Elephant Song .... artistic license???

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Elephant Song .... artistic license???

Postby MTM » Fri Dec 16, 2005 7:47 am

I am currently re-reading Elephant Song, one of his great stand alone novels in my eyes.

Must say though there are a few things that are getting my goat about certain inaccuracies I have noticed. Normally he is spot on accurate with facts about real places he chooses to use as the settings for his books. (My brother lived in a house he talked about in one of his early books ... the description was spot on!)

One of the first I came across was the mention of the colour of the ZIM$10 dollar note Daniel used as a bribe to use the telephone at Mana Pools police station - Why mention the colour of the note if you are going to get it wrong?

The second is when the border official tells Daniel Cheti Singh crossed the Chirundu border post just after midnight - that border post has never been open all night. It closes between 6pm and 6am and always has done.

A third one is the description of the shanti township on the outskirts of Lusaka - The southern entry to Lusaka is one of the only ones that does not pass through a shanti town.

I know these have no affect on the story but it just amazes me that when he goes into such detail about real places he can get it so wrong yet in other books when he uses real places and not fiction he gets it so right?

In case anyone is confused ... I was born and brought up in Zambia.
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Postby Nefer » Fri Dec 16, 2005 12:47 pm

Well, it's like you said, artistic license.

If it fits, use it, if it don't, change it.

Writers are very mercernary that way, because the story and plot line is paramount, not the actual facts, hence fiction :D

I'm also going to moce this post to the Forum on his other books, at it fits there. :)
"If I ever ask anything of you it would be to please consider life with an open mind and respect the opinions and wishes of others as long as they bring no harm to you and as long as you bring no harm or corruption to others."
~ Jason Mraz
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Postby WSI » Fri Dec 16, 2005 12:48 pm

that surprises me cause normally WS makes intensive enqueries before he writes a book.
Apart from that I never would have recognise these things
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Postby MTM » Wed Dec 21, 2005 7:23 am

I think the point I was trying to make is that the colour of the note and description of the shanti town are not necessary to the storyline so why even mention them in the first place? Especially if he is going to get them wrong?

They are points he would not have had to investigate as he would have known them anyway. It would be like an author writing "As he approached London from Heathrow he marveled at the way the setting sun accentuated the architecture of Tower Bridge" Anyone who knows London would know that you would not be anywhere near Tower Bridge if you were approaching London from Heathrow.

In other books of his his attention to detail is spot on.
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Postby John R » Wed Dec 21, 2005 12:40 pm

I see your point. This does seem strange, perhaps only Wilbur Smith himself will be able to answer this.

[b7] I've not yet read 'Elephant Song' Would you rate it as one of his best? Is it similar to any of his other books? and also what year is it set in, i'm hoping to find more WS books that are the same as 'A Time to Die'
in that they're set in the 1980's or 1990's i.e Modern Times. It seems to touch me more, as i can relate to it, whereas his stuff set in the 1660's or in egypt, i can't relate as well.
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Postby Monsoon » Wed Dec 21, 2005 2:34 pm

Elephant Song is modern day John, well '90's because it was written then. It is i suppose similar in many ways to A Time to Die, but not quite as good IMO, after all it would have to be a perfect 10 to equal that book in my case!
While a tiger eyed its prey and an eagle raged in a thunderous sky a river of darkness fell upon a burning sun and the wolf cried tis a time to die, thus did the angels weep as power and triumph in those golden eyes did creep.


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Postby John R » Wed Dec 21, 2005 2:37 pm

Agreed, 'A Time To Die' is perfect in my opinion, I did think to myself that it ended a bit sudden, but the only reason i thought that, was because i never wanted the book to end!

Also [b7]
I'll set up a poll for this book actually
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Postby WSI » Wed Dec 21, 2005 4:58 pm

MTM wrote:They are points he would not have had to investigate as he would have known them anyway. It would be like an author writing "As he approached London from Heathrow he marveled at the way the setting sun accentuated the architecture of Tower Bridge" Anyone who knows London would know that you would not be anywhere near Tower Bridge if you were approaching London from Heathrow.
In other books of his his attention to detail is spot on.

ok, even if you've been only one time in London u would see the (wrong) point. I see what u mean and you're right.
But nonetheless in my far, far away european view :roll: it's neglectable for the story, not for the inquests of the author (and his reliability)
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Postby MTM » Fri Dec 23, 2005 3:24 am

I am really enjoying Elephant Song. Then again I enjoy any book I read - I love reading!

Honestly though it is a good book as it has the stong African themes WS does so well and as previously mentioned is slightly easier to relate to as is more our time.

On a personal note it frustrates me because he has chosen to really run Zambia down which for me hurts as he is slating my home.

I have always felt he could have developed a series around the character Dr Armstrong. I would love to know mare about the charactrer's past. Who knows, perhaps one day we will have the "Armstrong" series?? I tend to prefer his Southern African books.
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Postby WSI » Fri Dec 23, 2005 5:20 pm

MTM wrote:I
I have always felt he could have developed a series around the character Dr Armstrong. I would love to know mare about the charactrer's past. Who knows, perhaps one day we will have the "Armstrong" series?? I tend to prefer his Southern African books.


it's possible - but everything is possible. With a realistic view (as good as it goes) I'd say WS continues either the Courtney series or the egyptian series. (whereas I would prefer the Courtneys, but that's very selfish 8) )
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