Nate D's Reviews > A High Wind in Jamaica

A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes
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's review
May 22, 2012

liked it
bookshelves: nyrb, britain, interwar-maladies, read-in-2012
Recommended to Nate D by: an oracular long-tailed mouse
Recommended for: bedtime stories for tiny crocodiles
Read from May 06 to 21, 2012

Being nearly four years old, she was certainly a child: and children are human (if one allows the term "human" in a wide sense): but she had not altogether ceased to be a baby: and babies are of course not human--they are animals, and have a very ancient and ramified culture, as cats have, and fishes, and even snakes: the same in kind as these, but much more complicated and vivid, since babies are, after all, one of the most developed species of the lower vertebrates.
It is true they look human--but not so human, to be quiet fair, as many monkeys.
Subconsciously, too, everyone recognizes that they are animals--why else do people always laugh when a baby does some action resembling a human, as they would at a praying mantis? If the baby was only a less-developed man, there would be nothing funny in it, surely.
Possibly a case might be made that children are not human either: but I should not accept it. Agreed that their minds are not just more ignorant and stupider than ours, but differ in a kind of thinking (are mad, in fact): but one can, by an effort of will and imagination, think like a child, at least in a partial degree--and even if one's success is infinitesimal it invalidates the case: while one can no more think like a baby, in the smallest respect, than one can think like a bee.

Beginning this tale of adventure rising out of a tropical fever-dream, I somewhat baffled by Hughes' take on his child-cast, and by why exactly he wanted to write about them so oddly. But really, his portrayal is only odd by comparison to more usual treatments. Hughes actually understands exactly what children are like, and exactly how difficult they are to understand by normal adult interpretations. His entirely unsentimental portrayal is as brisk and funny as it is disconcerting, and both of these sides feel nothing but excruciatingly accurate. It's really quite remarkable that people can live with them around (children, that is). But then, perhaps the irrational and occult world of childhood has its benefits over a rationalized adult world that does such as this:

Trials are over quickly, once they begin. It was no time before the judge had condemned these prisoners to death and was trying someone else with the same concentrated, benevolent, individual attention.

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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by knig (last edited May 22, 2012 03:19AM) (new)

knig Hmmm,I'm not getting a feel for this: are you for it or agin it? Lack of stars don't give a guide either. Whats the final verdict?

Nate D I see that I forgot to include a rating, and also garbled the review (rushing). But it is good, though odd.

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