Introducing: Queen Elizabeth of Austria

Self finished In the Shadow of Man yesterday.  Oh, she was heartbroken over the loss of individual chimpanzees.  She found the demise of Mr. McGregor particularly harrowing.

Self still doesn’t know whether chimpanzees and people can really be friends, but points to Goodall:  she bravely admits at the end that she made mistakes in the course of her research, most of them in the beginning.  Perhaps carried away a bit by her awareness that no one had attempted to conduct a long-term study of chimpanzees in their natural environment, and desperate to initiate contact, she had lured the chimps with bananas, and induced them to come closer and ever closer to her. But the last half of the book more than made up for the first half.

She’s only a few pages into the 1,000-page behemoth that is Black Lamb Grey Falcon, by Rebecca West, but already she’s enthralled.  The King of Yugoslavia was assassinated in Marseille in October 1934.  West was in a “London nursing home,” recuperating from a minor operation, when she heard about the assassination.  West tells a nurse:  “Switch on a telephone! A most terrible thing has happened . . .  the King of Yugoslavia has been assassinated.”

“Oh, dear!” the nurse responded.  “Did you know him?”

“No,” I said.

“Then why,” asked the nurse, “did you think it’s so terrible?”

It turns out West, from the time she was a little girl, had always idolized Queen Elizabeth of Austria (“One of the most beautiful women who ever lived.”).  Here’s how West describes her in the Prologue:

How great she was!  In her early pictures she wears the same look of fiery sullenness we see in the young Napoleon: she knows that within her there is a spring of life and she is afraid that the world will not let it flow forth and do its fructifying work.  In her later pictures she wears a look that was never on the face of Napoleon.  The world had not let the spring flow forth and it had turned to bitterness.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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