Nazi flag on Nanga Parbat
“The Last Englishmen is Deborah Baker’s most creatively conceived, deeply delving, and wizardly blend of biography and history to date … With a uniquely encompassing vision, command of complex information, and profound insight, she dramatically chronicles the seminal scientific and artistic explorations of four courageous, ingenious brothers whose achievements enrich our understanding of the still-molten, sharply relevant past.”
The Last Englishmen
Love, War and the End of Empire
Winner of the 2019 Himalayan Club Kekoo Naoroji Award
John Auden was a pioneering geologist of the Himalayas. Michael Spender was the first to survey the northern approach to the summit of Mount Everest. While their younger brothers — W. H. Auden and Stephen Spender — achieved literary fame, they vied to be included on an expedition that would deliver Everest’s summit to an Englishman, a quest that had become a metaphor for Britain’s struggle to maintain power over India. To this rivalry was added another: in the summer of 1938 both men fell in love with a painter named Nancy Sharp. Her choice would determine where each man’s wartime loyalties would lie. Set in Calcutta, London, the glacier-locked wilds of the Karakoram, and on Everest itself, The Last Englishmen is also the story of a generation. The cast of the drama includes Indian and English writers and artists, explorers and communist spies, Die Hards and Indian nationalists, political rogues and police informers. Key among them is a highborn Bengali named Sudhindranath Datta, a melancholy soul torn between hatred of the British Empire and a deep love of European literature, a poet whose life would be upended by the arrival of war on his Calcutta doorstep. Dense with romance and intrigue, and of startling relevance for the great power games of our own day, The Last Englishmen is an engrossing story that traces the end of empire and the stirring of a new world order.
Chatto & Windus (UK)
Penguin Viking (India)