The Inebriated Ornithologist

The wild adventures of a professional ornithologist - struggling to defeat alcoholism - working on the remote islands of the 'Forbidden Zone' of the Maldives in the late 1980s. Until very recently, permits to visit these islands south of the equator had almost never been issued to foreigners. The inebriated ornithologist arrives in the capital, Malé, after banishment from a Middle-Eastern kingdom when he was discovered abed with the king’s favourite concubine. Using falsified references from that king to the President of the Maldives, he is eventually financed by the President’s Office to produce a volume on the wildlife of the island nation. The author's professional knowledge and sympathetic understanding of wild birds is unmistakable, but then so are his drunken blunderings through the tropical undergrowth, leaving a trail of mayhem, confusion and even contempt amongst some of the people he encounters, but never amongst the rarely seen birds he meets. There is a wealth of new and rich material about the wildlife of these remote islands, the people who inhabit them, and their often misunderstood culture and traditions. This includes the world’s first air-mail service, using gigantic frigate birds to carry bark letters across immense distances of the Indian and Pacific oceans, as used by both the ancient Maldivians and Polynesians for thousands of years. Startling coincidences between the legends and folk tales of the Maldivians and Polynesians are revealed, which appear to indicate contact between those widely separated islands many thousands of years ago. The author also discovers the existence of a ‘Christian King of the Maldives’ whose Roman Catholic family appears to have held sway over the islands for over 200 years during the ‘Islamic period’, a fact now suppressed by the government of the Maldives. Amongst the flotsam and jetsam washed up on the shores of the Indian Ocean, the writer finds some very colourful characters, like the mysterious blue-eyed Goanese captain of an Arabian dhow who has strange ambitions to rule these remote islands, and the dispossessed but immensely powerful and wealthy ex-CIA agent who thinks alcohol is a means to rule the world. But he also finds delightful souls like the charmingly named "Didi' and 'Bee-fan' who have silently watched the disintegration of their island nation since tourism arrived in the early 1970s and now want to preserve their unique heritage. The adventure begins well, with the president and author on such friendly terms that the president places his used tea-bags in the shoes that the author has, out of politeness, left outside the President’s Office; and with the author partying and dancing with the president’s eldest daughter whenever he is back in Malé. Of course, it all ends badly, with a coup d’état in 1988 that almost brings the government and president down, and leaves the inebriated ornithologist well and truly scuppered in paradise, accused of being one of the main instigators of the coup d’état.
ISBN: 9781803024271
Type: Paperback
Pages: 452
Published: 10 March 2022
Price: $17.29

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