Agreenhouse's Reviews > The White Masai

The White Masai by Corinne Hofmann
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Jul 12, 08

it was ok

I found this book while perusing the non-fiction shelf at the East Windsor Branch of the Queens Public Library. I first noticed the word Masai, and thought back to some comments my friend Penny had made after her trip to Kenya where she visited a Masai village. She was shocked at the poor treatment of women. I opened the inside cover and read that the book was an autobiography about a Swiss woman who fell instantly in love with a Masai man and gave up her life in Switzerland to live with the man in the African bush. As a woman who also fell head over heels in love with a man from a completely different culture, I was curious to see what would happen.

I actually knew what was going to happen. Like a person who jumped out of an airplane without a parachute and knows what kind of hell it feels like to hit the ground without one, I couldn't help peeling my eyes towards the sky and watching her hit the ground. This is not out of evilness, but out of loniliness, to see that I was not the only one foolish enough, stupid enough, naive enough, to make such a mistake. Reading the book was like watching a horror movie, where you are like, "No, don't go into that dark forest at night all by yourself. You're gonna get yourself killed." I was shouting out her, "No, don't go after this man who comes from a completely different culture. You're going to ruin your life. His life. IT WON'T WORK!!" I also began to read with a little satisfaction that I found someone who had even worse judgement than my own. At least, I did not give up everything for the man I loved and moved to his country. I don't think I would have done that. Also, there was some communication between him and me. For Corrinne, it seemed to be based entirely on looks. Yes, I can pat myself on the back, I am not the stupidest person out there. It brings up the issue of making judgements when in love. Isn't love very dangerous? Doesn't it lead us to situations we shouldn't be in? Is love ever clear? What separates those of us who make rash judgements for love and those who don't? Was her love with Lketinga ever real or was it just infatuation? Why doesn't she see all the warning signs of how they are incompatible?

Besides all the love issues, the book did provide some fascinating insight into the life of the Masai people. Life sure ain't easy there. Corrinne suffers from malaria and then hepatitis, life threatening diseases that we never think about in our comfortable American lives. She also has to deal with everyday hardships like keeping clean, using the toilet and having a comfortable place to sleep. I was amazed at what a difference her store made in the lives of the people in the village. At first, I thought that nobody would have money to buy any of the items in the store, but the bigger problem was transporting the goods to the remote area. I do give her credit for being so brave in driving through the jungle back and forth. It was amazing that even in the African bush, relationship problems often come back to money. She was working hard, while her husband was wasting money on drugs and beer.

One of the interesting parts of the story was how he changed because of her, and not in the best way. She pulled him away from his tradition and culture, leading to come conflict within himself. Before her, he never drank or kissed a woman's face. He probably would have been better off never having met her. Comprimising on tradition and lifestyle is not an easy task, especially when a person feels like they are giving something up of themselves.

Every time she called Lketinga "my darling," I wanted to vomit. Didn't she see how he was treating her? How come everyone can see a train wreck coming except the people on the train?

Also, I found it disturbing how she always talked about his looks, and how she liked how he did his hair and decorations. I did not really see why she fell for him or stayed with him beyond his filling her fantasy of the "noble savage."

Well, the question is "Should you read this, too?"

If you want to learn more about the life of the Masai people -- yes.
If you want to warn somebody about the real dangers of love at first sight -- yes.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Lili (new) - added it

Lili I remember seeing a documentary about this lady when she initially went to live with her Masai husband and I recently saw the book somewhere. I wondered how this relationship had progressed. I'm intrigued by your comments on the fascination his physical traits. This was one powerful attraction. How long did it last? Is the book her catharsis? How has she managed to reintegrate into European society, or has she? Guess I'll have to read to find out.

Andrea You correctly point out that Corrine seemed obsessed with Lketinga's "otherness." In one scene shortly after they meet, she sits in the audience and watches his group perform for tourists at a club in Mombasa. She has some weird sense that she's closer to the Masai dance group than to the other white tourists. And yet, she can't even communicate effectively with this man; they never share a common language! Clearly, there is a lot of wish fulfillment and infatuation going on here. I married a Kenyan, myself, 26 years ago (we are still married), but even as a naive American teenager, I knew I would need to learn as much as I could about his culture, and quickly. Also, my husband had lived in the U.S. for a few years, so we could communicate easily and he was familiar with my culture.

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