Duberman, Martin. “Luminous Traitor: The Just and Daring Life of Roger Casement, a Biographical Novel”, University of California Press, 2018.
A Renowned Figure
At the beginning of the twentieth century, Roger Casement was an internationally renowned figure. He was famous for exposing the widespread atrocities against the indigenous people in King Leopold’s Congo and his subsequently exposed (for which he was knighted in 1911) the brutal conditions of enslaved labor in Peru. Casement was an Irish nationalist of profound conviction. At the outbreak World War, I, he tried to obtain German support and weapons for an armed rebellion against British rule. He was both apprehended and convicted of treason in a notorious trial that captured the attention of the world and he was sentenced to die on the gallows. A powerful petition drive for the commutation of his sentence was inaugurated by George Bernard Shaw and a host of other influential figures.
Casement was a gay man who kept detailed diaries of his sexual escapades, and the British government, circulated pages of the diaries to public figures, thus severely hurting what had been a mounting petition for clemency. In 1916, Casement was hanged. Historian Martin Duberman gives us a full portrait of Casement for the first time. The traces his evolution from servant of the empire to his work as a humanitarian activist and anti-imperialist. We learn all about Casement from the professional to the personal—of his fantastic life as a pioneer for human rights.
Casement was an extraordinary historical figure who has been ignored too long and Duberman breathes life into him as he gives the man the justice he deserves. We enter into Roger Casement’s world and the haunting tragedies he faced. We see Sir Roger Casement’s wonderful and tragic life, from when he exploitation of indigenous people in the Putumayo region of the Amazon. I had not heard pf Casement since I was an undergraduate, so it was good to get to know him again. Casement’s homosexuality was denied by a Republican who refused to allow that an Irish patriot could be both such and also gay, but we see in Casement’s diaries that his sexuality is woven into the narrative.