A mysteriously obscure auto-biographical book
written in 1942
by a one Beryl Markham
, the book is her account of growing up
in the early 1900s. Even Ernest Hemingway
agrees it is "really a bloody wonderful book" and vouches that "the only parts of it that I know about personally, on account of having been there at the time and heard other people's stories, are absolutely true."
As Beryl moves through time in a suggestive and non-linear fashion, she relates her stories of hunting as a child with the Murani tribe, of the farm she and her father lived on, being attacked and "moderately eaten" by a large tame lion, and helping her first horse through birth.
The writing is absolutely top-rate, painting a vivid and engrossing picture of Africa at its most savage and delicately sublime.
My favorite passage:
"You can live a lifetime and, at the end of it, know more about other people than you know about yourself. You learn to watch other people, but you never watch yourself because you strive against loneliness. If you read a book, or shuffle a deck of cards, or care for a dog, you are avoiding yourself. The abhorrence of loneliness is as netural as wanting to live at all. If it were otherwise, men would never have bothered to make an alphabet, nor to have fashioned words out of what were only animal sounds, nor to have crossed continents--each man to see what the other looked like.
Being alone in an aeroplane for even so short a time as a night and a day, irrevocably alone, with nothing to observe but your instruments and your own hands in the semi-darkness, nothing to contemplate but the size of your own small courage, nothing to wonder about but the beleifs, the faces, and the hopes rooted in your mind--such an experience can easily be as startling as the first awareness of a stranger walking by your side at night. You are the stranger."
The epigram on the first page is taken from Shakespeare's "Henry IV," Act V, Sc. 3:
"I speak of Africa and golden joys"