Author(s): Norman Lewis
Norman Lewis avoids the easy pleasures of travelling through the hill-forts of Rajasthan, visiting palace hotels and the Taj Mahal. Instead his travels in India begin in the impoverished, overpopulated and corrupt state of Bihar - the scene of a brutal caste war between the untouchables and higher-caste gangsters. From these violent happenings, he heads down the west coast of Bengal and into the highlands of Orissa to testify to the life of the 'indigenous tribals who have survived in isolation. As William Dalrymple observed in The Spectator, 'the great virtue of Norman Lewis as a writer is that he can make the most boring things interesting; whatever he is describing whether it is a rickshaw driver, an alcohol crazed elephant, or a man defecating beside the road Lewis senses are awake for sounds or smells, and he can make you think twice about scenes you have seen ten thousand times before the book is full of some of the strangest facts imaginable ...It is a joy to read. Other Norman Lewis titles published by Eland: Jackdaw Cake, The Missionaries, Voices of the Old Sea, A View of The World, Naples 44, A Dragon Apparent, Golden Earth, The Honoured Society, An Empire of the East, In Sicily and The Tomb in Seville.
Norman Lewis's early childhood, recalled in Jackdaw Cake, was spent partly with his Welsh spiritualist parents in Enfield, North London, and partly with his eccentric aunts in Wales. Forgoing a place at university for lack of funds, he used the income from photography to finance travels to Spain, Italy and the Balkans, before being approached by the Colonial Office to spy for them with his camera in Yemen. It was from his service in the Intelligence Corps during the Second World War that his masterpiece, Naples '44, emerged. Norman Lewis wrote thirteen novels and thirteen works of non-fiction, but he regarded his life's major achievement to be the reaction to an article written by him entitled 'Genocide in Brazil , published in the Sunday Times in 1968. This led to a change in the Brazilian law relating to the treatment of Indians, and to the formation of Survival International.