Desert Encounter by Knud Hohnboe (Harrap, 9s.) Reviewed by DOUGLAS V. DUFF.
If I had not met Knud Holmboc a few weeks before he was killed by Bedouins I should have been likely to consider that some of his stories in Desert Encounter were a little bit too highly coloured, I refer to his descriptions of the Italian administration in Cyrenaica. But having seen him, I recall the almost passionate flame of stark sincerity and fruits which consumed him, and I can, therefore, do nothing but implicitly believe that what he sets down is cold and sober fact.
In truth there is an ever-quickening tempo of indignation pulsing throughout his pages which carries conviction with it. His anger is not directed against Italy, but against some of her servants in those colonies, and he does not forget to speak favourably of those officers he met who were fair and just to the Arabs under their control.
His adventures on that amazing motorcar journey across Northern Africa are thrilling enough to satisfy even the most rabid fiction-addict, and they have the
added merit of being strictly true. Mr. Holmboe's restraint in telling them makes them all the more vivid. The tale of his frightful ten days of wandering in the Libyan Desert is told without heroics, is free from mock modesty, and yet gains in vividness by the quiet way in which he relates it.
The book is full of authentic local colour, there is no doubt that the author understood and loved the Arab, more, he had penetrated beneath that chilling crust of reserve, almost of contempt. with which the Son of Islam regards all who are of other creeds. Perhaps the fact he professed the Faith of the Prophet, apparently with complete sincerity, gave him this fresh viewpoint upon a most ancient people.
In all, Desert Encounter is a book to be read by all who love a good, gripping story of adventure, by those who wish to understand the Arab and the troubled politics of the North African littoral, and, lastly. by those who wish to know what the probable fate of the new Italian conquests in Ethiopia will be judging by the recent past of Italian colonial administration.
Lastly, thanks should be tendered to Helga Holbek for a most admirable translation from the original Danish, though I find it hard to agree with Mr. J. H. Dri berg, who says in his preface that by the death of Holmboe, we have lost a second Lawrence. Surely. bar the fact that they both loved and worked with the Arab, there have never been two men more fundamentally opposite.