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Mad White Giant

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Language  English
Pages  256
Originally published  1985
Page count  256
Country  United Kingdom
4.1/5 Goodreads

Publication date  1985
ISBN  978-0-571-20617-9
Author  Benedict Allen
Genre  Adventure fiction
OCLC  48932697

Publisher  MacMillan London Limited, Britain (1985); Flamingo (1992); Faber and Faber (2002)
Media type  Print (paperback and hardback)
Similar  Hunting the Gugu, Into the Crocodile Nest, The Faber Book of Exploration, Last of the medicine men, The Skeleton Coast

Mad White Giant: a journey to the heart of the Amazon jungle is a 1985 semi-autobiographical adventure novel by British explorer and author Benedict Allen. It details Allen's travels between the mouths of the Orinoco and the Amazon rivers. In the United States, the novel was published under the title, Who Goes Out In The Midday Sun?

Contents

Plot

Mad White Giant begins with Allen recounting the role of Amazonia in his childhood fantasies. The novel then describes the author's travels between the Orinoco and the Amazon rivers, a trip of over 1500 miles. During his travels, he befriends natives who refer to him as "Mad White Giant", or by his preferred nickname Louco Benedito.

Allen is later abandoned by his two Carib companions, Yepe and Pim, who go to work for Brazilian miners. Allen also adopts a dog, named Cashew, whose actions capsize Allen's canoe and leave him stranded in the Amazonian jungle. After a grueling period of starvation, recounted as a series of diary entries (actually written in one sitting), Allen decides to shoot and eat Cashew to survive.

Reception

The publication of Mad White Giant was greeted with some controversy. Allen was visited by two RSPCA inspectors who inquired about the welfare of his family pets. Several commentators doubted that Allen could have travelled his reported route within three months, leading to the cancellation of a lecture he was to give to the Royal Geographical Society. Allen admits that Mad White Giant is "unreliable" in terms of factual detail, a deliberate bid to distance his novel from the traditional travelogue genre. He also attributes any potential inaccuracies to the loss of his notes in a canoe capsizing, and in changes made to protect a travelling companion. Allen stated of his novel's integrity:

I think of myself as a very truthful person and it upsets me if people think I'm a fraud. The book wasn't meant to be a scientific document. It was an adventure story which veiled an angry cry against what the white man has done and how we are going about exploiting these places. [...] I felt I was being criticised for writing about a very real journey as if it was a standard travelogue, which it quite clearly wasn't.

Douglas Ivison considers Mad White Giant to be written "within a tradition of British writing, in which boys had to venture out to the colonies in order to learn to become men." He further argues, however, that Allen achieves a "transcendence" that distances his writing from the "imperialist and capitalist, even patriarchal, discourses in which it is embedded."

References

Mad White Giant Wikipedia


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