A life in books

From Suez to Salford: a literary love story

Featured in

  • Published 20200427
  • ISBN: 9781922268761
  • Extent: 264pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook

NOVEMBER 1952: BERNARD Marks has just arrived in northern Egypt from Salford, in the north of England, to begin two years of National Service in the Suez Canal Zone. Faced with a rising tide of Egyptian nationalism, Britain – its empire still largely intact – is determined to retain control of the strategic waterway linking Europe to the oilfields of the Middle East. Sixty thousand British and colonial troops are stationed in the Canal Zone, their camps and trucks coming under periodic attack. In Cairo, Gamal Abdel Nasser is consolidating power. The Suez Crisis is four years off.

Two years out of medical school, Lieutenant (later Captain) BE Marks is a regimental medical officer attached to a Pioneer Corps company from Mauritius and Rodrigues, based in the garrison town of Moascar. The furthest the lean, handsome twenty-six-year-old from a working-class Jewish family has previously travelled is the south of France. Although Egypt offers much novelty – the desert, the camels, the heat, the exotically garbed locals – he’s restless. The work is humdrum, his fellow officers are ‘a lot of clots’, and he’s mostly confined to camp, seventy kilometres south of the Mediterranean port of Port Said. ‘My salvation is the [garrison] library, which keeps me supplied with reading material and mitigates my boredom,’ he writes to Joan Beach, back in Salford, near Manchester.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

If you are an educator or student wishing to access content for study purposes please contact us at griffithreview@griffith.edu.au

Share article

More from author

Trick or treaty

ReportageAS JACQUI WANDIN gazes out over the rolling paddocks and scribbles of bushland, she can visualise the scene a century and a half ago,...

More from this edition

Before the flood

GR OnlineI WORK IN a memory clinic. To be precise: a Cognitive, Dementia and Memory Service (CDAMS) in a large public hospital – but no...


Picture Gallery The body of Raleigh May, sixty-seven, lies in an open casket in the chapel of the Craig-Hurtt Funeral Home on North Main Street in...

The invisible arrow

EssayWHY DID THEY ask me for an essay about stopping writing? And why did I say yes? Did I tell someone I’d stopped? Have...

Stay up to date with the latest, news, articles and special offers from Griffith Review.