5 July 2009

Giles Foden, The Last King of Scotland, 1998

By the end of his eight-year rule in 1979 Amin was established in the British media as both a perplexingly charismatic figure of ridicule, and an inept and dangerous dictator with the blood of half a million Ugandans on his hands. Out of necessity Foden first had to focus on what made Amin so personable and hypnotic a character, after which he gradually takes the reader across a very distinct line into Amin’s dark side as his personal physician Nicholas Garrigan learns the truth (the hard way) about Amin’s excesses and abuses. The truth of the real Amin’s relationship with those he employed was probably somewhat different as he was both intimidated and threatened when surrounded by people of greater intellect than himself, though at the same time he was scarcely able to exercise restraint when keeping a personal stranglehold on power. Foden has also threaded his story around real events by weaving in several fictional news cuttings amongst the facts and maybe has added too much sparkle to Amin’s character, but for the most part it’s convincing, often drawing as much on the Ugandan landscape as on Amin himself, and the result is an engagingly audacious read. I expect even Amin himself would have approved.   PY

  The Last King of Scotland was the winner of the 1998 Whitbread First Novel Award.


No comments: