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Sunday, 27 February 2011

Biggles Flies Again

My son has just started reading a Biggles book. I used to collect the works of Capt W E Johns when I was roughly his age, but 'Biggles Defies the Swastika' is one of the few of those books that I can even vaguely remember. Biggles is in Norway in 1940 planning what aid Britain could provide in the event of a German invasion, when the Germans actually do invade, and he has to get out of the country posing as a Norwegian nazi. Quite how he hid his clipped British accent I forget.

I was surprised to see that the book was published in 1941, when it would have been extremely topical. In fact, given the lead times for publication, I wonder if Johns's narrative was as overtaken by events as was his hero. I would have read it nearer to 1970, when WW2 already seemed like distant history to me. And yet it was in fact no further in the past than the Falklands War is to me now, an event I can still remember in some detail. On the other hand, to my son the invasion of Norway is as far away as the Boer War was to me as a child.

His previous book was a Star Wars novel. Here we have a shared outlook, although he will never know the sense of wonder audiences experienced in 1977 when we first saw an SF film with decent special effects (pace 2001).