18 JANUARY 1957, Page 26

Not So Wild

Wrrfrotrr intention Mr. Malcolm Macdonald has given in this book a demonstration of his fitness to be a British envoy in foreign countries. He likes humanity: his book. which is about the !ban. Kavan and Kenvah peoples of Sarawak whom he visited often when he was Commissioner-General in South-East Asia. expresses his happiness in associating with them. Too often. British colonial administrators appear as dedicated to benevolence in the abstract. Mr Macdonald conveys that he really regards primitive peoples as his brothers, to be assisted but not patronised When he sees a Sarawak penghtdu. obviously he meditates. 'There, if the grace of God had been exercised in another way. go l—and would have liked it very much.'

Mr. Macdonald was disappointed when the Colonial Office, at the time of the Coronation. would riot agree to a Sarawak chieftain appearing naked in Westminster Abbey except for a cap of tall hornbill's plumes. silver bangles and crim- son sirat. They said that Westminster would be too cold and his health would suffer: but was that the true reason? Mr. Mecdonald's charming descriptions of people, institutions and landscapes are matched by his photographs. Unpretentiously he touches on most of the nroblems of primitive people coming under Western influence and changing their way of life. But his comments are in the margin of his narrative: he is not didactic. The charming central theme is the history of a beautiful Than girl who grows up. shocks her family by adopting Western dress, goes to a Wes- ternised school, elopes, is brought back by her father, is married against her will to a young schoolmaster whom her father had rather cleverly chosen, and settles down to contented family life. She is a kind of Natasha of the ex-headhunters of Borneo Mr. Macdonald's human sympathies are not limited to the Malays. He liked also the Chinese of Sarawak. Consider his tribute to China. 'The Chinese are the most numerous, the most change- less, the most enduring and, everything con- sidered, the most admirable people on earth. They love the lofty things of the mind and spirit, but they are also favourably inclined towards the physical pleasures of life. They delight in the world's prolific riches, in the fruits of the soil, the scented bloom of flowers, the majestic shapes of mountains, the blue of the sky after rain and the intoxication of wine. And high among the earth's gifts that they value is Roast Suckling Pig.' Yet with all this commemoration of roast pig, it should be noticed that Mr. Macdonald—and the old slave-trading pirates in the past—considered that the most handsome women in the region were the Melanus, and these grew up on an exclusive diet of sago. Mr. Macdonald thinks that when their beauty is discovered there may be a mass exodus from the dining roams of the Ritz and the Waldorf Astoria to little sago restaurants which will be opened to cater for the demand in Piccadilly and Fifth Avenue.