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01/06/08 - George MacDonald Fraser Is Dead

If the name isn't familiar, then perhaps you've heard of his best known character and hero of over a dozen of his novels, Harry Flashman. As Fraser's life spanned the better part of the 20th century, Flashman's life spanned much of the 19th. Flashman was a rogue and a poltroon. He had more than an eye for the ladies and did what he could to avoid battle. He was lucky with the ladies, but his battle luck ran against him. He repeatedly found himself front and center in face of shot and shell in the great battles of the era. Flashman met most of the villains and many of the heroes of his day, and his accounts of them were insightful and hilarious. Despite his cowardice, Flashman was a survivor of the Charge of the Light Brigade, Little Big Horn, the Retreat from Kabul, the Great Mutiny and the Raid at Harper's Ferry.

Now that George MacDonald Fraser is dead, there are no more Flashman papers to be revealed. It's a new century now, the 21st. Perhaps it is time to move our Flashman into the 20th? Can we imagine him having tea with Hitler and a dalliance with Eva Braun? Would he survive Hiroshima in the arms of an emperor's concubine? We can imagine him sipping cafe au lait with a young Pol Pot at the Sorbonne, or perhaps getting drunk at a brothel with Stalin having recently escaped from the Siege of Leningrad. Surely, there is room in history, for Flashman in Idi Amin's Uganda and Eva Peron's Argentine. He would have hobnobbed with Churchill and found himself on a Normandy beach on D-Day, despite his furious efforts to follow that countess to neutral Sweden.

Thanks to George MacDonald Fraser we can let our imaginations run riot. The 20th century offers much to a man like Harry Flashman who made so much of the 19th. Interestingly there is one place that it is hard to place him, and that is anywhere in the grand idiocy of the First World War. The war widow scene has already been written and the insane asylum metaphor exhausted.

Flashman's wry voice and self centered point of view gave us a wonderfully jaundiced look at the 1800s. We will miss George MacDonald Fraser, and this century will miss him as well.

Keywords: art