Sunday, December 29, 2019

Reflections on Africa and the people who have lived there

Book highlights from Isak Dinesen's Out of Africa, a continuation. (First part is here).

Location 319, A Native Child
Here on the plain he looked extraordinarily small, so that it struck you as a strange thing that so much suffering could be condensed into a single point.

Loc 720, The Savage in the Immigrant’s House
The prestige of the Christian religion in Africa was weakened by the intolerance that one Christian church showed towards the other.

Loc 1054, A Gazelle
I know a song of Africa,—I thought,—of the Giraffe, and the African new moon lying on her back, of the ploughs in the fields, and the sweaty faces of the coffee-pickers, does Africa know a song of me? Would the air over the plain quiver with a colour that I had on, or the children invent a game in which my name was, or the full moon through a shadow over the gravel of the drive that was like me, or would the eagles of Ngong look out for me?

Loc 1118, The Shooting Accident
People who dream when they sleep at night, know of a special kind of happiness which the world the day holds not, a placid ecstasy, and ease of heart, that are like honey on the tongue. They also know that the real glory of dreams lies in their atmosphere of unlimited freedom. It is not the freedom of the dictator, who enforces his own will on the world, bu teh freedom of the artist, who has no will, who is free of will. The pleasure of the true dreamer does not lie in the substance of the dream, but in this: that there things happen without an interference from his side, and altogether outside his control.

Loc 1153, The Shooting Accident
There is something strangely determinate and fatal about a single shot in the night. It is as if someone had cried a message to you in one word, and would not repeat it.

Loc 1399, Riding in the Reserve
In their search for the lost child, their only guide would be the vultures that are alway s hanging in the sky about a dead body on the plain, and will give you the exact spot of a lion-kill.

Loc 1571, Waimai
Before I learned to speak Swaheli, my relation to this Native world of letters had a curious feature to it: I could read out what they wrote without understanding a world if it. The Swaheli tongue has had no written language until the white people took upon themselves to make up one; with care it was spelled out was it is pronounced, and it has got no antiquated orthography to entrap a reader. I would then sit and read out their writings orthodoxly, word for word, with the receivers of the letters in breathless suspense around me, and could follow the effect of my reading without in the least knowing what it was about. Sometimes they would burst into tears at my words, or with wring their hands, at other times they cried out with delight; the most common reaction to the lection was laughter, and they were continually doubled up by convulsions of laughter while I read.

Loc 1855, A Kikuyu Chief
He had a broad nose, so expressive that it looked like the central point of the man, as if the whole stately figure was there only to carry the broad nose about.

Loc 1952, A Kikuyu Chief
There is nothing in the world which to the Kikuyu holds the interest and importance of a cow with a heifer calf at foot. Bloodshed, witchcraft, sexual love or the wonders of the white men’s world, all evaporate and disappear near the great flaming furnace of their passion for live stock, which smells of the stone-age, like a fire you strike with a flint.

Loc 2062, Big Dances
Natives had not sense or taste for contrasts, the umbilical cord of Nature has, with them, not been quite cut through. They held their Ngomas only during the time of the full moon. When the moon did their best they did theirs.

Loc 2182, A Visitor from Asia
He had a courteous little manner with him, and smiled and nodded, as I pointed out the hills and tall trees to him, as if here were interested in everything, and incapable of surprise at anything. I wondered if this consistency was produced by an entire ignorance of the evil of the world, or by a deep knowledge and acceptance of it.

Loc 2350, Old Knudsen
Sometimes vistors from Europe drifted into the farm like wrecked timber into still waters, turned and rotated, till in the end they were washed out again, or dissolved and sank.

Old Knudsen, the Dane, had come to the farm sick and blind, and stayed there for the time it took him to die, a lonely animal.

Loc 2560, A Fugitive Rests on the Farm
The true aristocracy and the true proletariat of the world are both in understanding with tragedy.

Loc 2618, Visits of Friends
Therefore does the world love the Swedes, because in the midst of their woes they can draw it all to their bosom and be so gallant that they shine a long way away.

Los 2676, The Noble Pioneer
He was a very good judge of men, with no illusions about them and no spite.

Loc 2848, Wings
The early morning air of the African highlands is of such tangible coldness and freshness that time after time the same fancy there comes back to you: you are not on earth but in dark deep waters, going ahead along the bottom of the sea.

Loc 3697, The Earthquake
The feeling of colossal pleasure lies chiefly in the consciousness that something which you have reckoned to be immovable, has got in to move on its own. This is probably one of the strongest sensations of joy and hope in the world. The dull globe, the dead mass, the Earth itself, rose and stretched under me.

Loc 2955, A Strange Happening
I have told this tale to many people and not one of them has believed it. All the same it is true, and my boys can bear me witness.

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