Who was the real Jim Corbett? A hunter who tracked down marauding tigers and leopards. A naturalist who spoke the language of the jungle. One of the first wildlife photographers to capture images of large predators in their natural habitat. A conservationist who voiced the earliest warnings about India’s dwindling natural heritage. A legend whose knowledge of the forests of India and the birds and animals that he encountered was unsurpassed. His bestselling books on shikar and jungle lore have inspired generations of wildlife enthusiasts. Much of Corbett’s life remains enigmatic, though two biographies have been written about him and he has been the subject of several films. In this novel, we see Jim first as a young boy of fourteen, growing up in Nainital, confronting demons that haunt the hill station where he was born. In the second part of the book, he hunts the man-eater of Mayaghat, a tigress who preys on labour camps in the foothills of Kumaon where forests are being felled to serve the needs of the Indian Railways. The final section of the novel takes us to Kenya, where Corbett settled after 1947 and lived out the final years of his life. We see this complex yet simple man at different stages of his life and witness his hidden fears and desires. His personal relationships with family and friends, companions and strangers, villagers and viceroys were all marked by an earthy compassion that set him apart from other figures of the British Raj. As the novel unfolds, we see with great clarity, the vulnerability, courage and integrity of Jim Corbett.
In the Jungles of the Night will surprise and delight Corbett’s many fans and attract new readers who have yet to experience his books.
Stephen Alter is the author of more than fifteen books of fiction and non-fiction. His honours include a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Fulbright award. His recent memoir, Becoming a Mountain, received the 2015 Kekoo Naoroji Award for Himalayan literature. He was writer-in-residence for ten years at MIT and directed the writing programme at the American University in Cairo. He is founding director of the Mussoorie Writers Mountain Festival.