Black Lamb and Grey Falcon
Written on the brink of World War II, Rebecca West's classic examination of the history, people, and politics of Yugoslavia illuminates a region that is still a focus of international concern. A magnificent blend of travel journal, cultural commentary, and historical insight, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon probes the troubled history of the Balkans and the uneasy relationships...more
The other story is of the grey falcon, a sort of Christian Faust story, where the Prophet Elijah came down in tha ...more
See, that’s just crazy enough to work. Not that I’ve ever tried the experiment myself, but in my better moments, I can almost understand the logic. I’m not even talki ...more
West's prejudices are plain (pro-Yugoslavia and pro-Serb) which on the whole means you can take them into account as you are reading.
Some of her attitudes come across as overly simplistic maybe even naive - for instance her characterisation of the young thrusting Serb states at various points in history contrasted with fl ...more
At almost 1200 pages it’s quite a tome, too heavy and too big even for my shoulder bag, which contains all sorts of fripperies! But I’ve been reading it in bite-sized chunks sin ...more
If Naipul were to be given a (small) point indirectly, it would be that West has paid a price for her erudition. She was a poor mother to her only son, and he estranged from her quite early on. The divide freed her up to ga ...more
It's not a book I can recommend lightly -- I read ...more
Well, it's been several months, and I haven't been able to come up with a review that can sum up this overwhelmingly insightful, powerful, and complicated (and yes sometimes problematic) reading experience. But I did take notes as I read, mostly for myself. So what follows isn't a review per se, but more of a bunch of cobbled together impressions and quotes. (For more quotes, please check out all the status updates below this review). Hopefully these notes will be useful to someone else also.
You can blame Goodreads for this rating being rounded down rather than up. Anything three-starred or higher gets churned up in a 'liked it' mash and spewed forth on recommendations that have nothing to do with why I read the book in the first place and everything to do with sucking up to the capitalism machine. If I could get some assurance of my rating having the nuance of 'found it useful despite all odious efforts to the contrary', I'd bother with the effort of joining in with the percen ...more
Because of her biases, you should not make this book your only source of information if you are at all interested in the history of the Balkans, but she does provide a riveting account of the region’s tumultuous past. What amazes me is how easily she is able to integrate the history of each place that she visits into her description of her own present experienc ...more
A detailed history of the now Balkanized Yugoslavia up to WWII. It also features some of the finest prose ever put to paper in English. In addition it gives a delightful look into West's Easter holiday in Yugoslavia in the 19 ...more
Interspersed with centuries of dense historical narrative, West comes up with gems like this description of the Skopje train station: "...the scalp of the years has become dandruffed with undistinguished manufactured good..."
I recently read “A Man of Parts,” a sort-of biography of H. G. Wells. Rebecca West was one of his mistresses, with whom he had a child. In her own right, Ms. West was a highly respected author of the times and this book has been called her magnum opus. It certainly is magnum. When I finally got it from the library, I found that it contained over 1,000 pages in a Penguin paperback edition. I was almost afraid to read it. I didn’t want to ...more
I finally got around to reading it. At first, it was a lot better than I expected. But it kept going, and going, and going. This isn’t the longest book I’ve read, ...more
I finally finished it! So good! I'm afraid I'm going to have withdrawal symptoms now. I wish Rebecca West had written a history of every region of the world. But she didn't, so I guess I'll just have to settle for reading this one again, even if it takes me another three years.
I love this book already.
￼In the space between the two world wars Rebecca West and her husband travelled through the Balkans extensively. This account of their travels is fascinating from beginning to end. It is written from the point of view of a woman who knew how awful The First World War had been. She did not know that the next one would be worse, although she suspected it. The book is filled with historical references from which i learned how little i know about Balkan history and how thoroughly the ...more
(as an aside, not a great edition - quite a few typos, especially towards the end, and absence of maps & photos only partially made up for by using the internet while reading)