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When two British soldiers parachute into Borneo in 1945, intending to incite a tribal uprising against the Japanese, they are shocked to find that one tribe is actually led by an Irishman who styles himself, Learoyd, King of the Muruts.  Initially resistant to their overtures, Learoyd eventually joins them in what quickly deteriorates into an incredibly brutal guerilla war, with disastrous consequences for himself and his newfound people.

Borrowing elements from Bridge on the River Kwai, Joseph Conrad, The Man Who Would Be King, and Shakespeare, the Academy Award winning photojournalist Pierre Schoendoerffer, crafts a brisk, violent meditation on the insanity of war and the futility of Western colonial pretensions :

    '...To devote one's life to...No, I mean to let oneself be possessed by another race is sheer
    delusion...It's selling one's soul to the devil.  A renegade.  There's no greater curse than being a
    renegade...Being a deserter, perhaps ? The devil can't be reckoned with.  One fine day you have to
    betray one or the other of them.'

In the fighting that follows, Learoyd, who the Muruts say is "...afflicted of God," must indeed choose between the needs of the Allies and those of his followers and the British officers must make choices between Learoyd, who has served them well, and the demands of the Dutch who want their colony pacified.  It all makes for an exciting mixture of combat, sacrifice and betrayal, with overtones of tragedy thrown in.  If it doesn't quite measure up to all of the author's ambitions, it's still well worth reading.


Grade: (B)


See also:

Book-related and General Links:
    -Schoendoerffer Tribute Page

    -INFO : Farewll to the King (1989)(imdb)
    -REVIEW : (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times)
    -REVIEW : of Farewell to the King (Hal Hinson, Washington Post)