This review is based on NYRB edition translated by Susan Bernofsky.
What a fantastic little Halloween read. This story, written before 1842 when it was...moreThis review is based on NYRB edition translated by Susan Bernofsky.
What a fantastic little Halloween read. This story, written before 1842 when it was first translated into English, is a combination of "The Devil and Daniel Webster" and "Arachnophobia". It begins with a christening feast in which one of the guests notices an unusual post in the host's home and questions the "grandfather" about it.
The grandfather reluctantly assents and tells a tale that begins six centuries earlier when there were castles and knights and feudal lords and serfs. The history he begins with is true. The Teutonic Knights were a religious order who controlled much of what is today's northern Germany and they were almost continually at war with the Prussians and the Poles. It has been surmised that Nazi Germany arose from the seeds of the Teutons.
Unjustly oppressed, the serfs enter into a pact with the devil, which leads to encounters of a creepy crawly kind.
And the language! I just flipped to a page in the middle and found penance, trepidation, wild-eyed, vengeful, and tormented in the first six lines. There's plunging and hurling and thrusting in battles with evil and baptismal consecrating and sprinkling of holy water. It's a bit campy and moralistic, but literary enough to possibly appeal to readers of H.P. Lovecraft and Algernon Blackwood.(less)
The oddest thing happened while reading this book. Having just finished White's Sword in the Stone, and having just learned what an acciptor is (rapto...moreThe oddest thing happened while reading this book. Having just finished White's Sword in the Stone, and having just learned what an acciptor is (raptors, including goshawks, who diet on other birds) I discovered that T.H. White had written this memoir. But while reading it, I kept thinking that White, who referred to himself as an austringer (a keeper of goshawks) lived in the 1600s. The language of this "sport" is so specialized and near-archaic the book read as such. Plus, one of the handful of books of training guides he used was written in the 1600s. Then he would mention the world war or automobiles and I was snapped back into the 20th century. There was also an abundance of wildlife (are there any badgers left in England?) and uninhabited land. The year was 1938.
I veered between fascination and repulsion. Good thing the book is short! The preoccupation with acquiring food for the goshawk, both live game such as mice, rabbits and other birds and market beef, and what could be perceived as the cruelty of taming such a wild and independent bird was often difficult to accept. But it was also fascinating to learn about his naive methods which amounted to extreme patience and trial and error. Also, there was this bizarre psychology between man and bird unlike anything I've ever encountered before.
When the book was published in 1951, White added a third section with an overview of his continued practice with another goshawk, changes in method, and mention of the disappearance of the practice in England, but which he was glad to see continuing in America. (less)
Charming. A simply charming little gem. Each chapter contains a story about a young girl, Sophia, and her grandmother on a summer island in Scandinavi...moreCharming. A simply charming little gem. Each chapter contains a story about a young girl, Sophia, and her grandmother on a summer island in Scandinavia. Sophia is at that stage and of the disposition to say and think the darndest things. Grandmother, is usually patient and wise, but this is an island, and at times they have more than enough of each other and they get testy. They go on adventures together. They trespass and crawl around discovering nature. Grandmother sneaks cigarettes, hiding from Sophia's father, a mere peripheral character.