How has it come to this? I thought while opening up the throttle and accelerating fast up the Amman to Jerash road. The Ex-Jordanian-army BSA thundered through the desert, and the corners of my Kuffieh flapped in the wind. I was Lawrence of Arabia. It was 1973.
What is going on? How has it come to this?
How indeed did it come to that? Well, 46 years later it is easy to see. Growing up without a father in the house has advantages and disadvantages. One advantage was that I was able to choose my own role models. At that time, my role models were the sensitive men of action - the soldier-poets who had seen a bit of life and who now wrote about it. Amongst others my inspirations were Robert Graves, Ernest Hemingway, Siegfried Sassoon and T. E. Lawrence.
But there was another writer, a writer whose book, "Far, Far the Mountain Peak," made a huge impact on me. I first heard the story in 1972 as a BBC radio adaptation. The theme was very appealing - twenty years in the life of Peter Savage, British civil servant and mountaineer. A man of ruthless will and ambition from his Cambridge days to his time of near glory in India, Peter Savage is determined to reach the top of his mountain at whatever cost. I had Peter in mind while I struggled up the final ridge to the summit of Mont Blanc in 1992. It was Peter I had in mind while suppressing a fear of heights during a climb to the summit of Monte Civetta in 1988. I am thankful to him.
However, Peter's life and career are rather cold-blooded in that the people close to him are essential to his desire for fame and greatness. Unfortunately, he is indifferent to his destructive effect on them as human beings. The revelation of his own false values is the turning point of his own life. His way to self-redemption is the climax of the novel. Peter's struggle toward light and goodness makes the reader care about him and I think we are right to do so!
The author of "Far, Far the Mountain Peak" was John Masters (1914-83). He was born in Calcutta and educated at Wellington and Sandhurst. He returned to India in 1934 and joined the Gurkha Rifles. In 1944 be commanded a brigade of Chindits in Burma. Masters retired from the army in 1948 and went to America. He wrote a series of novels set in British India. These novels include: "Thunder at Sunset," "Bhowani Junction" and "Nightrunners of Bengal."