Scotland, as seen by Bond, James Bond

November 24, 2011

By Nimish Dubey

Whatever you associate Sir Sean Connery with, it is certainly not writing about a country, even his own. The man, who many (us at included) consider to have been not just the first but the best Bond of them all, however, does have a writing streak in him. And it has come to the fore in Being a Scot, a book which he has written in collaboration with Murray Grigor.

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We need to get one thing clear at the very outset – this is NOT a Sean Connery autobiography. So if you are looking for juicy bits of Hollywood gossip and filmy talk, give this book a thorough miss. Nay, while Being a Scot does have autobiographical passages – especially in the beginning when Connery describes his childhood – this is basically a book about Scotland, written by a Scot. The tone of the book varies between the simple and the scholarly. There are Connery’s personal anecdotes about places and people (why he supports Rangers, for instance, and why he still speaks in a Scottish accent) to details of Scottish history and tradition, right from the formation of the country. One strongly suspects that the historical research bits have been dug up by Connery’s co-author (who is a writer in his own right) to which the former Bond man has added garnishes of his personal experience. And yes, there is a chapter on movies too!

But the strongest point of the entire book are its photographs. There are dozens of them, in black and white and colour, and even some reproductions of famous paintings. And what makes them really special is the fact that Connery is in so many of them – you actually see him progress from the raw callow youth that he once was to the almost elderly statesman of cinema that he is today. Yes, there are pictures of famous Scottish landmarks and people, and very good pictures they are too, but really, it is Connery’s pictures whether it is acting in a Shakespearean play or teeing off at Augusta or just modelling when he was really young that take the cake!

But does this mix of research, reminiscence and pictures work? Well, much to our surprise, it does. Being a Scot manages to hit the perfectly delightful middle ground between serious history and affectionate travelogue. The book is very well-written and an easy read. Of course, what makes it even more special is the fact that one knows that this is Sean Connery talking of his country. Although you can sense Connery’s pride in his nation, there is very little jingoism here. And of course, he never lets you forget his humble roots – “Leaving school at thirteen, I got to know the divided selves of Edinburgh almost building by building on my morning milk rounds.” he writes while talking about Scotland’s most famous city. And in case you did not know, yes, Connery did deliver milk before he got into acting mode.

Yes, the initial chapters can get a bit tedious – obviously Connery cannot comment too much on early Scottish history – but this is more than compensated by the latter half of the book, which is eminently readable, even if you are not interested in Scotland. This is not a story of a land written by  celebrity, but a book about a country written by a genuine patriot who happens to be well-known. Yes, we did read it because Connery wrote it, rather than because it was about Scotland. But in the end, we ended up knowing and liking the country and wanting to visit it because of our decision.

One really wishes some Indian “celebrities” would do the same for their country. In the meantime, read Being a Scot. Whether you are a Connery fan or not. For Rs 550, it is a steal.

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