Matt's Reviews > Green Hills of Africa

Green Hills of Africa by Ernest Hemingway
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's review
Apr 18, 2011

really liked it
Read in April, 2011

If you like east Africa, nature writing, Hemingway in general, and/or hunting, especially hunting, you'll like this book. I enjoy the first three, and found the hunting descriptions fascinating despite my lack of experience, so overall it was a good read. Tucked in between the hunting scenes are Hemingway's thoughts on other writers of the time, especially American writers, and the writing life in general, all of which are oddly engrossing. The book is nonfiction, and comes across as honest, including the bizarre and sometimes awkward relationship between Hemingway, his travel companions, and the African guides.

Some excerpts...

"Some writers are only born to help another writer to write one sentence."

"This was a better sky than Italy. The hell it was. The best sky was in Italy and Spain and Northern Michigan in the fall and in the fall in the Gulf off Cuba. You could beat this sky; but not the country."

"You cannot live on a plane of the sort of elation I had felt in the reeds and having killed, even when it is only a buffalo, you feel a little quiet inside. Killing is not a feeling that you share and I took a drink of water and told P.O.M. I was sorry I was such a bastard about the camera. She said it was all right and we were all right again looking at the buff with M'Cola making the cuts for the headskin and we standing close together and feeling fond of each other and understanding everything, camera and all. I took a drink of the whisky and it had no taste and I felt no kick from it.'

"They had that attitude that makes brothers, that unexpressed but instant and complete acceptance that you must be Masai wherever it is you come from. That attitude you only get from the best of the English, the best of the Hungarians and the very best Spaniards; the thing hat used to be the most clear distinction of nobility when there was nobility. It is an ignorant attitude and the people who have it do not survive, but very few pleasanter things ever happen to you than the encountering of it."... the whole Masai passage is one of my favorites...

"With the clean feeling of dry shirt, fresh socks and a change of boots I sat on the petrol case and drank a whisky and water while I waited for the Roman to come back. I felt certain I was going to have a shot at kudu and I wanted to take the edge off so I would not be nervous. Also I wanted not to catch a cold. Also I wanted the whisky for itself, because I loved the taste of it and because, being as happy as I could be, it made me feel even better."

"Every damned thing is your own fault if you're any good."

"A continent ages quickly once we come. The natives live in harmony with it. But the foreigner destroys, cuts down the trees, drains the water, so that the water supply is altered, and in a short time the soil, once the sod is turned under, is cropped out and, next, it starts to blow away as it has blown away in every old country and as I had seen it start to blow in Canada. The earth gets tired of being exploited. A country wears out quickly unless man puts back in it all his residue and that of all his beasts. When he quits using beasts and uses machines, the earth defeats him quickly. The machine can't reproduce, nor does it fertilize the soil, and it eats what he cannot raise. A country was made to be as we found it."

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