Monday, December 19, 2022

The Exploits of Brigadier Gerard


Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is renowned as the writer of Sherlock Holmes. But if we examine his literary achievements, it doesn't start or end in Sherlock. He has written countless short stories and novels on a variety of themes and genre. I remember his novel featuring Professor Challenger, titled The Lost World, translated into Malayalam and serialised in a children's weekly when I was 4-5 years old. Later I happened to read his collection of short stories titled Conan Doyle stories and novel Maracot Deep featuring Prof Maracot. 

Recently I chanced on a collection of stories featuring a vain French military hero titled The Exploits of Brigadier Gerard. When I checked the history of this collection, I happened to know that it was written after Doyle got tired of writing Holmes storiesstories and killed him off in an adventure. While Holmes is about suspense and thrill, Gerard is more satiric and adventurous. 

Brigadier Gerard contrasts Holmes greatly. Holmes is an introvert and deeply profound character, but Gerard is an outgoing and boisterous man, who likes fame and adoration. If we read Sherlock Holmes carefully, we can identify that Doyle ridicules certain traits of his very subtly. In Gerard he amplifies the ridiculing to a substantially higher level. 

Whereas Dr Watson recounts most of the Sherlock Holmes tales, Doyle chose Gerard to narrate the stories himself. This helps the satirical tone by using the 'unreliable narrator' trope heavily in these stories. All the stories that I read has Gerard recounting his experience after his retirement to probably a village audience. We don't know the reaction of the audience, but it is visible that Gerard regales in his narration, congratulating himself in every opportunity. 

Brigadier Gerard fought in Europe along with Napolean Bonaparte and as per his own account, was a great horse rider, valient soldier and a huge hit with women folk wherever he served. He had participated in several major adventures, involving many prominent persons though none of these find a place in annals of history. By reading between lines, it is evident that he was always behind his peers in promotions and his superiors always viewed him as an expendable. He is of a trusting nature and gets into many compromising positions due to this character. But inspite of all these, the stories are colorful, soulful and elicite hearty laughter from the reader. 

The Exploits of Brigadier Gerard features some immensely hilarious military stories from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Stories are entertaining and light satire which proves that he is well versed in humor also. 

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