The Meinertzhagen Mystery: The Life and Legend of a Colossal Fraud

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9781597971607: The Meinertzhagen Mystery: The Life and Legend of a Colossal Fraud
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"Shredding his way through both Meinertzhagen's four-million-word diary and the layers of sensational anecdote that grew up around him, Mr. Garfield exposes countless self-flattering inflations, from Meinertzhagen's claim to own Darwin's pipe to his boasts of having casually killed any number of men with his bare hands.... Mr. Garfield manages both to prosecute Meinertzhagen convincingly and, by means of his lively prose, to keep us engaged." - The Wall Street Journal "Colossal - the term is no exaggeration for the magnitude of Meinertzhagen's frauds. Garfield has sifted through myriads of files and fallacies, and now, in a book I could not put down, demolishes the exploits that Meinertzhagen self-promoted into the history books." - Pamela C. Rasmussen, Ph.D., assistant professor, Department of Zoology, Michigan State University "Brian Garfield has done a marvelous job of unraveling the skein of lies, fakes, and fictions woven by one of the greatest scientific frauds of the twentieth century. He has created a nonfiction version of Thomas Mann's Felix Krull - a portrait of a self-invented man. Garfield also offers a unique point of view on many historic events of the twentieth century, while at the same time inviting the reader to wonder how much of what we've read about these events is true. All in all it's an astonishing read." - John Seabrook, New Yorker staff writer and author of Nobrow: The Culture of Marketing, the Marketing of Culture "Shredding his way through both Meinertzhagen's four-million-word diary and the layers of sensational anecdote that grew up around him, Mr. Garfield exposes countless self-flattering inflations, from Meinertzhagen's claim to own Darwin's pipe to his boasts of having casually killed any number of men with his bare hands...Mr. Garfield manages both to prosecute Meinertzhagen convincingly and, by means of his lively prose, to keep us engaged." - The Wall Street Journal, Saturday/Sunday, February 10-11, 2007 "A fascinating, well documented tour de force through the back streets of British imperial history during the first half of the twentieth century. In his methodical search for the elusive and authentic character of Richard Meinertzhagen hidden behind the public persona, Brian Garfield has produced a rare, intimate, and sobering picture of those who ruled the 'empire on which the sun never sets' from its peak to its demise." - Jay Shapiro, Israel National Radio"

Vom Verlag:

Tall, handsome, and charming, Col. Richard Meinertzhagen (1878-1967) was an acclaimed British war hero, a secret agent, and a dean of international ornithology. His exploits inspired three biographies, movies have been based on his life, and a square in Jerusalem is dedicated to his memory. But Meinertzhagen was a fraud - many of the adventures recorded in his celebrated diaries were imaginary. A compelling read about a flamboyant rogue, "The Meinertzhagen Mystery" shows how recorded history reflects not what happened, but what we believe happened.When Richard Meinertzhagen arrives late for a dinner party he carries a revolver in his hand. The party is in a posh British country estate. The hosts and dinner guests wear evening attire. For this company Meinertzhagen wears a hunter's jacket and a pair of rumpled military slacks over scuffed boots. He can dress properly when he chooses to, but among his friends and their friends he seems to enjoy the disapproval he arouses, especially among the women.His stride has the indolent menace of the very tall and very well-born. He makes his belated entrance without apology and offers the revolver to his host. The weapon is warm to the touch and smells of cordite: it has been fired - it is literally a smoking gun. Meinertzhagen asks in a not-quite stage whisper whether his host would mind putting it out of sight and holding onto it for a few minutes.Then he takes his seat as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.The guests around him are by turns startled, puzzled, awed, and amused. After a bit someone asks Meinertzhagen a question - something neutral, nothing about the revolver, of course. The innocuous question is enough to launch Meinertzhagen into an off-the-cuff speech.He is a valued dinner companion, lionized for his monologues. So high and wide that he is conspicuous in any company, Richard Meinertzhagen in maturity is like a great striking sculpture, with a falcon's sharp-edged face and hazel-brown eyes that swing from one guest's face to another with the gaze of a raptor: alert, hungry, ready for prey.He possesses a big voice - he can be heard by neighbors, through walls - and a magnificent presence, if a daunting one. Few who meet him ever forget him.Depending on the occasion and his mood he delivers a scathing - and often hilarious - appraisal of the current policies of His Majesty's government or of some foreign power, or the antics of omithological bureaucrats, or the offenses visited upon him by Soviet border guards or Arab princes or Himalayan soldiers. He is viciously and wittily contemptuous of the French, whom he claims to despise as the lowest race on the planet. When in a rare mood he can be cajoled to expound on the subject of the food he was expected to eat by a Bedouin host - his descriptions of such banquets can soar to hilariously nauseating heights.He usually can be coaxed into relating one of his keystone high adventures: the celebrated haversack stunt in Palestine in 1917; the massacres on (and the mapping of) the Serengeti; the terrible stalkings and counter-stalkings of his years-long conflict with German master spy Fritz Frank, whose wife Meinertzhagen admits he shot to death by mistake (she having been disguised as a man); his righteous battles with the stupid bureaucrats of various scientific societies and museums, who think they can tell him how to manage the huge collection of birds he has studied, shot, and stuffed; his vigorous firefight against Arab snipers on the beaches of Haifa where he saved a group of Israeli soldiers when he was seventy years old; or his several meetings with Hitler in Berlin, to one of which (in the Chancellory in 1939) he took a revolver in his pocket. He has wondered, ever since, whether he ought to have used it - whether he ought to have killed Hitler on the spot.Melodramatic and witty by turns, the iconoclastic colonel is a cherished asset for any upper-class dinner party.Not far into the evening, having caused a few men to applaud in awe and a few women to fall in love with him while others do not conceal their displeasure, Meinertzhagen rises to leave; he is an early-to-bed gentleman. Inasmuch as no police have arrived to inquire about murder, he murmurs a request to his host for the return of the handgun. The host gives him the weapon without comment, but perhaps with the sober wink of a co-conspirator. Meinertzhagen slides the revolver into his coat pocket and departs.He never mentions the matter again, and of course the host is much too polite ever to inquire.

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