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The Mountbatten Myth

S. Gopal

By L. Collins and D. Lapierre
Vikas, New Delhi, 1975, 45.00

VOLUME I NUMBER 1 January - March 1976

The two authors of this book have over the years developed a type of book-making for themselves. The idea is to pick up some subject of recent history which is full of incident and drama, visit the site, read up as much as you can, interview such of the participants as are still around and then write a blow-by-blow, minute-by-minute account. There is a broad base of fact, though this is not very important; but certain events are highlighted, some personalities are exagge­rated and the drama is converted into melodrama. There is some research but it is submerged in imaginary dialogue. Nothing is done to warn the unwary reader that the authors were not all the time behind the curtains or under the car-seats with their tape-recorders. The result is a kind of Cecil B. De Mille on paper. One has the feeling of reading a panoramic film script. Gripping but not true; vivid but unreal. The writers have already tried their hand on Paris during the war and the creation of Israel; and now they have got round to the transfer of power in India in 1947—a subject, with its blend of colour, passion, personality and tragedy, which is obviously suited to their talents. They have done a lot of homework and the reader new to the subject will get a broad, general impression of the men and issues involved. The book also shows, on the whole, the right approach and sympathy. For the non-Indian reader, therefore, this basically non-serious book can be said to have some value, however limited. He will smile again at time­worn jokes about the Maharajas, relive the horrors of Partition, discern the schizophrenia of Jinnah and recognize the nobility of Gandhi and Nehru. But the fact of an Indian edition raises other problems. For most of us these general strands are parts of a well­-known background. Readers here are more likely to sniff at or accept the details which are claimed to be new; and this is where the danger lies. Collins and Lapierre have spent a large amount of time with Mountbatten and his version of events colours the narrative. Obviously, and understandably, to the last Viceroy everything else in his life since 1947 has been an anti-climax; and he has been incessantly reliving those events. But as time passes he sees himself more and more at the centre of the ...

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