of note include a collection of Hindu tales, Vikram and the Vampire (1870); and his uncompleted history of swordsmanship, The Book of the Sword (1884). He also translated The Lusiads, the Portuguese national epic by Luís de Camões, in 1880 and wrote a sympathetic biography of the poet and adventurer the next year. The book The Jew, the Gipsy and el Islam was published posthumously in 1898 and was controversial since it was virulently anti-Semitic in tone and asserted the existence of Jewish human sacrifices. (Burton's investigations into this had provoked hostility from the Jewish population in Damascus, see Damascus affair. The manuscript of the book included an appendix discussing the topic in more detail, but by the decision of his widow it was not included in the book when published).

Burton died in Trieste early on the morning of 20 October 1890 of a heart attack. His wife Isabel convinced a priest to perform the last rites, although Burton was not a Catholic and this action later caused a rift between Isabel and some of Burton's friends. It has been suggested that the death occurred very late on 19 October and that Burton was already dead by the time the last rites were administered.

Isabel never recovered from the loss. After his death she burned many of her husband's papers, including journals and a planned new translation of The Perfumed Garden to be called The Scented Garden, for which she had been offered six thousand guineas and which she regarded as his "magnum opus." She believed she was acting to protect her husband's reputation, and imagined she was instructed to burn the manuscript of The Scented Garden by his spirit, but her actions have been widely condemned.
Isabel wrote a biography in praise of her husband. The couple are buried in a remarkable tomb in the shape of a Bedouin tent at Mortlake in southwest London.

The Kama Shastra Society

Burton had long had an interest in sexuality and erotic literature. However, the Obscene Publications Act of 1857 had resulted in many jail sentences for publishers, with prosecutions being brought by the Society for the Suppression of Vice (Burton referred to the society and those who shared its views as Mrs Grundy). A way around this was the private circulation of books amongst the members of a society. For this reason Burton, together with Forster Fitzgerald Arbuthnot, created the Kama Shastra Society to print and circulate books that would be illegal to publish in public.

One of the most celebrated of all his books is his translation of the The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night (more commonly known in English as The Arabian Nights because of Andrew Lang's abridged collection) in ten volumes, (1885) with six further volumes being added later. The volumes were printed by the Kama Shashtra Society in a subscribers-only edition of one thousand with a guarantee that there would never be a larger printing of the books in this form. The stories collected were often sexual in content and were considered pornography at the time of publication. In particular, the Terminal Essay of the Nights was one of the first English language texts to dare address the practice of pederasty which he postulated was prevalent in an area of the southern latitudes named by him the "Sotadic zone." Rumors about Burton’s own sexuality were already circulating and were further incited by this work.

Perhaps Burton's best-known book is his translation of The Kama Sutra. In fact, it is not really true that he was the translator since the original manuscript was in ancient Sanskrit which he could not read. However, he collaborated with Forster Fitzgerald Arbuthnot on the work and provided translations from other manuscripts of later translations. The Kama Shashtra Society first printed the book in 1883 and numerous editions of the Burton translation are in print to this day.

His English translation from a French edition of the Arabic erotic guide The Perfumed Garden was printed as The Perfumed Garden of the Cheikh Nefzaoui: A Manual of Arabian Erotology (1886). After Richard's death Isabel burnt many of his papers, including a manuscript of a subsequent translation, The Scented Garden, containing the final chapter of the work, on pederasty. It is interesting to note that Burton all along intended for this translation to be published after his death, to provide a competence for his widow, and also, as a final gesture of defiance against Victorian society.

Scandals in the life of Richard Burton

Burton pictured later in life.

Richard Burton was always controversial and there were those in British society who would leave a room rather than associate with him[citation needed]. In his army career he was sometimes known as "Ruffian Dick" and this lack of respect for authority and convention made him many enemies and gave him a reputation in some parts as a rogue[citation needed].

Firstly, in a society where sexual repression was the norm, Burton's writing was unusually open and frank about his interest in sex and sexuality. His travel writing is often full of details about the sexual lives of the inhabitants of areas he travelled through and many of these details would have been shocking to the average Briton. Burton's interest in sexuality led him to make measurements of the lengths of the sexual organs of male inhabitants of various regions which he includes in his travel books. He also describes sexual techniques common in the regions he visited, often hinting that he had participated, hence breaking both sexual and racial taboos of his day. Many people at the time considered the Kama Shastra Society and the books it published scandalous.

Allegations of homosexuality dogged Burton throughout most of his life[citation needed], at a time when it was a criminal offence in the United Kingdom. Biographers disagree on whether or not Burton ever experienced homosexual sex (he never directly acknowledges it in his writing). These allegations began in his army days when General Sir Charles James Napier requested that Burton go undercover to investigate a male brothel reputed to be frequented by British soldiers. It has been suggested that Burton's detailed report on the workings of the brothel may have led some to believe he had been a customer.

Burton was a heavy drinker at various times in his life and also admitted to taking both hemp and opium[citation needed]. Friends of the poet Algernon Swinburne blamed Burton for leading him astray, holding Burton responsible for Swinburne's alcoholism and interest in the works of the Marquis de Sade[citation needed].

Burton was also accused of having murdered a man on his trip to Mecca. The story was that on the journey he had accidentally revealed himself as a European and killed the man (in some versions a boy) to keep his secret. While Burton often denied this, he was also given to baiting gullible listeners. Famously a doctor once asked him, "How do you feel when you have killed a man?" Burton retorted, "Quite jolly, what about you?" When asked by a priest about the same incident Burton is said to have replied "Sir, I'm proud to say I have committed every sin in the Decalogue."

These allegations coupled with Burton's often-irascible nature were said to have harmed his career and may explain why he was not promoted further, either in army life or in the diplomatic service. As an obituary described: "...he was ill fitted to run in official harness, and he had a Byronic love of shocking people, of telling tales against himself that had no foundation in fact."Ouida reported that "Men at the FO [Foreign Office]... used to hint dark horrors about Burton, and certainly justly or unjustly he was disliked, feared and suspected... not for what he had done, but for what he was believed capable of doing..." Whatever the truth of the many allegations made against him, Burton's interests and outspoken nature ensured that he was always a controversial character in his lifetime.
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