This paper deals with representations of otherness in a 1926 travelogue in which Osborne Henry Mavor (aka James Bridie) documented 'what happened to a quiet, respectable practitioner of Medicine during the years 1917–19'. Some Talk of Alexander is one of his lesser-known works, and according to Bridie's estimate in the preface, deservedly so: 'I cannot conceive how any man or woman could feel better informed or morally uplifted by it'. While such authorial self-deprecation is ever to be taken with a fair dose of salt, this instance underlines Bridie's struggle to portray the sheer absurdity of his involuntary adventure amidst the greater absurdity of the so-called Great War. Partly meeting and partly satirising expectations raised by the book's title that quotes the opening words of the military song 'The British Grenadiers' with its hyperbolic swagger, the narrative portrays the author's journey in kaleidoscopic glimpses of a fantastic Nowheria, a composite blend of Africa, Arabia, Persia, India, and the Caucasus.
The present essay examines Bridie's alternate adoption and ridicule of cross-cultural commonplaces in a collage of Conradian detachment, Greene-ish irony, and Twain-ish humour, with imitations and impersonations of Tennysonian and Kiplingesque voices, and echoes of World War poetry. Bridie's oscillation between identification and distancing is seen in the context of an ambivalent national self-perception placing Scotland both within and without the British imperial project.