Thursday, November 29, 2012

What they were reading: Isak Dinesen

“My own books I packed up in cases and sat on them, or dined on them. Books in a colony play a different part in your existence from what they do in Europe; there is  a whole side of your life which there they alone take charge of; and on this account, according to their quality, you feel more grateful to them, or more indignant with them, than you will ever do in civilized countries. 
“The fictitious characters in the books run beside your horse on the farm, and walk about in the maizefields. On their own, like intelligent soldiers, they find at once the quarters that suit them. On the morning after I had been reading “Crome Yellow” at night,-and I had never heard of the author’s name, but had picked up the book in a Nairobi bookshop, and was as pleased as if I had discovered a new green island in the sea,- as I was riding through a valley of the Game Reserve, a little duiker jumped up, and at once turned himself into a stag for Sir Hercules with his wife and his pack of thirty black and fawn-coloured pugs. All Walter Scott’s characters were at home in the country and might be met anywhere; so were Odysseus and his men, and strangley enough many figures from Racine. Peter Schlemihl had walked over the hills in seven-league boots, Clown Agheb the honey-bee lived in my garden by the river.”
-Isak Denisen, from  Out of Africa
I was able to piece together most of the books she mentions, but I’m drawing a complete blank on Clown Agheb the honey-bee. No clue what great work of literature that one is supposed to call up. Any ideas?

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