“Babies are born every minute,” shenassures Solly. “And now they will benfree.”nBill Kauffman is author of the novelnEvery Man a King. He lives innBatavia, New York.nOne-Fifth Pinknby Chilton Williamson, Jr.nFlashman and the Mountainnof Lightnhy George MacDonald FrasernNew York: Alfred A. Knopfn365 pp., $22.00nAnticipating the latest Flashmannnovel is always a delight, and thennthere are the reviews to look forward to.nThe best of these are humoriess, priggish,nand hortatory, and read as if theynhad been composed by the writer withnhis left hand, while he was holding hisnnose with the right one. For bookmongersnof this sort, the fictional SirnHarry Flashman, VC — coward, cad,nravisher of willing women, and genialnoppressor of all people of color — is soncomplete a representation of the WhitenHeterosexual Male Monster in actionnas to have attained reality and becomenone of the documented bugaboos of thenunredeemed historical past. Their responsensuggests that, in Sir Harry,nGeorge MacDonald Fraser has createdna stereotypical anti-hero; paradoxically,nthe opposite is really true. Fraser’s geniusnis expressed in his ability to compoundntwo stereotypes — that of thenVictorian hero and of the Marxiannexploiter and butcher — with such skillnand imagination that the result is anfictional character of parts, alive and atnlarge in a world of multiple dimensions.nLet those who have ears, hear;nthose who have eyes, see!nFlashman and the Mountain ofnLight is the ninth volume developednfrom a series of manuscript packets,nwrapped in oilskins and discoverednmore than twenty years ago in a saleroomnin the English Midlands, thatncomprise the memoirs of the Victorianntoast who candidly reveals himself tonhave been as well the cowardly bully ofnTom Brown’s Schooldays. Working asneditor and annotator, Mr. Fraser hasnpublished the mss. in order of theirncomposition, which is not however anchronological one. Previous tomes depictnFlashman fighting in the AfghannWar of 1842, in the China War ofn1860, and with General George ArmstrongnCuster at the Battle of Little BignHorn (of which he was the sole,nthough unknown, survivor) in 1876,namong other events and places; thenpresent one is his account of his participationnin (and also his absence from)nthe First Sikh War of 1845-46, innwhich the Khalsa — the great “Pure”narmy of the Punjab — marched on thenBritish with the intent of driving themninto the sea.nAs so often in his career. Sir Harry’snmost dangerous involvements in thenPunjabi crisis were the direct result ofnhis strenuous attempts at avoidingnthem. In this instance, however, hisnoverriding concern for Number Onenled him, however unintendedly, to performnheroic and genuinely useful servicento his country — for which he receivednprecious little credit: “Most ofnmy campaigns have ended with undeservednroses all the way to BuckinghamnPalace, so I can even smile at the ironynthat when, for once, I’d done goodnservice (funking, squealing, and reluctant,nI admit) and come close to lyingnin the ground for it, all I received wasnthe cold shoulder, meekly enduredn. . . well, more or less.” On the creditnside, as a British spy in disguise of legalndiplomat to the durbar in Lahore duringnthe months preceding the war, henhad enjoyed galloping the gorgeousnMaharani in her palace boudoir (“rattlingnroyalty,” as he referred to suchnactivity), and admiring the Koh-i-Noorndiamond (the so-called “Mountain ofnLight”) she wore in her belly button;nhad his portrait commissioned by her;nand finally received an indirect proposalnof marriage, an idea he set decorouslynaside for the stated reason that,n”Mrs. Flashman wouldn’t like it a bit.”nFor a man whose skills and interests laynalmost exclusively with women, horses,nforeign languages (so convenient in anpinch), and careful observation (evennmore so), he appears to have comenthrough the ordeal well enough. Mostnimportantly, he had managed to benpresent at the crucial battle of Ferozeporenand Sobraon as a spectator, rathernthan as a participant. (Both engage­nnnments, by the way, are described splendidly,nand with great accuracy.)nIn the First Sikh War, Sir Harry’snnemesis proved to be Sir Henry Hardings,nat the time Governor-General ofnIndia. Regarding him, Flashman’snevaluation is astute, from both thenpersonal and the political standpoint:nI suspected that Harding’snaversion to me was rooted in anfeeling that I spoiled the picturenhe had in mind of the wholenSikh War. My face didn’t fit; itnwas a blot on the landscape, allnthe more disfiguring because henknew it belonged there. Inbelieve he dreamed of somennoble canvas, for exhibition innthe great historical gallery ofnpublic approval — a true enoughnpicture, mind you, of Britishnheroism and faith unto death innthe face of impossible odds; aye,nand of gallantry by that stubbornnenemy who died on the Sutlejn[River]. Well, you know what Inthink of heroism and gallantry,nbut I recognize ’em only as anborn coward can. But theynwould be there, rightly, on thennoble canvas. . . . Well, youncan’t mar a spectacle like thatnwith a Punch cartoon border ofnFlashy rogering dusky damselsnand spying and conniving dirty .ndeals with Lai and Tej, can younnow?nWith his assessment of the business ofnempire — how it is won, and how it maynbe held — Sir Harry is no less shrewd,nand most comprehensive, in his view:nYou’ll have heard it said that thenBritish Empire was acquired inna fit of absence of mind — onenof those smart Oscarish squibsnthat sounds well but isnthoroughly fat-headed. Presencenof mind, if you like — andncountless other things, such asngreed and Christianity, decencynand villainy, policy and lunacy,ndeep design and blind chance,npride and trade, blunder andncuriosity, passion, ignorance,nchivalry and expediency,nhonest pursuit of right, andndetermination to keep thenbloody Frogs out. And often asnnot, such things came tumblingnJUNE 1991/33n