/ Reading Notes /
I did most of my reading of Dinesen in the 1960s and ’70s. Some of my favorite ever authors I discovered in the wake of my friend Phil’s voluminous reading. I’d heard of Beckett before I ever read a line, it was Phil who tipped me across the line. Hemmingway said Dinesen deserved the Nobel Prize before him, after Tolstoy (who also never got one); but it was Phil carrying a copy of Gothic Tales that got me going.
Of course the bulk of us had no word processing then, no hypertext publishing: no domains, no blogs. Now I post on anything and everything; then very little of my responses got written, very little of that repeated, next to none published. Now though: I recall Dineson from decades ago (though I’ve reseen Out of Africa, Babette’s Feast, and reread parts of Out of Africa, the book, in this 21st century).
I’m here today 2013 03 26 to emphasize one pearl from that latter book: Dineson wrote that the Masai, when the British jailed them for convenience while stealing their land, simply died. The Brits caged them, the Masai couldn’t stop them, the Masai simply gave up their existence: death is better than a cage! I so admire that. I brag that I have some of that spirit: though when I was finally actually arrested, actually jailed, actually, officially, federally, censored, I didn’t simply die, I lied, I pleaded guilty, following the advice that told me that “confessing” would get me back out of jail the fastest: then I could write my indictments, get back to free work! No, no, vanity. Writing makes no difference among kleptocrats; I should simply have died. That’s what Jesus did, I should have done the same.
But what if someone some day does understand what I’ve said? Ten years from now, three hundred years from now, 40 millions years from now: when our ashes are sifted by an anthropologist from Aldeberan? It’s impossible to tell, so long as existence continues, lacking God’s infallible Judgment, to know what’s effective, what futile.
Except: I know, as Dinesen knew: the Masai are something special!
(And check out Leni Riefenstahl’s relationship to the Nuba.)
Leni Riefenstahl, Nuba, painting
Women want to celebrate great women? geniuses? artists? Forget the one’s propelled to fame in the early 1970s and tout Isak Dinesen, Leni Riefenstahl … And remember Hypatia, Austen, Dickinson …
And while you’re at it, don’t forget Scheherazade! She found some measure of “power” way back: and its being a popular story shows that tellers and audiences did to some extent “get it”.
2014 04 29 I just heard of another people who die when arrested, when their culture is caged: the Hmong. Follow that link, look at the pic: beautiful. What I heard about the Hmong is that when disrupted — by war, conquest — the men simply die. The men, note. Men are useless when not siring, providing, defending, acquiring. The women the children, are the future: they have to gamble, acommodate, adapt …
(Where did I hear that? Oh, yes: Stephen Fry in America: a population of Hmong took hold in Wisconsin.