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Green Hills of Africa Paperback – February 8, 1996
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We were sitting in the blind that Wanderobo hunters had built of twigs and branches at the edge of the salt-lick when we heard the truck coming. At first it was far away and no one could tell what the noise was. Then it was stopped and we hoped it had been nothing or perhaps only the wind. Then it moved slowly nearer, unmistakable now, louder and louder until, agonizing in a clank of loud irregular explosions, it passed close behind us to go on up the road. The theatrical one of the two trackers stood up.
"It is finished," he said.
I put my hand to my mouth and motioned him down.
"It is finished," he said again and spread his arms wide. I had never liked him and I liked him less now.
"After," I whispered. M'Cola shook his head. I looked at his bald black skull and he turned his face a little so that I saw the thin Chinese hairs at the corners of his mouth.
"No good," he said. "Hapana m'uzuri."
"Wait a little," I told him. He bent his head down again so that it would not show above the dead branches and we sat there in the dust of the hole until it was too dark to see the front sight on my rifle; but nothing more came. The theatrical tracker was impatient and restless. A little before the last of the light was gone he whispered to M'Cola that it was now too dark to shoot.
"Shut up, you," M'Cola told him. "The Bwana can shoot after you cannot see."
The other tracker, the educated one, gave another demonstration of his education by scratching his name, Abdullah, on the black skin of his leg with a sharp twig. I watched without admiration and M'Cola looked at the word without a shadow of expression on his face. After a while the tracker scratched it out.
Finally I made a last sight against what was left of the light and saw it was no use, even with the large aperture.
M'Cola was watching.
"No good," I said.
"Yes," he agreed, in Swahili. "Go to camp?"
We stood up and made our way out of the blind and out through the trees, walking on the sandy loam, feeling our way between trees and under branches, back to the road. A mile along the road was the car. As we came alongside, Kamau, the driver, put the lights on.
The truck had spoiled it. That afternoon we had left the car up the road and approached the salt-lick very carefully. There had been a little rain, the day before, though not enough to flood the lick, which was simply an opening in the trees with a patch of earth worn into deep circles and grooved at the edges with hollows where the animals had licked the dirt for salt, and we had seen long, heart-shaped, fresh tracks of four greater kudu bulls that had been on the salt the night before, as well as many newly pressed tracks of lesser kudu. There was also a rhino who, from the tracks and the kicked-up mound of strawy dung, came there each night. The blind had been built at close arrow-shot of the lick and sitting, leaning back, knees high, heads low, in a hollow half full of ashes and dust, watching through the dried leaves and thin branches I had seen a lesser kudu bull come out of the brush to the edge of the opening where the salt was and stand there, heavy-necked, gray, and handsome, the horns spiralled against the sun while I sighted on his chest and then refused the shot, wanting not to frighten the greater kudu that should surely come at dusk. But before we ever heard the truck the bull had heard it and run off into the trees and everything else that had been moving, in the bush on the flats, or coming down from the small hills through the trees, coming toward the salt, had halted at that exploding, clanking sound. They would come, later, in the dark; but then it would be too late.
So now, going along the sandy track of the road in the car, the lights picking out the eyes of night birds that squatted close on the sand until the bulk of the car was on them and they rose in soft panic; passing the fires of the travellers that all moved to the westward by day along this road, abandoning the famine country that was ahead of us; me sitting, the butt of my rifle on my foot, the barrel in the crook of my left arm, a flask of whiskey between my knees, pouring the whiskey into a tin cup and passing it over my shoulder in the dark for M'Cola to pour water into it from the canteen, drinking this, the first one of the day, the finest one there is, and looking at the thick bush we passed in the dark, feeling the cool wind of the night and smelling the good smell of Africa, I was altogether happy.
Then ahead we saw a big fire and as we came up and passed, I made out a truck beside the road. I told Kamau to stop and go back and as we backed into the firelight there was a short, bandy-legged man with a Tyroler hat, leather shorts, and an open shirt standing before an un-hooded engine in a crowd of natives.
"Can we help?" I asked him.
"No," he said. "Unless you are a mechanic. It has taken a dislike to me. All engines dislike me."
"Do you think it could be the timer? It sounded as though it might be a timing knock when you went past us."
"I think it is much worse than that. It sounds to be something very bad."
"If you can get to our camp we have a mechanic."
"How far is it?"
"About twenty miles."
"In the morning I will try it. Now I am afraid to make it go farther with that noise of death inside. It is trying to die because it dislikes me. Well, I dislike it too. But if I die it would not annoy it."
"Will you have a drink?" I held out the flask. "Hemingway is my name."
"Kandisky," he said and bowed. "Hemingway is a name I have heard. Where? Where have I heard it? Oh, yes. The Dichter. You know Hemingway the poet?"
"Where did you read him?"
"In the Querschnitt."
"That is me," I said, very pleased. The Querschnitt was a German magazine I had written some rather obscene poems for, and published a long story in, years before I could sell anything in America.
"This is very strange," the man in the Tyroler hat said. "Tell me, what do you think of Ringelnatz?"
"He is splendid."
"So. You like Ringelnatz. Good. What do you think of Heinrich Mann?"
"He is no good."
"You believe it?"
"All I know is that I cannot read him."
"He is no good at all. I see we have things in common. What are you doing here?"
"Not ivory, I hope."
"No. For kudu."
"Why should any man shoot a kudu? You, an intelligent man, a poet, to shoot kudu."
"I haven't shot any yet," I said. "But we've been hunting them hard now for ten days. We would have got one tonight if it hadn't been for your lorry."
"That poor lorry. But you should hunt for a year. At the end of that time you have shot everything and you are sorry for it. To hunt for one special animal is nonsense. Why do you do it?"
"I like to do it."
"Of course, if you like to do it. Tell me, what do you really think of Rilke?"
"I have read only the one thing."
"You liked it?"
"I have no patience with it. It is snobbery. Valéry, yes. I see the point of Valéry; although there is much snobbery too. Well at least you do not kill elephants."
"I'd kill a big enough one."
"A seventy pounder. Maybe smaller."
"I see there are things we do not agree on. But it is a pleasure to meet one of the great old Querschnitt group. Tell me what is Joyce like? I have not the money to buy it. Sinclair Lewis is nothing. I bought it. No. No. Tell me tomorrow. You do not mind if I am camped near? You are with friends? You have a white hunter?"
"With my wife. We would be delighted. Yes, a white hunter."
"Why is he not out with you?"
"He believes you should hunt kudu alone."
"It is better not to hunt them at all. What is he? English?"
"No. Very nice. You will like him."
"You must go. I must not keep you. Perhaps I will see you tomorrow. It was very strange that we should meet."
"Yes," I said. "Have them look at the truck tomorrow. Anything we can do."
"Good night," he said. "Good trip."
"Good night," I said. We started off and I saw him walking toward the fire waving an arm at the natives. I had not asked him why he had twenty up-country natives with him, nor where he was going. Looking back, I had asked him nothing. I do not like to ask questions, and where I was brought up it was not polite. But here we had not seen a white man for two weeks, not since we had left Babati to go south, and then to run into one on this road where you met only an occasional Indian trader and the steady migration of the natives out of the famine country, to have him look like a caricature of Benchley in Tyrolean costume, to have him know your name, to call you a poet, to have read the Querschnitt, to be an admirer of Joachim Ringelnatz and to want to talk about Rilke, was too fantastic to deal with. So, just then, to crown this fantasy, the lights of the car showed three tall, conical, mounds of something smoking in the road ahead. I motioned to Kamau to stop, and putting on the brakes we skidded just short of them. They were from two to three feet high and when I touched one it was quite warm.
"Tembo," M'Cola said.
It was dung from elephants that had just crossed the road, and in the cold of the evening you could see it steaming. In a little while we were in camp.
Next morning I was up and gone to another salt-lick before daylight. There was a kudu bull on the lick when we approached through the trees and he gave a loud bark, like a dog's but higher in pitch and sharply throaty, and was gone, making no noise at first, then crashing in the brush when he was well away; and we never saw him. This lick had an impossible approach. Trees grew around its open area so that it was as though the game were in the blind and you had to come to them across the open. The only way to make it would have been for one man to go alone and crawl and then it would be impossible to get any sort of a close shot through the interlacing trees until you were within twenty yards. Of course once you were inside the protecting trees, and in the blind, you were wonderfully placed, for anything that came to the salt had to come out in the open twenty-five yards from any cover. But though we stayed until eleven o'clock nothing came. We smoothed the dust of the lick carefully with our feet so that any new tracks would show when we came back again and walked the two miles to the road. Being hunted, the game had learned to come only at night and leave before daylight. One bull had stayed and our spooking him that morning would make it even more difficult now.
This was the tenth day we had been hunting greater kudu and I had not seen a mature bull yet. We had only three days more because the rains were moving north each day from Rhodesia and unless we were prepared to stay where we were through the rains we must be out as far as Handeni before they came. We had set the seventeenth of February as the last safe date to leave. Every morning now it took the heavy, wooled sky an hour or so longer to clear and you could feel the rains coming, as they moved steadily north, as surely as though you watched them on a chart.
Now it is pleasant to hunt something that you want very much over a long period of time, being outwitted, out-man|uvred, and failing at the end of each day, but having the hunt and knowing every time you are out that, sooner or later, your luck will change and that you will get the chance that you are seeking. But it is not pleasant to have a time limit by which you must get your kudu or perhaps never get it, nor even see one.
It is not the way hunting should be. It is too much like those boys who used to be sent to Paris with two years in which to make good as writers or painters after which, if they had not made good, they could go home and into their fathers' business. The way to hunt is for as long as you live against as long as there is such and such an animal; just as the way to paint is as long as there is you and colors and canvas, and to write as long as you can live and there is pencil and paper or ink or any machine to do it with, or anything you care to write about, and you feel a fool, and you are a fool, to do it any other way. But here we were, now, caught by time, by the season, and by the running out of our money, so that what should have been as much fun to do each day whether you killed or not was being forced into that most exciting perversion of life; the necessity of accomplishing something in less time than should truly be allowed for its doing. So, coming in at noon, up since two hours before daylight, with only three days left, I was starting to be nervous about it, and there, at the table under the dining tent fly, talking away, was Kandisky of the Tyroler pants. I had forgotten all about him.
"Hello. Hello," he said. "No success? Nothing doing? Where is the kudu?"
"He coughed once and went away," I said. "Hello, girl."
She smiled. She was worried too. The two of them had been listening since daylight for a shot. Listening all the time, even when our guest had arrived; listening while writing letters, listening while reading, listening when Kandisky came back and talked.
"You did not shoot him?"
rd"No. Nor see him." I saw that Pop was worried too, and a little nervous. There had evidently been considerable talking going on.
"Have a beer, Colonel," he said to me.
"We spooked one," I reported. "No chance of a shot. There were plenty of tracks. Nothing more came. The wind was blowing around. Ask the boys about it."
"As I was telling Colonel Phillips," Kandisky began, shifting his leather-breeched behind and crossing one heavy-calved, well-haired, bare leg over the other, "you must not stay here too long. You must realize the rains are coming. There is one stretch of twelve miles beyond here you can never get through if it rains. It is impossible."
"So he's been telling me," Pop said. "I'm a Mister, by the way. We use these military titles as nicknames. No offense if you're a Colonel yourself." Then to me, "Damn these salt-licks. If you'd leave them alone you'd get one."
"They ball it all up," I agreed. "You're so sure of a shot sooner or later on the lick."
"Hunt the hills too."
"I'll hunt them, Pop."
"What is killing a kudu, anyway?" Kandisky asked. "You should not take it so seriously. It is nothing. In a year you kill twenty."
"Best not say anything about that to the game department, though," Pop said.
"You misunderstand," Kandisky said. "I mean in a year a man could. Of course no man would wish to."
"Absolutely," Pop said. "If he lived in kudu country, he could. They're the commonest big antelope in this bush country. It's just that when you want to see them you don't."
"I kill nothing, you understand," Kandisky told us. "Why are you not more interested in the natives?"
"We are," my wife assured him.
"They are really interesting. Listen -- " Kandisky said, and he spoke on to her.
"The hell of it is," I said to Pop, "when I'm in the hills I'm sure the bastards are down there on the salt. The cows are in the hills but I don't believe the bulls are with them now. Then you get there in the evening and there are the tracks. They have been on the lousy salt. I think they come any time."
"Probably they do."
"I'm sure we get different bulls there. They probably only come to the salt every couple of days. Some are certainly spooked because Karl shot that one. If he'd only killed it clean instead of following it through the whole damn countryside. Christ, if he'd only kill any damn thing clean. Other new ones will come in. All we have to do is to wait them out, though. Of course they can't all know about it. But he's spooked this country to hell."
"He gets so very excited," Pop said. "But he's a good lad. He made a beautiful shot on that leopard, you know. You don't want them killed any cleaner than that. Let it quiet down again."
"Sure. I don't mean anything when I curse him."
"What about staying in the blind all day?"
"The damned wind started to go round in a circle. It blew our scent every bloody direction. No bloody use to sit there broadcasting it. If the damn wind would hold. Abdullah took an ash can today."
"I saw him starting off with it."
"There wasn't a bit of wind when we stalked the salt and there was just light to shoot. He tried the wind with the ashes all the way. I went alone with Abdullah and left the others behind and we went quietly. I had on these crepe-soled boots and it's soft cotton dirt. The bastard spooked at fifty yards."
"Did you ever see their ears?"'
"Did I ever see their ears? If I can see the bastard's ears, the skinner can work on him."
"They're bastards," Pop said. "I hate this salt-lick business. They're not as smart as we think. The trouble is you're working on them where they are smart. They've been shot at there ever since there's been salt."
"That's what makes it fun," I said. "I'd be glad to do it for a month. I like to hunt sitting on my tail. No sweat. No nothing. Sit there and catch flies and feed them to the ant lions in the dust. I like it. But what about the time?"
"That's it. The bloody time."
"So," Kandisky was saying to my wife. "That is what you should see. The big ngomas. The big native dance festivals. The real ones."
"Listen," I said to Pop. "The other lick, the one I was at last night, is fool-proof except for being near that bloody road."
"The trackers say it is really the property of the lesser kudu. It's a long way too. It's eighty miles there and back."
"I know. But there were four big bull tracks. It's certain. If it wasn't for that truck last night. What about staying there tonight? Then I'd get the night and the early morning and give this lick a rest. There's a big rhino there too. Big track, anyway."
"Good," Pop said. "Shoot the damn rhino too." He hated to have anything killed except what we were after, no killing on the side, no ornamental killing, no killing to kill, only when you wanted it more than you wanted not to kill it, only when getting it was necessary to his being first in his trade, and I saw he was offering up the rhino to please me.
"I won't kill him unless he's good," I promised.
"Shoot the bastard," Pop said, making a gift of him.
"Ah, Pop," I said.
"Shoot him," said Pop. "You'll enjoy it, being by yourself. You can sell the horn if you don't want it. You've still one on your license."
"So," said Kandisky. "You have arrested a plan of campaign? You have decided on how to outwit the poor animals?"
"Yes," I said. "How is the truck?"
"That lorry is finished," the Austrian said. "In a way I am glad. It was too much of a symbol. It was all that remained of my shamba. Now everything is gone and it is much simpler."
"What is a shamba?" asked P. O. M., my wife. "I've been hearing about them for months. I'm afraid to ask about those words every one uses."
"A plantation," he said. "It is all gone except that lorry. With the lorry I carry laborers to the shamba of an Indian. It is a very rich Indian who raises sisal. I am a manager for this Indian. An Indian can make a profit from a sisal shamba."
"From anything," Pop said.
"Yes. Where we fail, where we would starve, he makes money. This Indian is very intelligent, however. He values me. I represent European organization. I come now from organizing recruitment of the natives. This takes time. It is impressive. I have been away from my family for three months. The organization is organized. You do it in a week as easily, but it is not so impressive."
"And your wife?" asked mine.
"She waits at my house, the house of the manager, with my daughter."
"Does she love you very much?" my wife asked.
"She must, or she would be gone long ago."
"How old is the daughter?"
"She is thirteen now."
"It must be very nice to have a daughter."
"You cannot know how nice it is. It is like a second wife. My wife knows now all I think, all I say, all I believe, all I can do, all that I cannot do and cannot be. I know also about my wife -- completely. But now there is always someone you do not know, who does not know you, who loves you in ignorance and is strange to you both. Some one very attractive that is yours and not yours and that makes the conversation more -- how shall I say? Yes, it is like -- what do you call -- having here with you -- with the two of you -- yes there -- It is the Heinz Tomato Ketchup on the daily food."
"That's very good," I said.
"We have books," he said. "I cannot buy new books now but we can always talk. Ideas and conversation are very interesting. We discuss all things. Everything. We have a very interesting mental life. Formerly, with the shamba, we had the Querschnitt. That gave you a feeling of belonging, of being made a part of, to a very brilliant group of people. The people one would see if one saw whom one wished to see. You know all of those people? You must know them."
"Some of them," I said. "Some in Paris. Some in Berlin."
I did not wish to destroy anything this man had, and so I did not go into those brilliant people in detail.
"They're marvellous," I said, lying.
"I envy you to know them," he said. "And tell me, who is the greatest writer in America?"
"My husband," said my wife.
"No. I do not mean for you to speak from family pride. I mean who really? Certainly not Upton Sinclair. Certainly not
Sinclair Lewis. Who is your Thomas Mann? Who is your Valéry?"
"We do not have great writers," I said. "Something happens to our good writers at a certain age. I can explain but it is quite long and may bore you."
"Please explain," he said. "This is what I enjoy. This is the best part of life. The life of the mind. This is not killing kudu."
"You haven't heard it yet," I said.
"Ah, but I can see it coming. You must take more beer to loosen your tongue."
"It's loose," I told him. "It's always too bloody loose. But you don't drink anything."
"No, I never drink. It is not good for the mind. It is unnecessary. But tell me. Please tell me."
"Well," I said, "we have had, in America, skillful writers. Poe is a skillful writer. It is skillful, marvellously constructed, and it is dead. We have had writers of rhetoric who had the good fortune to find a little, in a chronicle of another man and from voyaging, of how things, actual things, can be, whales for instance, and this knowledge is wrapped in the rhetoric like plums in a pudding. Occasionally it is there, alone, unwrapped in pudding, and it is good. This is Melville. But the people who praise it, praise it for the rhetoric which is not important. They put a mystery in which is not there."
"Yes," he said. "I see. But it is the mind working, its ability to work, which makes the rhetoric. Rhetoric is the blue sparks from the dynamo."
"Sometimes. And sometimes it is only blue sparks and what is the dynamo driving?"
"So. Go on."
"No. Go on. Do not pretend to be stupid."
"Did you ever get up before daylight -- -- "
"Every morning," he said. "Go on."
"All right. There were others who wrote like exiled English colonials from an England of which they were never a part to a newer England that they were making. Very good men with the small, dried, and excellent wisdom of Unitarians; men of letters; Quakers with a sense of humor."
"Who were these?"
"Emerson, Hawthorne, Whittier, and Company. All our early classics who did not know that a new classic does not bear any resemblance to the classics that have preceded it. It can steal from anything that it is better than, anything that is not a classic, all classics do that. Some writers are only born to help another writer to write one sentence. But it cannot derive from or resemble a previous classic. Also all these men were gentlemen, or wished to be. They were all very respectable. They did not use the words that people always have used in speech, the words that survive in language. Nor would you gather that they had bodies. They had minds, yes. Nice, dry, clean minds. This is all very dull, I would not state it except that you ask for it."
"There is one at that time that is supposed to be really good, Thoreau. I cannot tell you about it because I have not yet been able to read it. But that means nothing because I cannot read other naturalists unless they are being extremely accurate and not literary. Naturalists should all work alone and some one else should correlate their findings for them. Writers should work alone. They should see each other only after their work is done, and not too often then. Otherwise they become like writers in New York. All angleworms in a bottle, trying to derive knowledge and nourishment from their own contact and from the bottle. Sometimes the bottle is shaped art, sometimes economics, sometimes economic-religion. But once they are in the bottle they stay there. They are lonesome outside of the bottle. They do not want to be lonesome. They are afraid to be alone in their beliefs and no woman would love any of them enough so that they could kill their lonesomeness in that woman, or pool it with hers, or make something with her that makes the rest unimportant."
"But what about Thoreau?"
"You'll have to read him. Maybe I'll be able to later. I can do nearly everything later."
"Better have some more beer, Papa."
"What about the good writers?"
"The good writers are Henry James, Stephen Crane, and Mark Twain. That's not the order they're good in. There is no order for good writers."
"Mark Twain is a humorist. The others I do not know."
"All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn. If you read it you must stop where the Nigger Jim is stolen from the boys. That is the real end. The rest is just cheating. But it's the best book we've had. All American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since."
"What about the others?"
"Crane wrote two fine stories. The Open Boat and The Blue Hotel. The last one is the best."
f0 "And what happened to him?"
"He died. That's simple. He was dying from the start."
"But the other two?"
"They both lived to be old men but they did not get any wiser as they got older. I don't know what they really wanted. You see we make our writers into something very strange."
"I do not understand."
"We destroy them in many ways. First, economically. They make money. It is only by hazard that a writer makes money although good books always make money eventually. Then our writers when they have made some money increase their standard of living and they are caught. They have to write to keep up their establishments, their wives, and so on, and they write slop. It is slop not on purpose but because it is hurried. Because they write when there is nothing to say or no water in the well. Because they are ambitious. Then, once they have betrayed themselves, they justify it and you get more slop. Or else they read the critics. If they believe the critics when they say they are great then they must believe them when they say they are rotten and they lose confidence. At present we have two good writers who cannot write because they have lost confidence through reading critics. If they wrote, sometimes it would be good and sometimes not so good and sometimes it would be quite bad, but the good would get out. But they have read the critics and they must write masterpieces. The masterpieces the critics said they wrote. They weren't masterpieces, of course. They were just quite good books. So now they cannot write at all. The critics have made them impotent."
"Who are these writers?"
"Their names would mean nothing to you and by now they may have written, become frightened, and be impotent again."
"But what is it that happens to American writers? Be definite."
"I was not here in the old days so I cannot tell you about them, but now there are various things. At a certain age the men writers change into Old Mother Hubbard. The women writers become Joan of Arc without the fighting. They become leaders. It doesn't matter who they lead. If they do not have followers they invent them. It is useless for those selected as followers to protest. They are accused of disloyalty. Oh, hell. There are too many things that happen to them. That is one thing. The others try to save their souls with what they write. That is an easy way out. Others are ruined by the first money, the first praise, the first attack, the first time they find they cannot write, or the first time they cannot do anything else, or else they get frightened and join organizations that do their thinking for them. Or they do not know what they want. Henry James wanted to make money. He never did, of course."
"I am interested in other things. I have a good life but I must write because if I do not write a certain amount I do not enjoy the rest of my life."
"And what do you want?"
"To write as well as I can and learn as I go along. At the same time I have my life which I enjoy and which is a damned good life."
"Yes. Hunting kudu and many other things."
"What other things?"
"Plenty of other things."
"And you know what you want?"
"You really like to do this, what you do now, this silliness of kudu?"
"Just as much as I like to be in the Prado."
"One is not better than the other?"
"One is as necessary as the other. There are other things, too."
"Naturally. There must be. But this sort of thing means something to you, really?"
"And you know what you want?"
"Absolutely, and I get it all the time."
"But it takes money."
"I could always make money and besides I have been very lucky."
"Then you are happy?"
"Except when I think of other people."
"Then you think of other people?"
"But you do nothing for them?"
"Maybe a little."
"Do you think your writing is worth doing -- as an end in itself?"
"You are sure?"
"That must be very pleasant."
"It is," I said. "It is the one altogether pleasant thing about it."
"This is getting awfully serious," my wife said.
"It's a damned serious subject."
"You see, he is really serious about something," Kandisky said. "I knew he must be serious on something besides kudu."
"The reason every one now tries to avoid it, to deny that it is important, to make it seem vain to try to do it, is because it is so difficult. Too many factors must combine to make it possible."
"What is this now?"
"The kind of writing that can be done. How far prose can be carried if any one is serious enough and has luck. There is a fourth and fifth dimension that can be gotten."
"You believe it?"
"I know it."
"And if a writer can get this?"
"Then nothing else matters. It is more important than anything he can do. The chances are, of course, that he will fail. But there is a chance that he succeeds."
"But that is poetry you are talking about."
"No. It is much more difficult than poetry. It is a prose that has never been written. But it can be written, without tricks and without cheating. With nothing that will go bad afterwards."
"And why has it not been written?"
"Because there are too many factors. First, there must be talent, much talent. Talent such as Kipling had. Then there must be discipline. The discipline of Flaubert. Then there must be the conception of what it can be and an absolute conscience as unchanging as the standard meter in Paris, to prevent faking. Then the writer must be intelligent and disinterested and above all he must survive. Try to get all these in one person and have him come through all the influences that press on a writer. The hardest thing, because time is so short, is for him to survive and get his work done. But I would like us to have such a writer and to read what he would write. What do you say? Should we talk about something else?"
"It is interesting what you say. Naturally I do not agree with everything."
"What about a gimlet?" Pop asked. "Don't you think a gimlet might help?"
"Tell me first what are the things, the actual, concrete things that harm a writer?"
I was tired of the conversation which was becoming an interview. So I would make it an interview and finish it. The necessity to put a thousand intangibles into a sentence, now, before lunch, was too bloody.
"Politics, women, drink, money, ambition. And the lack of politics, women, drink, money and ambition," I said profoundly.
"He's getting much too easy now," Pop said.
"But drink. I do not understand about that. That has always seemed silly to me. I understand it as a weakness."
"It is a way of ending a day. It has great benefits. Don't you ever want to change your ideas?"
"Let's have one," Pop said. "M'Wendi!"
Pop never drank before lunch except as a mistake and I knew he was trying to help me out.
"Let's all have a gimlet," I said.
"I never drink," Kandisky said. "I will go to the lorry and fetch some fresh butter for lunch. It is fresh from Kandoa, un-salted. Very good. Tonight we will have a special dish of Viennese dessert. My cook has learned to make it very well."
He went off and my wife said: "You were getting awfully profound. What was that about all these women?"
"When you were talking about women."
"The hell with them," I said. "Those are the ones you get involved with when you're drunk."
"So that's what you do."
"I don't get involved with people when I'm drunk."
"Come, come," said Pop. "We're none of us ever drunk. My God, that man can talk."
"He didn't have a chance to talk after B'wana M'Kumba started."
"I did have verbal dysentery," I said.
"What about his lorry? Can we tow it in without ruining ours?"
"I think so," Pop said. "When ours comes back from Handeni."
At lunch under the green fly of the dining tent, in the shade of a big tree, the wind blowing, the fresh butter much admired, Grant's gazelle chops, mashed potatoes, green corn, and then mixed fruit for dessert, Kandisky told us why the East Indians were taking the country over.
"You see, during the war they sent the Indian troops to fight here. To keep them out of India because they feared another mutiny. They promised the Aga Khan that because they fought in Africa, Indians could come freely to settle and for business afterwards. They cannot break that promise and now the Indians have taken the country over from the Europeans. They live on nothing and they send all the money back to India. When they have made enough to go home they leave, bringing out their poor relations to take over from them and continue to exploit the country."
Pop said nothing. He would not argue with a guest at table.
"It is the Aga Khan," Kandisky said. "You are an American. You know nothing of these combinations."
"Were you with Von Lettow?" Pop asked him.
"From the start," Kandisky said. "Until the end."
"He was a great fighter," Pop said. "I have great admiration for him."
"You fought?" Kandisky asked.
"I do not care for Lettow," Kandisky said. "He fought, yes. No one ever better. When we wanted quinine he would order it captured. All supplies the same. But afterwards he cared nothing for his men. After the war I am in Germany. I go to see about indemnification for my property. ?You are an Austrian,' they say. ?You must go through Austrian channels.' So I go to Austria. ?But why did you fight?' they ask me. ?You cannot hold us responsible. Suppose you go to fight in China. That is your own affair. We cannot do anything for you.'
" ?But I went as a patriot,' I say, very foolishly. ?I fight where I can because I am an Austrian and I know my duty.' ?Yes,' they say. ?That is very beautiful. But you cannot hold us responsible for your noble sentiments! So they passed me from one to the other and nothing. Still I love the country very much. I have lost everything here but I have more than anyone has in Europe. To me it is always interesting. The natives and the language. I have many books of notes on them. Then too, in reality, I am a king here. It is very pleasant. Waking in the morning I extend one foot and the boy places the sock on it. When I am ready I extend the other foot and he adjusts the other sock. I step from under the mosquito bar into my drawers which are held for me. Don't you think that is very marvellous?"
"When you come back another time we must take a safari to study the natives. And shoot nothing, or only to eat. Look, I will show you a dance and sing a song."
Crouched, elbows lifting and falling, knees humping, he shuffled around the table, singing. Undoubtedly it was very fine.
"That is only one of a thousand," he said. "Now I must go for a time. You will be sleeping."
"There's no hurry. Stay around."
"No. Surely you will be sleeping. I also. I will take the butter to keep it cool."
"We'll see you at supper," Pop said.
"Now you must sleep. Good-bye."
After he was gone, Pop said: "I wouldn't believe all that about the Aga Khan, you know."
"It sounded pretty good."
"Of course he feels badly," Pop said. "Who wouldn't. Von Lettow was a hell of a man."
"He's very intelligent," my wife said. "He talks wonderfully about the natives. But he's bitter about American women."
"So am I," said Pop. "He's a good man. You better get some shut-eye. You'll need to start about three-thirty."
"Have them call me."
Molo raised the back of the tent, propping it with sticks, so the wind blew through and I went to sleep reading, the wind coming in cool and fresh under the heated canvas.
When I woke it was time to go. There were rain clouds in the sky and it was very hot. They had packed some tinned fruit, a five-pound piece of roast meat, bread, tea, a tea pot, and some tinned milk in a whiskey box with four bottles of beer. There was a canvas water bag and a ground cloth to use as a tent. M'Cola was taking the big gun out to the car.
"There's no hurry about getting back," Pop said. "We'll look for you when we see you."
"We'll send the truck to haul that sportsman into Handeni. He's sending his men ahead walking."
"You're sure the truck can stand it? Don't do it because he's a friend of mine."
"Have to get him out. The truck will be in tonight."
"The Memsahib's still asleep," I said. "Maybe she can get out for a walk and shoot some guineas."
"I'm here," she said. "Don't worry about us. Oh, I hope you get them."
"Don't send out to look for us along the road until day after tomorrow," I said. "If there's a good chance we'll stay."
"Good luck, sweet. Good-bye, Mr. J.P."
Copyright © 1935 by Charles Scribner's Sons.
Copyright renewed © 1963 by Mary Hemingway
Top Customer Reviews
Both entertaining and exciting it makes the reader hungry for the hunt. At times there is a bit of embellishment, such as making a clean kill on a Rhino at three-hundred yards with a Springfield rifle, (probably with open sights) in chapter four. Such probable exaggerations can be overlooked when we read his descriptions of the land and of the Masai and feel the remorse in his heart after wounding and losing a magnificent Sable Antelope to the jackals.
It's my opinion that Green Hills of Africa is one of the finest hunting stories that has ever been written. Not for the sheer content of the story itself, but for the style, for Hemingway's style, ... and for the way that he recounts a true life adventure in the style of prose that has always proven so riveting in his fiction.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great and exhaustive edition of Hemingway's book about his African safariPublished 1 day ago by Pynch
Ernest Hemingway went to Africa to shoot the bounding kudu and the ungainly rhinoceros and to reply to his critics. The result is "Green Hills of Africa". Read morePublished 14 days ago by HH
I read this book while on Safari in Kenya and Tanzania... and experienced everything the book described.... wonderful!!!!!Published 1 month ago by Ingrid Robertshaw
While the images of Africa and the animals and life on a Safari in the 1930s were wonderful, Hemingway's narcissistic meanderings into who's who in literature are really hard to... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Jeanine
A classic and a must read for all African adventure enthusiasts.Published 4 months ago by Raymond E. Cox