Friday, February 16, 2007

"I have lived a rich, restless, magnificent life"

Nobleman, writer, adventurer and inspiration for the swashbuckling gun runner in the Adventures of Tintin, Henri de Monfried lived by his own account ‘a rich, restless, magnificent life’ as one of the great travellers of his or any age. Infamous as well as famous, his name is inextricably linked to the Red Sea and the raffish ports between Suez and Aden in the early years of the twentieth century.

Hashish is a classic tale of adventure in daring by one of the greatest adventurers of the early 20th century. The premise of the book is a classic example of the Fool embarking on a perilous undertaking: Henry de Monfreid learns that hashish is grown in Greece and sold at great profit in Egypt. He formulates a plan to ship it legally to Somalia and then smuggle it north in his ramshackle boat through the stormy Red Sea. But he has precious little idea what hashish actually is.

“After the dangerous play and emotions of this struggle it was going to be very difficult to settle down to humdrum coasting. To do this one has to be a wise old philosopher who has seen through the vanity of everything..”

I dream of visiting him in a little house by the sea, the telling of his adventures going long into the humid night, the smoke from his pipe keeping the mosquitoes at bay.

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