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Masai Dreaming Hardcover – May 30, 1995

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Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Random House; 1St Edition edition (May 30, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679438602
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679438601
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,719,897 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In a striking fusion of cultural journeys, Booker Prize finalist Cartwright (Look At It This Way) jump-cuts between past and present, Africa and Europe, the gentle Masai and a French-Jewish family who met a horrifying fate in the Nazi death camps. In the late 1930s,Claudia Cohn-Casson had been a dedicated anthropologist gathering data on Masai customs when an epic lion hunt she staged for filming ended in tragedy. Two Masai warriors lay slain; cameramen gloated over the carnage, snapping "fantastic" footage. Months later, this colonial cruelty found a parallel in Nazi barbarism as Claudia was seized in Paris and deported to Auschwitz with her brother and eminent father, a "collabo" doctor who thought himself safe. Narrating these events as well as the present-day action is screenwriter Tim Curtiz, touring the heart of Africa to demystify Claudia's life and death in a film intended to re-create many truths ("we are all Jews, all Nazis, all humans capable of anything. The movie must speak to everybody... "). But Curtiz works for a rich, sybaritic and eccentric producer who considers casting his transvestite mistress as Claudia. Or will he cast Julia Roberts, with Mel Gibson as Claudia's other, Anglo lover? Yesterday and today flow seamlessly into one another as the novel replays events in an ongoing now, like a movie that unreels, dreamlike, before the spellbound spectator.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Journalist Tim Curtiz journeys to Africa to write a screenplay about Claudia Cohn-Casson, an anthropologist who worked with the Masai and was betrayed to the SS when she returned to France near the end of World War II. In Kenya, Curtiz discovers three elderly people whose lives have been touched by Cohn-Casson: an English adventurer and aviator who had been her lover, a dowager who had observed this relationship, and the Masai laibon, or tribal leader, whose brother was executed by the British, perhaps because of his relationship with the anthropologist. Woven throughout Curtiz's account of his research and self-examination are two other stories. The first could be perceived either as Curtiz's finished screenplay or as Cohn-Casson's actual biography. This tale of deception, misunderstanding, and betrayal over cataclysmic moral issues is juxtaposed against the second story, concerning S. O. Letterman, an over-the-hill Hollywood producer who is bankrolling and casting the film. Letterman uses this position to seduce a young French actress, who has a few secrets of her own. A fascinating, multitextured novel. George Needham

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on October 14, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This beautiful and idea-filled novel is so daring in its choice of subjects and scenes that one is stunned by its cumulative effect. In what may seem at first to be an unlikely or inappropriate juxtaposition, the author contrasts the horrors of the Holocaust with the pastoral, and seemingly simple life among the Masai in Kenya. This never feels demeaning, insensitive, or inappropriate, however. By developing both these subjects, Cartwright is able to illustrate in unique and imaginative ways the wider universal issue of ethnicity as a factor in the search for justice, love, and a Universal Spirit.
On the surface this the story of journalist Tim Curtiz's search for the truth about Claudia Cohn-Casson, a French Jewish researcher of the Masai, who was betrayed to the Nazis when she returned home in the final days of World War II. Curtiz is planning to write a screenplay for an "Out of Africa"-type film to be shot in Kenya, and in his attempt to understand the "real" Claudia, he interviews both an elderly British ex-patriate, Tom Fairfax, who was Claudia's lover, and the elderly laibon of the Masai community which Claudia studied. Both men suffered great losses as a result of their contact with Claudia, something with which Tim Curtiz, also suffering a loss, can identify.
As the narrative unfolds, it seems intentionally to follow the hypnotic, circular dancing patterns of the Masai as it twists, leaps, and turns back upon itself, while gathering in the details of Claudia's life, the mystery of her disappearance, and the complications in the lives of the subordinate characters.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Ralph Blumenau TOP 1000 REVIEWER on January 23, 2013
Format: Paperback
It is the late 1980s. The journalist Tim Curtiz had written an article about Drancy, the centre in France from which the Nazis had deported Jews to the extermination camps. Presumably - it is never made clear - he had found during his researches that among these deportees had been Claudia Cohn-Casson, a French Jewish anthropologist who had been working for more than four years with the Masai in Northern Tanzania and who had been on the last train from Drancy to Auschwitz. The article had caught the eye of a Hollywood film producer, S.O.Letterman, who had commissioned him to write a script for a film about her.

Claudia's theory had been that it is error to think that there is a progressive evolution from the primitive to the civilized.

It is a well-crafted novel, but is one of those which moves backward and forward in time. The first mention of what happened to Claudia is in Chapter 2, in which she is in a cattle truck on the way to the camps - a vision of how barbaric a so-called civilized society can be. Eleven chapters then intervene before the next brief - and, as it turns out, cleverly misleading - mention of her fate, to be followed by many more that make no reference to it.

These chapters are taken up with Tim's arrival in Masai country, a description of its sights and smells (he is strong on smells), of Masai customs (above all, what their cattle means to them, and, crucially to this story, their code of honour which apparently forbids them to lie, whatever the consequences), a little of Masai myths and of the colonial and post-colonial history of Tanzania, and of his making enquiries with any Masai and with a couple of European old stagers who had known Claudia.
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