Nyasaland: The Land of the Lake

Nyasaland: The Land of the Lake

Nyasaland: The Land of the Lake

Nyasaland: The Land of the Lake

Excerpt

To a passing visitor a country is what he makes of it, compounded of his reception, his own background, and a welter of other influences on his mind.

To a reader seeking knowledge of a country it is apt to become what smart phrases in the Press have given him, whether they be quips of sarcasm or puffs of praise.

This book, therefore, can only present Nyasaland as what the author made of it, biased no doubt in some directions, ignorant perhaps in others, but it can at least begin with a word or two on what others have made of it.

In this age of hustle we like our descriptions to be brief and cryptic, and we are apt to accept headlines in the tabloid Press as the background for the picture we hope to fix in our minds. If we lay on enough of such potted phrases, balancing the fulsome ones against the derogatory, we may, I suppose, arrive at a reasonable canvas, but if we pick and choose our paragraphs to suit our fancy we may go very wrong indeed and end with a scene which is far too gaudy or far too sombre, or more likely still, just plain muddle.

When planning this book I did, I believe, promise a V.I.P. at the Colonial Office that I would do my best to avoid calling Nyasaland the 'Switzerland of Africa', yet here it is on the very first page. It is culled, of course, from a guide book, and, like most phrases from such a source, it requires pruning. We can lop off snow-capped peaks at once and glistening glaciers and funiculars and indeed most of the trappings of the Alps as we know them, and we can, if we like, snort with impatience at the glib simile. Yet if we do not push it too far we have one necessary element in our impression of the country, which is one of sharp contrasts in relief and in climate and, therefore, like the Switzerland of our holidays, it has mountains to be climbed, scenery for the artist, and the whole gamut of temperatures and vegetation that one associates with a range of altitude from nearly sea-level to 10,000 feet above it.

If we must cling to the faint analogy, since it is always easier . . .

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