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The Book of War

The Book of War is slowly making its way in the world and has had two published responses. Writing in The Times of Johannesburg, Andrew Dondaldson called it "a brilliant, unforgettable debut, steeped in carnage..."  In the Pretoria News, John Boje gave his assesment: "a stunning debut novel, well written and... powerfully disturbing."

Readers can preview the opening chapters of the novel here.


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The ugly fact, said Cormac McCarthy in a rare interview in the New York Times, is that books are made out of books.

The Book of War was sparked by McCarthy’s Blood Meridian or the Evening Redness in the West and is scattered, fertilised, with phrases and sentences and images and echoes and ideas and jokes from that book. The indebtedness is not only to McCarthy. The prophecy/warning scene where the irregulars first meet the disordered missionary contains lines and dialogue from the equivalent scenes in Blood Meridian and Moby Dick. The scene has an element of collage to it.

But even beyond the debt to Melville and McCarthy The Book of War is built on the skeletons of, and pillages assiduously from, firsthand accounts of the War of the Prophet by Stephen Bartlett Lakeman (What I Saw in Kaffirland) and William Ross King (Campaigning in Kaffirland: or Scenes and Adventures in the Kaffir War of 1851–2). Most of the events described were reported by these men and many are attested by other sources. Most of what the Captain writes in his book comes, occasionally word for word, from Lakeman or King.

If readers wish to unravel the exact extent to which the various works overlap on levels of text and story I recommend the authors above, but the wild unspeakable hindoo odour belongs to Herman Melville alone.