Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I was evidently wrong about Olive Shreiner being Jewish although there seems to be a Jewish connection somehow. Maybe it is just writing sympathetic to Jewishness. It still appears she was born in two places, the Cape or Basutoland (Lesotho) depending upon which potted biog you read. Have just glanced at a couple of them and evidently her father was a zealous Wesleyan missionary though she gave up her parents’ religion at the age of fifteen. Have finished reading THE STORY OF AN AFRICAN FARM and did enjoy it, for all its Victorian melodrama, religion, and philosophy and, despite the fact that I still do not understand the character of Lyndall and what ailed her so desperately or dictated her behaviour, reading that Schreiner herself was inclined towards depression makes it a little clearer. The book is semi-autobiographical and was first published under the name of Ralph Iron. The second printing saw it published with her own name. It was evidently a big success and it is a good story though she did tend to go over the top at times, for my taste anyway, especially as far as the character of Lyndall is concerned who is really a mouthpiece for the author. For those who will never get around to reading THE STORY OF AN AFRICAN FARM here at random is a sample of Miss Shreiner’s writing. “Little” by the way seems to be Miss Schreiner’s favourite adjective: little hands, little feet, little head, little curls, little hotel!
‘“Power!” Lyndall said suddenly, smiting her little hand upon the rail. “Yes, we have power; and since we are not to expend it in tunnelling mountains, nor healing diseases, nor making laws, nor money, nor on any extraneous object, we extend it on you. You are our goods, our merchandise, our material for operating on; we buy you, we sell you, we make fools of you, we act the wily old Jew with you, we keep six of you crawling to our little feet, and praying only for a touch of our little hand; and they say truly, there was never an ache or a pain or a broken heart but a woman was at the bottom of it. We are not to study law, nor art, nor science; so we study you. There is never a nerve or fibre in your man’s nature but we know it. We keep six of you dancing in the palm of one little hand.’
Does this sound like something a very young girl, barely educated, would say?
This from the boy Waldo who has just suffered a severe whipping –
` ‘Ah, it was going to end at last. Nothing lasts for ever, not even the night. How was it he had never thought of that before? For in all that long dark night he had been very strong, had never been tired, never felt pain, and he had not known it would end. That was a dreadful night. When he clasped his hands frantically and prayed – “Oh, my God, my beautiful God, my sweet God, once, only once let me feel you near me tonight! He could not feel him. He prayed aloud, very loud, and he got no answer; when he listened it was all quite quiet – like when the priests of Baal cried aloud to their god – “Oh, Baal hear us! Oh, Baal hear us!” but Baal was gone a hunting.’
Now I must get on with some hunting, sorry, writing of my own.

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