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Story: Innes and Islands

Just when you think you’ve heard of everything written about the Maldives (in English, at least) you discover something new.

Hammond Innes’ 1965 novel – The Strode Venturer – partly set in Addu, strongly suggested the English author had been to the atoll, and his later, and more obscure, travelogue Sea and Islands (1967) confirms it.

As well as giving an unprecedented insight into island life, his 1963 visit coincided with the dwindling fortunes of the United Suvadive Republic. Political tensions between the British and Maldivian governments were strained and you have to wonder how he managed to get permission at all.

In just over 20 pages, Innes makes fascinating observations on local culture, nature, politics, religion and, of course, the British presence.

Always amusing – to Adduans at least – is the generic description of islanders in any work of this era: the men – “tough”, “wiry”, “diminutive”; the women – “fine-boned” and “big-eyed”; all – “small”, “dark”, “sensitive” and “full of laughter”.

We’re yet to find a Maldivian’s UK travelogue, though it’d likely describe a “large” and “pale” people, “socially awkward” and “full of weather-related conversation”.

Looking forward to that story.

Hope you find this as interesting as we did: