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West with the Night

West with the Night


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One of the most beautifully crafted books I have ever read, with some of the most poetic prose passages I could imagine, such as the following, resonating with a stately and timeless quality so absent in our modern life: There are all kinds of silences and each of them means a different thing. There is the silence that comes with morning in a forest, and this is different from the silence of a sleeping city. There is silence after a rainstorm, and before a rainstorm, and these are not the same. There is the silence of emptiness, the silence of fear, the silence of doubt. There is a certain silence that can emanate from a lifeless object as from a chair lately used, or from a piano with old dust upon its keys, or from anything that has answered to the need of a man, for pleasure or for work. This kind of silence can speak. Its voice may be melancholy, but it is not always so; for the chair may have been left by a laughing child or the last notes of the piano may have been raucous and gay. Whatever the mood or the circumstance, the essence of its quality may linger in the silence that follows. It is a soundless echo. Born in England in 1902, Markham was taken by her father to East Africa in 1906. She spent her childhood playing with native Maruni children and apprenticing with her father as a trainer and breeder of racehorses. In the 1930s, she became an African bush pilot, and in September 1936, became the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west.

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About This Illustrated Edition

This is the illustrated edition of West With the Night, published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 1994. A handsome, quality book with a sewn binding, dustcover, and hardback boards that are quarter-cloth, 3/4's pictorial (clouds.) I think it is pretty! Heavy weight paper with something like over 125 illustrations integrated into the flow of the text.

The Divided Heart

No less a writer than Ernest Hemingway said about West with the Night, "As it is she has written so well, and marvelously well, that I was completely ashamed of myself as a writer. I felt that I was simply a carpenter with words, picking up whatever was furnished on the job and nailing them together and sometimes making an okay pigpen. But she can write rings around all of us who consider ourselves as writers." Coming from an author who was renowned for his ego and lack of respect for other writers, this is high praise indeed, and West with the Night deserves it.The story opens with the author being called in the middle of the night to deliver a tank of oxygen to a dying man. The reason she has been called is because her business is flying a small bi-plane through the wilds of Africa on delivery errands such as these. The flight and subsequent visit with the dying man and his doctor are used to introduce us to Africa - the rich black nights, the stories of her native peoples, the harsh reminder with the appearance of a jackal that " Africa there is never any waste." In this first section we also begin to know and wonder about the author, a native of Britain who was transplanted to African soil at the age of 2 and raised by her father on his farm at Njoro. There her primary playmates were the children of the Nandi Murani tribe and her principle schoolroom the African landscape itself. As Markham puts it, "Africa was the breath and life of my childhood. It is still the host of all my darkest fears, the cradle of mysteries always intriguing, but never wholly solved. It is the remembrance of sunlight and green hills, cool water and the yellow warmth of bright mornings. It is as ruthless as any sea, more uncompromising than its own deserts. It is without temperance in its harshness or in its favors. It yields nothing, offering much to men of all races."It is Markham's misfortune, but also her gift, that she could never be fully assimilated by the native people and the landscape. Her father insisted on sending her to school, relatives and friends did their best to expose her to European culture, and in the end Africa itself conspired to force her out of the fold and into the larger world. The end result is a woman who walks a fine and complex line within herself between two radically different perceptions of the world.Although Markham's story is remarkable based on facts alone - taking us from her childhood haunts to her historic flight across the Atlantic Ocean - it is the elegance and depth of the writing that sets this book apart. When she talks about the horses she and her father bred and raised, for example, it's as if she is stepping into the animals' skins. When she discusses her hunt for a fellow pilot, lost in the bush, it is with total absorption in the moment. This is the kind of book that can make you forget you are reading a book, drawing you into the subtleties of life as Markham knew it - engaging all the senses and ultimately your

Excellent book of a life in Eastern Africa

Whoever wrote it, "West With the Night" is a lyrically beautiful story of an amazing life: Beryl Markham arrived in Africa in 1905 at the age of three, she spent her childhood on her father's farm, learning all about African people and wildlife; she became a horse-trainer (racing was surprisingly popular in colonial Kenya); she was the first woman in Africa to have a pilot's license, working as a freelance pilot in Kenya; she was the first person to fly solo non-stop across the Atlantic East-to-West (hence the book's title). This book is an interesting and very readable documentation of Kenya in the era of Isak Dinesen, Bror Blixen, Denys Finch Hatton, et al (all of whom she knew). Hemingway praised this book lavishly, saying: "Did you read Beryl Markham's book, "West with the Night"? I knew her fairly well in Africa and never would have suspected that she could and would put pen to paper except to write in her flyer's log book. As it is, she has written so well, and marvelously well, that I was completely ashamed of myself as a writer. .... But this girl who is, to my knowledge, very unpleasant,... can write rings around all of us who consider ourselves as writers. The only parts of it that I know about personally, on account of having been there at the time and heard the other people's stories, are absolutely true. So, you have to take as truth the early stuff about when she was a child which is absolutely superb. She omits some very fantastic stuff which I know about which would destroy much of the character of the heroine; but what is that anyhow in writing?" As Hemingway may have suspected, Markham may not be the real author, and "West With the Night" does leave out major portions of her life; it would be a good idea to read it along with the biography of her life, "Straight On Till Morning: The Biography of Beryl Markham" by Mary Lovell (Lovell also wrote "A Rage to Live: A Biography of Richard and Isabel Burton").

Beautiful prose

I picked this up in a garage sale, purely on the strength of the cover picture - it seemed like that face had seen and done a lot - which turns out to be absolutely true! More like poetry than prose, some of her descriptive passages have to be read more than once, just to let the feelings soak into your system. Ms Markham's early life is told in a matter-of-fact way, which takes it for granted that, when at 17, your father decides to leave Africa for Peru, you jump on your horse and head North, with no food, one change of underwear, little education, but a deep knowledge of horses and expect to land on your feet. Which is exactly what she does, co-incidentally meeting many yet-to-be-famous people on the way. Hunter; horse-trainer; aeronaut; most people would be happy to excel in any one of these professions, but Beryl does it all with surpassing ease. Her style is self-effacing and matter-of-fact; you would imagine that being 'moderately eaten' by a lion would warrant more than a couple of paragraphs, but it only gets included here, I suspect, on the strength of Bishon Singh's wonderful rhetoric in describing the event. She also has a knack of striking up instant and longlasting relationships with people from every race, creed and social status - I don't believe she even saw those differences; be he a Murani warrior or a colonial Governor, they both get treated to the same open-minded friendship. A book to read & read again.

A beautiful but often fictional account of a great life

I've recently read the "autobiography" "West With The Night" for a Hight School history class. While I found Markham's book to be a beautifuly spun story of growing up in colonial Kenya and life in the early 1900s, this book left me with more questions than answers. On digging deeper, I found that this book was written by her third husband, Raoul Schumacher. Also, I found that many interesting and scandalous parts of her life had been omitted from this historical tale. However, these things do not change the fact the "West With the Night" is a completly enrapturing tale of a very strong, determined woman. I only advise that you take this story with a grain of salt; and then go read the book "The lives of Beryl Markham" by Errol Trzebinski to get the real deal.

Edition Details

Publisher:North Point Press
Lowest Price:$3.59
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