Shah Shuja’s adventures in Wonderland

Soms is de realiteit nog meer bizar dan de fantasie.

Een tijdje terug las ik het boek van Lewis Carroll
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in een uitgave van
van Stencilwerck.


Min of meer tegelijk lees ik Return of a King.
Een boek van William Dalrymple over Afghanistan.
Heel actueel!


Dan lees je dit:

Chapter eight: The Queen’s croquet ground

At this moment Five, who had been anxiously looking across the garden, called out ‘The Queen! The Queen!’ ………. There was a sound of many footsteps, and Alice looked round, eager to see the Queen.
First came then soldiers carrying clubs; these were all shaped like the three gardeners, oblong and flat, with their hands and feet at the corners: next the ten courtiers; these were ornamented all over with diamonds, and walked two and two, as the soldiers did. After these came the royal children, there were ten of them, and the little dears came jumping merrily along hand in hand, in couples: they were all ornamented with hearts. Next came the guests, mostly Kings and Queens, and among them Alice recognized the White Rabbit: it was talking in a hurried nervous manner, smiling at everything that was said, and went by without noticing her. Then followed the Knave of Hearts, carrying the King’s crown on a crimson velvet cushion; and, last of all this grand procession, came THE KING AND QUEEN OF HEARTS.
‘How should I know?’ said Alice, surprised at her own courage. ‘It’s no business of mine.’
The Queen turned crimson with furry, and, after glaring at her for a moment like a wild beast, screamed ‘Off with her head! Off–‘
‘Nonsense!’ said Alice, very loudly and decidedly, and the queen was silent.
The King laid his hand upon her arm, and timidly said ‘Consider, my dear: she’s only a child!’
The Queen turned angrily away from him , and said to the Knave ‘Turn them over!’
The Knave did so, very carefully, with one foot.
‘Get up!’ said the Queen, in a shrill, loud voice, and the three gardeners instantly jumped up, and began bowing to the King, the Queen, the royal children and everybody else.
‘Leave off that!’ screamed the Queen. ‘You make me giddy.’ And then, turning to the rose-tree, she went on, ‘What have you been doing here?’
‘May it please you Majesty,’ said Two, in a very humble tone, going gown on one knee as he spoke, ‘we were trying–‘
‘I see!’ said the Queen, who had meanwhile been examining the roses. ‘Off with their heads!’ and the procession moved on, three of the soldiers remaining behind to execute the unfortunate gardeners, who ran to Alice for protection.

Fragment van pagina 67 en 68 van
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Een verhaal voor kinderen met speelkaarten die
een hofhouding spelen.
De hartenboer (Knave of Hearts) is de lakei.
Iedereen kent zijn plaats en probeert ieder
incident te vermijden omdat de Hartenvrouw direct
over gaat tot het onthoofden van de volgelingen.
Verder in het verhaal blijkt dat niet iedereen
ook daadwerkelijk onthoofd wordt want anders
zou er snel weinig overblijven van de vreemde hofhouding.

De hofhouding van Shah Shuja overtrof dit sprookje
als je het volgende fragment over de gevluchte koning
van Afghanistan mag geloven.

A bizarre durbar assembled around the deposed Shah. The head of Shuja’s household was Mullah Shakur Ishaqzai – ‘a short, fat person’, wrote Harlan, ‘[whose] rotundity…was adequately finished by the huge turban characteristic of his class, encased in voluminous outline by a profusion of long thick hair which fell upon his shoulders in heavy sable silvered curls’. The curls were there for a purpose: to hide the absence of his ears, which had been removed at Shuja’s orders as a punishment for an earlier failure of courage on the field of battle. But the mullah was in good company, at least according to Harlan, who claimed that Shuja had developed the habit of removing pieces of his household’s anatomy whenever they failed to perform: many of the ears, tongues, noses and genitals of Shuja’s servants had been forfeited at different points resulting in ‘an earless assemblage of mutes and eunuchs in the ex-king’s service’.

Pagina 46 – 47 van Return of a King door
William Dalrymple.

De afgezette koning van Afghanistan, die verschillende
pogingen zou ondernemen zijn troon terug te winnen,
Shah Shuja Durrani, leefde buiten Afghanistan met
een soort van koninklijke hofhouding.
Die hofhouding kon hij zich onder andere veroorloven
door een jaarlijkse toelage vanuit London.
De Amerikaanse avonturier Dr. Josiah Harlan beschreef
die hofhouding en William Dalrymple haalt dit hierboven
aan: een verhaal van bedienden die een deel van hun
anatomie moeten missen omdat ze hun werk, volgens
Shah Shuja, niet goed uitvoerden.