Murder in Mesopotamia by Agatha Christie


In the case of Agatha Christie's novels it often happens that I forget what the story was about pretty quickly, so I like to reread them from time to time. I read Murder in Mesopotamia before and I saw the television film as well. When I chose this book for a reading challenge I thought: "Isn't that the one when ..." It was the one. I chose it because of Mesopotamia, a country in the title, as required by What's in a Name 2016 reading challenge hosted at The Worm Hole. Why did I reread it, when there are lots of books that comply with said rules which I haven't read, out there? I wanted to read it not as a murder mystery but differently, I wanted to give the book a chance to tell me something else about it. I don't know if Murder in Mesopotamia told me anything new, but it certainly raised some questions, the most about the narrator, so this review will be mostly about her, her reactions, opinions and expectations.

Murder in Mesopotamia is narated by Amy Leatheran, hired as a companion to Louse, the wife of an archaeologist. The fact that Amy is a nurse only helps since Louse is nervous, suffers from hallucinations and has caprices. No matter what nurse Leatheran expected from her new job, she certainly didn't expect to be involved in a murder investigation. I didn't like Amy Leatheran, which isn't at all bad. The worst is when I don't feel anything about book characters and the nurse at times drove me crazy. She reminded me of some people I know, who only see bad things wherever they go. Usually what they see is not bad, just different from what they are used to and what they expect. Nurse Leatheran sees the locals as a bunch of scarecrows (It was the workmen that made me laugh. You never saw such a lot of scarecrows - all in long petticoats and rags, and their heads tied up as though they had toothache.), the archaeological dig is a mess (I can tell you it was a disappointment! The whole excavation looked like nothing but mud to me - no marble or anything handsome - my aunt's house in Cricklewood would have made a much more imposing ruin!), Poirot is a funny little man. How is he going to solve the crime if he can't even speak English properly? The nurse worries a lot about proper behaviour, there's no worse thing as eavesdropping or gossiping, even if it is the truth (in which case it isn't gossiping, but still not nice). I remember reading in another book that one likes dignified lie more than undignified truth. Some things are unacceptable to her. Once she says something like: "She wouldn't do it, she' a lady." To which Poirot tells her that being a lady is at best an excuse, but it can't be a reason not to do something.

I noticed that Agatha Christie often writes about young people, cheeky or independent young women. Here it was Sheila Riley, the doctor's daughter. Nurse Leatheran doesn't like her, mostly because of her behaviour, she says Sheila is selfish, direct, spoilt and always wants to be in the spotlight when in the company of young men. Sheila is the only one who says what she thinks about the victim, even though what she says is not nice, no don't-speak-ill-of-the-dead here. She is of an opinion that the dead are dead and can't be hurt anymore. However, when there is murder, everything is important and Poirot will decide what to do with the information he learns about. He expects that the people he talks to will tell him the truth as they see it.

In time Amy Leatheran changes her mind about Poirot. The funny little man is in fact smart, he's just a foreigner. Of course I knew he was a foreigner, but I hadn't expected him to be quite as foreign as he was, if you know what I mean. She helps him with the investigation and she likes the fact that Poirot values her opinion. When everybody gathers for the denouement, Poirot starts his speech with an Arab phrase used for the beginning of a journey. This phrase is a trigger for nurse Leatheran which makes her change her mind about the Orient. When she returns home and thinks back, she feels kind of homesick. I've never been out East again. It's funny - sometimes I wish I could. I think of the noise the water-wheel made and the women washing, and the queer haughty look that camels give you - and I get quite a homesick feeling. After all, perhaps dirt isn't really so unhealthy as one in brought up to believe! It looks as if the experience changed her somehow. Sometimes, I declare, I don't know what's becoming of the good, strict principles my aunt brought me up with. The same as the nurse's respect for Poirot went up when she realised he was quite clever, my dislike of her diminished when I read those lines.

I kept thinking why Agatha Christie doesn't write much about the local population in her stories taking place in the Orient. Did she just not know them or did they simply not interest her? I think she didn't really know them, so she wrote what she saw. I would like to know more about her view of the countries she visited with her husband, the archaeologist. Perhaps I should read Come, Tell Me How You Live, memoirs from archaeological expeditions in the mysterious East. 


* Words written in italics are direct quotes from  Murder in Mesopotamia by Agatha Christie.


*

Umor v Mezopotamiji sem prebrala že večkrat, tudi film sem videla. Pri Agathi Christie se mi velikokrat dogaja, da pozabim, kaj je bilo in kdo je naredil kaj in zakaj. Nekatere si zapomnim, drugih ne in te lahko preberem večkrat. No, Mezopotamijo sem se po večkratnem branju očitno zapomnila, saj sem takoj pomislila: "Ali ni to tisto, ko je ..." Ja, bilo je tisto. Knjigo sem izbrala zaradi Mezopotamije, saj se lepo vklopi v zahtevo bralnega izziva What's in a Name 2016, ki je za eno izmed knjig zahteval, da mora imeti v naslovu državo ali deželo. Zakaj sem jo potem prebrala, ko se vsega spominjam, na svetu pa obstaja nič koliko knjig, ki bi zadostile kriteriju? Zato, ker sem jo hotela prebrati drugače, da vidim ali mi pove še kaj drugega. Ne vem sicer ali mi je kaj dokončnega povedala, je pa vsekakor sprožila nekaj vprašanj. Še najbolj se mi je v misli vtisnila sama pripovedovalka in bom morda vtis o Umoru v Mezopotamiji obarvala z njenimi odzivi, mnenji in predstavami.

Umor v Mezopotamiji je prvoosebna pripoved Amy Leatheran, ki jo najamejo za neke vrste družabnico, dejstvo, da je medicinska sestra pa je samo prednost, ko naj bi skrbela za Louise, arheologovo ženo, ki je nervozna, ima privide in svoje kaprice. Ne glede na to kaj je pričakovala od nove službe, si gotovo ni mislila, da se bo zgodil umor in da bo ravno ona vpletena v njegovo reševanje. Amy Leatheran mi ni všeč, kar sploh ni slabo. Najslabše je, ko ne čutim ničesar, ona pa mi je na trenutke šla pošteno na živce. Spomnila me je na ljudi, ki jih poznam in ki povsod, kamor gredo, iščejo samo tisto, kar je slabo. Pa v resnici niti ni slabo, samo drugače je od njihovega domačega okolja. Domačine vidi kot čurmo ptičjih strašil (Delavci so me spravljali v smeh. Nikoli še nisem videla take čurme ptičjih strašil, vsi v dolgih krilih in capah, s povitimi glavami, kot da bi jih bolel zob.), arheološko najdišče je neurejeno (Kakšno razočaranje!  Izkopanine se mi niso zdele podobne ničemur, samo blato, nič marmorja ali česar koli lepega, tetina hiša v Cricklewoodu bi bila veliko bolj impozantna razvalina!), Poirot pa čuden majhen možic. Kako bo rešil zločin, če niti angleško ne zna prav? No, Amy Leatheran zelo skrbi primerno obnašanje, ni hujšega od prisluškovanja ali grdega govorjenja, tudi če je resnično. Nekje drugje sem prebrala, da je boljša dostojna laž kot nedostojna resnica. Nekatere stvari jo popolnoma zgrozijo: "Ona že ne bi tega naredila. Ona je vendar gospa." Na ta stavek ji Poirot odgovori, da je to lahko edino izgovor, ne pa razlog.

Spraševala sem se o odnosu Agathe Christie do sprememb v družbi, drugačnega obnašanja mladih ljudi. Velikokrat piše o drznih neodvisnih mladih ženskah, kot je bila tu Sheilla Riley, zdravnikova hčer, ki Amy Leatheran ni všeč zaradi njenega obnašanja, sebične in predrzne neposrednosti in razvajenosti. In tega, da edina brez dlake na jeziku govori o žrtvi to, kar si o njej misli. Nič na temo "o mrtvih samo najlepše" in podobno. Sama pravi, da so itak mrtvi in jih nič več ne more prizadeti. Vendar, ko gre za umor, ni obrekovanja, vse je pomembno in bo že Poirot ugotovil koliko je relevantno. Od ljudi, ki jih sprašuje o umoru in o žrtvi pričakuje predvsem, da mu bodo povedali resnico kot jo sami vidijo.

S časom si sestra Leatheran premisli v svojem mnenju o Poirotu. Saj je mali možic, ki ne zna dobro angleško vendarle pameten. Je pač tujec, ki ga ne more popredalčkat v svoj sistem pa tudi kako naj ve s kom ima v resnici opravka. Seveda sem vedela, da je tujec, vendar nisem pričakovala, da bo videti toliko tuje kot je bil, če veste kaj mislim. S časom mu začne pomagati pri preiskavi in ji je všeč, ko Poirot njeno mnenje in informacije, ki jih ima, resno jemlje. Na koncu, ko so zbrani vsi in je oznanjen morilec, Poirot govor začne z arabsko frazo, ki se uporablja za začetek potovanja. Ravno ta fraza je sprožilec za sestro Leatheran, da deželo in domačine končno vidi drugače. Na koncu, ko je že doma, začuti nekakšno domotožje do Orienta. Nikoli več nisem šla na Vzhod. Čudno, včasih si želim, da bi lahko. Razmišljam o hrupu vodne črpalke in peric in o čudnem, vzvišenem pogledu, ki ti ga dajo kamele, in občutim domotožje. Ne nazadnje, morda pa umazanija res  ni tako nezdrava, kot nas vzgajajo, da naj bi bila. Videti je, da jo je izkušnja na nek način spremenila. Včasih res ne vem kaj se je zgodilo z dobrimi strogimi načeli, ki mi jih je privzgojila teta. Podobno kot je sestrino spoštovanje do Poirota zraslo, ko je ugotovila, da je pravzaprav precej pameten, je moja antipatija do nje nekoliko splahnele potem, ko sem prebrala te vrstice.

Pomislila sem zakaj Agatha Christie ne piše pretirano o domačinih, samo omenja jih tu in tam, ko je pač nujno. Podobno je tudi v drugih zgodbah, ki se dogajajo na bližnjem vzhodu ali v severni Afriki. Jih ni poznala ali je enostavno niso zanimali? Čisto mogoče, da jih ni poznala in da je opisovala tisto, kar je pač videla. Rada bi vedela kakšen je bil njen odnos do dežel, ki jih je obiskovala z možem arheologom. Morda bi morala prebrati njeno avtobiografijo in knjigo, ki govori ravno o tem: Povej mi kako živiš, spomini z arheoloških najdišč na skrivnostnem bližnjem vzhodu. 


* Ležeče izpisane besede so vzete iz knjige Murder un Mesopotamia Agathe Christie. Prevedla sem jih sama.


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