Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Black Bagdad - John H. Craige

Black Bagdad: The Arabian Nights Adventures of a Marine Captain in Haiti is a book by John H. Craige about his time spent in the US Military in Haiti. It was written/published in the early 1930s.

It is interesting to me because of its overt connections to the Nights alongside Western depictions of race/culture/strangeness/other.

Text below from the book selling website - http://www.scuttlebuttsmallchow.com/bgdad1.html

"A.L. Burt Company, NY & Chicago, 1933. By arrangement with Minton Balch & Co., VG+/VG--. Second Impression (April 1933).

This was one of the first books to bring voodoo to the attention of the outer world. Jacket blurb (ca. 1933): "No one has seen Haiti more intimately than Capt Craige of the U.S. Marine Corps. For a number of years he was loaned to the Haitian Government and served as a white officer of the black troops of that republic. His first duty was in a wild & mountainous interior district nearly half as large as the State of New Jersey. Here the inhabitants shuffled on the sides of their feet. Some of them had peanut-heads and could not straighten their knee-joints.

Captain Craige learned their language, on which he is an authority. He went to their dances, attended their funerals, studied their weird, primitive religion,-- the voodoo. The natives called him Papa Blanc, White Father. Then he was called to take charge of the Police Force of Port au Prince, capital of Haiti. He found the city a black Bagdad full of happenings & tales as fantastic, exciting & beautiful as any Scheherazade related of the days of Haroun al Raschid. Voodoo rites, cannibalism, black magic, *wangas* were all part of his daily routine.

He tells the story in distinguished prose that carries the reader breathless from the opening paragraph to the last sentence. That a Marine officer could write such a book is remarkable, but Captain Craige is a remarkable man. In his youth he studied divinity and is acquainted with the classical tongues as well as several of the languages of western Europe. His adult life as described in a "Profile" in the *New Yorker* sounds like the exploits of a modern D'Artagnan: he has been a professional gambler, a gold miner in Alaska, heavy-weight champion of France, a sailor, a newspaper man, to mention only a few of his non-military activities. He has served under the flags of Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua & Honduras, as well as the Stars & Stripes-- and he still carries a Mexican bullet around with him. At present Captain Craige is in charge of the publicity bureau of the Marine Corps."

No comments:

Post a Comment