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The distant, sealed-off, blue Naga hills
on 27 October 2012
I struggled hard with this book and found it excellent late night reading as my eyes started to droop after a few paragraphs.
A few times the author refers in passing to travelling to Nagaland via a long trek down from the foothills of the Himalayas, and that is the book I wish this one had been. He hints at having special access but it is never pursued or described.
Instead this is a meandering, repetitive account, interspersed with tales of how Australian Aborigines, locals in Provence and Jordan, treat the author as an intimate, not a run of the mill tourist. There is a strong impression that he longs to be a Wilfred Thesiger, or Gavin Young - but we never really get under the skin of the Nagas, and in fact with their headhunting, internal squabbling ("tearing themselves apart") and eating and using feathers from birds that "would be extinct by the end of the day" I found them unappealing. There was an almost unsuitably gleeful tone to the suggestion that they still practice headhunting today as if it were a trifling peccadillo.
From about page 130 the book does greatly pick up interest, with the onset of the second world war. I am sure it is meticulously and lovingly researched and the book convinced me that the Nagas have been shabbily treated.