Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Saturday, May 20, 2023

Trooper Peter Halket of Mashonaland by Olive Schreiner- 1897 - 25 Pages

 Trooper Peter Halket of Mashonaland by Olive Schreiner- 1897 - 25 Pages

(This story is available at no charge as a Kindle Edition.)

Olive Schreiner

Born: March 24, 1855 South Africa

Died: December 11, 1920 (aged 65) Cape Town South Africa

Although Schreiner had no formal education, she read widely and was taught by her formidable mother. From early childhood she had an active fantasy life. From 1874 until 1881 (when she went to England, hoping to study medicine) she earned her living as a governess; during this time she wrote two semiautobiographical novels, Undine (published 1928) and The Story of an African Farm (1883), and began From Man to Man (1926), at which she worked intermittently for 40 years but never finished.

Her brother William Philip Schreiner was prime minister of Cape Colony from 1899 to 1902.

I am currently reading an amazing book, Insurgent Empire : Anticolonial Resistance and British Dissent by Priyamvada Gopa

In wbich she mentions today's story Trooper Peter Halket of Mashonaland by Olive Schreiner as an example of a literary work dealing with the horrors of British colonialism in South Africa (Mashonaland was given its name by Europeans in the mid-19th century. In 1890 the British South Africa Company, a mercantile company based in London, established a fort at the spot where the Company’s Pioneer Column halted its march northward into Mashonaland. The fort 

 was named for Lord Salisbury, then British prime minister, and used as a foothold for further British occupation of the territory. Later in the 1890s, what is now Zimbabwe was divided by the British South Africa Company into two provinces, Mashonaland in the east and Matabeleland (the lands inhabited by the Ndebele people) in the west. Mashonaland, part of self-governing Southern Rhodesia after 1923, became part of independent Zimbabwe in 1980.- from The Enclopedia Britanica)

This is a very powerful story, I was amazed by the vivid portrait it presents of the rapicious cruelty, Greed, and hypocrisy behind British rule.

Peter Halket is 20 years old, the son of a widow who did washing for others and a common laborer. He enlisted to go to South Africa, entertaining a fantasy that he would return as rich as Cecil Rhodes. He has no problem burning villages, keeping indigenous women in near slavery, repeatedly raping them. He is very offended when the women escape, including a 15 year old girl he had impregnated.He subscribes to the prevailing view that the residents are incapable of ruling themselves and lack proper gratitude to the English.

One day he is separated from his troop, with barely enough food to survive. He is in fear of wild animals and natives. Schreiner does a marvellous job letting us into his mind.

Then one day he is joined by a mysterious stranger. Peter knows he is not quite white, definitely not black. The man reveals he is from Palestine. This is just such a beautiful story that I do not want to detail the miraculous transformation the stranger brings onto Peter. The thoughts of the stranger are deeply disturbing to Peter at first.

Yesterday I had never heard of Olivia Schreiner, now I see "Trooper Peter Halket of Mashonaland" as among the greatest of all short stories.

I offer my thanks to Priyamvada Gopa for bringing this story to my attention.

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