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Favorite Passages from Classic, “Out of Africa”

What I love about some classic books is the beauty of their play with words, a glimpse into the past and culture and the ability to relate to the same hopes, fears and dreams. They are the reasons why I read some books over and over again.

Some of my favourite passages from Out of Africa

“But a coffee-plantation is a thing that gets hold of you and does not let you go, and there is always something to do on it: you are generally just a little behind you work.” (pg 16)

Sounds like my curious job of building websites.

“Out in the wilds I had learned to beware of abrupt movements. The creatures with which you are dealing there are shy and watchful, they have a talent for evading you when you least expect it. No domestic animal can be as still as a wild animal. The civilized people have lost the aptitude of stillness, and must take lessons in silence from the wild before they are accepted by it. The art of moving gently, without suddenness, is the first to be studied by the hunter, and more so by the hunter with the camera.” (pg 24)

I love how she describes the art of moving gently – certainly rare in our society these days.

“The love of woman and womanliness is a masculine characteristic, and the love of man and manliness is a feminine characterstic…” (pg 24)

“As it is almost impossible for a woman to irritate a real man, and as to the woman, a man is never quite contemptible, never altogether rejectable, as long as he remains a man…”(pg 24)

About men and women and how I believe it is supposed to be.

“People who dream when they sleep at night know of a special kind of happiness which the world of 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. (pg 82)

I remember my childhood directive approach to my dreams, especially those minutes in my bed as I go to sleep at night…

“So I went to bed, taking a book with me, and leaving the lamp to burn. In Africa, when you pick up a book worth reading, out of the deadly consignments which good ships are being made to carry out all the way from Europe, as you read it as an author would like his book to be read, praying to God that he may have it in him to go on as beautifully as he has begun. Your mind runs, transported, upon a fresh deep green track.” (pg 85)

“My own books I packed up in cases and sat on them, or dined on them. Books in a colony play a different part of 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.” (pg 309)

Books: Another form of living, another form of dreaming – it is a way to live several lives at once. 

“I had been on the farm longing to get away, and they came back to it longing for books and linen sheets and the cool atmosphere in a big shuttered room; by their camp fires they had been meditating upon the joys of farm life..” (pg 178)

“As far as Berkeley Cole and Denys Finch-Hatton were concerned, my house was a communist establishment. Everything in it was theirs, and they took a pride in it, and brought home things they felt to be lacking. They kept the house up to a high standard in wine and tobacco, and got books and gramophone records out from Europe for me. Berkeley arrived with his car loaded up with turkey’s eggs, and oranges from his own farm in Mount Kenya. They both had the ambition to make me a judge of wine, as they were, and spent much time and thought on the task. They took greatest pleasure in my Danish table glass and china, and used to build up on the dinner table a tall shining pyramid of all my glass, the one piece on top of the other; they enjoyed the sight of it.” (Pg 183- 184)

The pleasures and joys of a well-loved home.

“Denys had a trait of character which to me was very precious, he liked to hear a story told….Fashions have changed, and the art of listening to a narrative has been lost in Europe. The Natives of Africa, who cannot read, have still got it; if you begin to them: ‘There was a man who walked out on the plain, and there he met another man,’ you have them all with you, their minds running upon the unknown track of the men on the plain. But white people, even if they feel that they ought to, cannot listen to a recital. If they do not become fidgety, and remember things that should be done at once, they fall asleep. The same people will ask you for something to read, and may then sit all through an evening absorbed in any kind of print handed them, they will even then read a speech. They have been accustomed to take in their impressions by the eye.
Denys, who lived much by the ear, preferred hearing a tale told to reading it; when he came to the farm he would ask: ‘Have you got a story?’ (pg 194)

The art of listening – a real treasure seldom truly practised.

“The giraffes turned their delicate heads from the one side to the other, as if they were surprised, which they might well be. They had not seen the sea before. They could only just have room to stand in the narrow case. The world had suddenly shrunk, changed and closed round them.
They could not know or imagine the degradation to which they were sailing. For they were proud and innocent creatures, gentle amblers of the great plains; they had not the least knowledge of captivity, cold, stench, smoke and mange, nor of the terrible boredom in a world in which nothing is ever happening.” (pg 257)

My love-hate relationship with zoos; as well as representation of self-inflicted prisons.

“The people of the farm who grieved most at my departure were I think the old women. The old Kikuyu women have had hard life and have themselves become flint-hard under it. Like old mules which will bite you if they can come to it. They were more difficult for any disease to kill off than their men, as I learned in my practice as a doctor, and they were wilder than the men, and, even more thoroughly than they, devoid of the faculty of admiration. They had borne a number of children ,and had seen many of them die; they were afraid of nothing.

The old women took a keen interest in everything that was going on on the farm, and would walk ten miles to look at a Ngoma of the young people; a joke. or a cup of tembu, would make their wrinkled toothless faces dissolve in laughter. This strength. and love of life in them, to me seemed not only highly respectable. but glorious and bewitching. The old women of the farm and I had always been friends. ” (pg 325-326)

The true glory of living

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