The Tribe That Lost Its Head gives faces to headlines

As The Tribe That Lost Its Head opens, Oxford-educated Dinamaula Maula, 22, is returning home to become chief of his people on the British protectorate of Pharamaul, 600 miles west of South Africa.

From that beginning, Nicholas Monsarrat weaves a complex plot about complex people trying to govern a country moving from colonialism to independence.

The Tribe That Lost Its Head by Nicholas Monsarrat

William Sloane, 1956.  598 pp. 1956 bestseller #8. My grade: A.

Front dust jacket of has white lettering on wood-grain backgroundThe Maula are, for the most part, simple people: herdsmen, fishermen, domestic servants.

The British officials in Paramaul are dedicated civil servants on good terms with the Maula population.

Neither group expects or wants sudden change.

Before the plane lands, Dinamaula’s remarks to a journalist unwittingly set the country up for savage, black-white confrontation.

Under the press of fatigue, self-pity, the goading of the gutter press, and the merciless African heat, leaders on both sides flub crucial opportunities to maintain peace.

Monsarrat’s characters come alive in a few precise words: “a human windsock,” “a professional sore thumb.”

The plot includes political intrigue, romance, social comedy, and military campaigns.

Underneath all that is an appreciation for the challenges of governing an African nation in the 20th century.

As news from Somalia, Nigeria, and the Central African Republic stream across our TVs and tablets, The Tribe That Lost Its Head is as pertinent as it was upon publication in 1956.

© 2016 Linda Gorton Aragoni


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Linda Aragoni

I'm passionate about helping people learn through the medium of nonfiction writing. Although I occasionally have an idea of my own, I mostly build education tools by recycling and repurposing other folks' ideas.

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