The Mulberry Empire, Or, the Two Virtuous Journeys of the Amir Dost Mohammed Khan

The Mulberry Empire, Or, the Two Virtuous Journeys of the Amir Dost Mohammed Khan

Philip Hensher / Mar 29, 2020

The Mulberry Empire Or the Two Virtuous Journeys of the Amir Dost Mohammed Khan A novel based on the British experience in Afghanistan in the s It has at its heart the encounter between West and East as embodied in the complex relationship between the leader of the initial Br

  • Title: The Mulberry Empire, Or, the Two Virtuous Journeys of the Amir Dost Mohammed Khan
  • Author: Philip Hensher
  • ISBN: 9780007112265
  • Page: 277
  • Format: Hardcover
  • A novel based on the British experience in Afghanistan in the 1830s It has at its heart the encounter between West and East as embodied in the complex relationship between the leader of the initial British expeditionary party, and the wily, cultured Afghani ruler.

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    About "Philip Hensher"

      • Philip Hensher

        Hensher was born in South London, although he spent the majority of his childhood and adolescence in Sheffield, attending Tapton School 2 He did his undergraduate degree at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford before attending Cambridge, where he was awarded a PhD for work on 18th century painting and satire Early in his career he worked as a clerk in the House of Commons, from which he was fired over the content of an interview he gave to a gay magazine 1 He has published a number of novels, is a regular contributor, columnist and book reviewer for newspapers and weeklies such as The Guardian, The Spectator , The Mail on Sunday and The Independent.The Bedroom of the Mister s Wife 1999 brings together 14 of his stories, including Dead Languages , which A S Byatt selected for her Oxford Book of English Short Stories 1998 , making Hensher the youngest author included in the anthologyteratureitishcouncil Since 2005 he has taught creative writing at the University of Exeter He has edited new editions of numerous classic works of English Literature, such as those by Charles Dickens and Nancy Mitford, and Hensher served as a judge for the Booker Prize From 2013 he will hold the post of Professor of Creative Writing at Bath Spa University 3 Since 2000, Philip Hensher has been listed as one of the 100 most influential LGBT people in Britain, 4 and in 2003 as one of Granta s twenty Best of Young British Novelists 1 In 2008, Hensher s semi autobiographical novel The Northern Clemency was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize In 2012, Hensher won first prize German Travel Writers Award, and is shortlisted for the Green Carnation Prize He also won the Stonewall Prize for the Journalist of the Year in 2007 and The Somerset Maugham Award for his novel Kitchen Venom in 1996 He wrote the libretto for Thomas Ad s 1995 opera Powder Her Face This has been his only musical collaboration to date.His early writings have been characterized as having an ironic, knowing distance from their characters and icily precise skewerings of pretension and hypocrisy 1 His historical novel The Mulberry Empire echos with the rhythm and language of folk tales while play ing games with narrative forms 1 He is married to Zaved Mahmood, a human rights lawyer at the United Nations.You can find out about Philip on his author page at 4th Estate Books 4thestate author phi


    1. This is an historical novel about Afghanistan (though not a traditional historical novel since, among other departures from tradition, what seems like a romantic thread comes to a climax, produces an illegal child, but doesn't end happily or even decisively). Another departure is that the writer is British but his title character is not Alexander Burnes, the Englishman, but Dost Mohammed Khan, the Afghan.Most of the characters are real, including both Burnes and Dost Mohammed, and there's a list [...]

    2. The Mulberry Empire is a historical novel (Surprise, right?) about "The Great Game" in general and the British invasion of Afghanistan in 1839 in particular. Knowing only that, it pushes all my buttons. The Great Game referrers to the rivalry between Great Britain and Russia for control of Central Asia in the 1800's. Rivalry is a very tepid word for wars that killed thousands of soldiers and civilians and destroyed cultures but that's what happened back in the days when it was expected that powe [...]

    3. I live for books like these, authors who can go back effortlessly in historyand make a novel of factual events. Philip has gone further in this one, notonly does a masterfully explanation of the era both in the then of Britain andAfghanistan, but he also provides a context of the personal lives of the maincharacters of his story, Burns, Bella and Dost Mohammed. It is a fantastic readfor anyone interested in the first Afghan war in which an army of 16000 wasslaughtered by the vengeful Afghans. I [...]

    4. As soon as I picked this up from the library today, I suspected that I'd read it before - and I had, back in 2002. This is what I wrote about it in my journal:This book began well, but it became lost in its own complexities. It doesn't purport to be much grounded in history except for the bare facts of the First Afghan War between the Afghans and the British but it certainly implies some odd events.The love interest just isn't convincing. Bella meets Burnes the adventurer, falls for him, he leav [...]

    5. Tiresome, endless, and by turns precious and sophomoric, this rambling set of barely connected story-lines around the 19th C. English venture into Afghanistan fails most where I really hoped it would succeed, in providing real insight into historical and contemporary events in that corner of the world. The many petty characters are painted with such excruciating and fanciful detail, that even though based in some cases on historical figures, the depictions are so absurd that I ended up dismissin [...]

    6. Slow and painful account of Afghanistan and Great Game shennanigans. Would have been more interesting to watch a plant grow. Well written, elegant but not a page turner at any stage. Was a great soporific when I could not sleep.

    7. This book is a hard one to rate, because it is at turns fantastic and boorish. The characters are pretty one dimensional (especially the women) and a lot of the plot is brutish. However, there are moments of sparklingly beautiful description and some really insightful interactions (despite badly turned characters to start with) as well as multi-threaded narratives. I love books (and movies for that matter) that use multi-threaded narratives. I think it really allows the reader to more fully expl [...]

    8. Enthralling historical novel based on true accounts. Brilliant language, its cascading sentences remind one of Lawrence Durrell.

    9. Some well-written vignettes only loosely held together. Some parts were fun to read, and the story could be compelling, but it ends up being difficult to follow.

    10. SPOILERSI don’t want to write lengthy reviews but I feel this book is provoking one! On the plus side, Hensher’s always vivacious prose, wit, and soaring imagination carry one through this lengthy read and overall I did enjoy this. However, I questioned some of his narrative choices and some of the important characters are dreary and flat.The Bella Garraway/ Alexander Burnes romance was entirely unconvincing and pedestrian - think sub sub sub Georgette Heyer (with no narrative surprises). An [...]

    11. No apto para apurados. Ideal para los que se cansaron de buscar libros.Creo que funcionaría infinitamente mejor una versión resumida y comentada, pero puede dejarnos un par de consejos a los que escribimos:Cuando quieras transmitir que el viaje fue largo y tedioso, no escribas un capítulo largo y tedioso.Cuando la historia esté resuelta, inventa media docena de personajes bien simplones y sueltalos por aquí y por allá. El libro gordo llena más a la vista.Fuera de eso, no está nada mal.

    12. Ugh. Okay, so I got about 200 pages in before I realized this book is not worth continuing. The writing style continually changes with each random character that pops up and there seems to be no point or plot. Honestly, this feels more fantasy than historical fiction. It's dull and I've given up on it.

    13. 3.9 An interesting take on an unusual period in history. Written in an unusual way with a number of subtle shifts in style which kept things interesting. I would consider reading more books by this author.

    14. Tells the story of the first Anglo-Afghan war in the 1830s. Everything is seen from the perspective the characters who somehow were involved directly or indirectly. the main characters are, Alexander Brunes, a British envoy to Afghanistan to woo Dost Mohammad Khan. He is a voice of reason within the colonial force who requests caution and restraints but fails. His lover, Bella, who suffers and lives a sad and lonely life in the absence of Burnes. Her dreams are shattered and lives a reclusive li [...]

    15. Originally published on my blog here in January 2009.What does the First Afghan War mean to people today? Like many colonial conflicts, it is almost totally forgotten, but it had a big effect on the history of British rule in India, and so influenced the formation of one of the great powers in today's world. The purpose of the war was basically to determine whether Britain or Russia would dominate Afghanistan, but it turned out to be one of the biggest military disasters ever experienced by a co [...]

    16. I give this book, depending on parts I either didn't like much or really liked, anywhere from 2 to 4 stars so the stars average out to 3***. I chose this novel beause of retelling of the First Anglo-Afghan War [1839-1842], something I didn't know much about. I was disappointed, because the conduct of the war was limited to the last few chapters and was mostly the final ambush and destruction of the British Indian army on their way back to the cantonment in Jalalabad. Only one man makes it back; [...]

    17. This is quite a strange book. Blending historical fiction (though the fiction bit should definitely be emphasised), romance, adventure, satire and pretty much everything in between Dickens, Tolstoy and post-modernism, it's maybe less a novel and more a literary show of force by Hensher. The thing is, though, that Hensher might've been too ambitious here. He's obviously an accomplished writer (which I didn't really expect, after reading some of his short stories and not particularly liking them), [...]

    18. I believe Hensher was a literary critic with a well known paper, has been a booker prize judge and edits new versions of Dickens etc so I was intrigued to see what he would produce. Hands up I couldnt write a good book in a million years but he has really exposed himself to critism with this book, should have used a pseudomyn. At over 500 pages this is a very very long book and of our group of 10 I was the only one who perserved and read it all. Trying too hard to offer something to everyone, se [...]

    19. This is not my usual style of novelspite it being my beloved historical fiction. I picked it up at a used book store, sat down and fell in love in the first chapter. After that things get sketchy. I was bored for much of the first third of the bookt so much with the author's style, which is beautiful and poignant and gritty, but with the procession of a number of skimming-the-surface characters. As we go back and forth and get to know each better I did find my heroes and the book held my interes [...]

    20. I like Philip Hensher's writing, and I wanted to like this, his first LONG-format book. Its problem, though, is its length. The First Anglo-Afghan War (1839-41/42)is rife with ironies and ultimate meaninglessness, but is it worth hours and hours of reading simply to have battered into us just how meaningless it was? Hensher manages to get in truly gorgeous set-pieces: Queen Victoria's cruel little smile and her hilarious attempts to pronounce a fragment of Sappho some imperialist has brought bac [...]

    21. An involved narrative about a little known time, the British invasion of Afghanistan, it centers around Alexander Burnes. As one of the first espionage masters, he does his job well because of a genuine concern for the people he befriends. Though this does him no good in the end. Fascinating, too, was the story of the woman he loves and leaves behind. Bella is left to face society while trying to keep her secret hidden, without the support of Burnes. Shades of French Lieutenant's woman and even [...]

    22. I bought this book blind; having read King of the Badgers and the Northern Clemency I wanted another book by Philip Hensher. I was a bit disconcerted to receive historical fiction rather than a modern soap opera or saga and was certainly put off by the oriental opening. So the book stood for a while, being passed up for other (I now know lesser) books. Tis is a very clever novel. The story of the first Afghan War is an interesting (and to me reasonably familiar) one. Hensher's slightly oblique a [...]

    23. I really loved the first book by Hensher I read, The Northern Clemency; he does something similar here by inhabiting the rather alienated inner lives of a large number of characters over time, but in this case, his characters are early Victorians, so that there's a strange double consciousness. For a novel that's about the First Afghan War, I found it interesting that the war takes up very little actual space in the text -- it's the lead ups that are most significant. On the one hand, it jumps a [...]

    24. As a reader enthralled with this period of British history, I was quite familiar with these events involving Britain, Russia, and Afghanistan's part in the Great Game; however, this fictional account put realistic meat on the bones of the facts. Hensher brought the stories to life and gave the various portrayals that personal touch that I enjoy in historical fiction. Having served in Kabul headquarters for four months last year, I must say some of the Afghan ways of doing business seemed vaguely [...]

    25. This is a novel that connects history -- it moves from 19th century London, to 19th century Russia, to India and Afghanistan. The focus is Kabul and how the Afghans defeated the British in the Second Afghan War. The imagery in this novel seers into one's memory. There are scenes in this book that I will never forget. I am not so sure how well this works as a novel. But as a history, it is just amazing.

    26. I had just finished Philip Hensher's "The Northern Clemency" and wanted to read more by this author. "The Mulberry Empire," a fictionalized account of the British empire-building and subsequent defeat in Afghanistan between 1839 and 1842, is larger in scope but every bit as engaging as "The Northern Clemency." Parts of it, even a century and a half after the events depicted, are terrifying. Anyone who thinks Afghanistan will be a pushover this time around needs to bone up on history.

    27. -Como contar unos hechos que desembocan en gran violencia, pero sin apenas retratarla-. Género. Novela histórica.Lo que nos cuenta. Relato novelado, que mezcla personajes reales y de ficción, de los acontecimientos y circunstancias que llevaron a la Primera Guerra Afgana, más que de la propia guerra.¿Quiere saber más del libro, sin spoilers? Visite:librosdeolethros/

    28. This wonderful story of the first British-Afghan War smacks you in the head just the way we presume the British were smacked in the head by a royal family they perceived as vassals and who turned out to be powerful beyond belief. There are some wonderful quotable passages about cultural relativism and the Mistake of Colonialism that do more to teach the story of why the British Empire failed than any number of graduate level history courses. A must read.

    29. Incredible read! Fascinating historical fiction surrounding the events (storming of the Bala Hissar fort in Old Kabul) that led to the Second Afghan-British War. Hensher does an amazing job bringing the characters in this book to life and writes in a taut, engaging style that keeps one turning the pages.

    30. I rarely bail out on a novel, but I'm calling it quits on this. Kindle says I am 62% finished. Hensher's prose is elegant, his commentary on the folly of imperialism sharp and oh so relevant but it's just too damned slow. I might have stuck with it if this all hadn't already been done- and much more effectively- in Flashman and The Man Who Would be King.

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