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The Undesirables

When I started researching the second Anglo-Boer War for a project that would turn into the novel THE UNDESIRABLES, I almost immediately came across a picture that convinced me it was a topic worth examining. It was a haunting image of an emaciated young girl, Lizzie van Zyl, near death in a British concentration camp.

I thought I had a fair knowledge of world history, but it came as a surprise that the British were the first to engage in the widespread use of concentration camps during the Boer War -- not the Nazis during the Holocaust some four decades later.

During the latter stages of this war, which set South Africa aflame, the British burned some 30,000 Boer farm homes and interned untold thousands of civilians --Boer and native -- mostly women and children. The reported death toll in these poorly administered camps was nearly 30,000, victims of disease and malnutrition. That total was far greater than the combined casualties of the actual combatants on both sides during the entirety of the war.

Lizzie van Zyl.
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Great visit to the New York Public Library

I was in New York City to cover the Super Bowl, but I got a little time to visit the NYC Public Library. The place is a monument to word and thought.

A couple statues out front feature the words of Whittier ("Beauty old yet ever new, eternal voice and inward word" ) and Plato But above all things truth beareth away the victory").

Inside, Milton's thoughts on the value of books ("A good book is the precious life-blood of a master spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life.") enlighten those who enter the portal to at the Rose Main Reading Room.

The Reading Room (pictured) is a spectacular place to work. Not quite as good as the reading room at the British Museum (although, last time I was there, it was closed). It featured a Gutenberg bible ca. 1455

An unexpected highlight was an exhibit on the history of children's books. One was the book that Lewis Carroll gave to little Alice Littell, the girl who was his inspiration for Alice.

Another was a display of the original stuffed animals of Christopher Milne, which A.A. Milne used as inspiration for Winnie The Pooh. Read More 
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