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The Peregrine

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  1,464 Ratings  ·  220 Reviews
From autumn to spring, J.A. Baker set out to track the daily comings and goings of a pair of peregrine falcons across the flat fen lands of eastern England. He followed the birds obsessively, observing them in the air and on the ground, in pursuit of their prey, making a kill, eating, and at rest, activities he describes with an extraordinary fusion of precision and poetry ...more
Paperback, 191 pages
Published December 31st 2004 by NYRB Classics (first published January 1st 1967)
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Fionnuala
Dec 16, 2012 added it
Shelves: place
I spent some time in December on a virtual walk across a ten by twenty mile area trailing J A Baker as he in turn trailed a couple of peregrine hawks over the fenlands and the estuaries of east Anglia. Of course, my virtual walk was conducted from the comfort of my fireside and only lasted ten days whereas Baker was outdoors in all weathers in pursuit of his prey, and his walk lasted from October to March when the Peregrines migrate to Scandinavia for the summer months.

"The Peregrine", first pu
...more
Kobe Bryant
Nov 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
He walks around and looks at birds and writes about them real good
Mark
Jun 20, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is just the most wonderfully poetic account of one man's year long exploration of the lifestyle of peregrines in the unnamed yet I assumed East Anglian area of the mid 1960's. Just beautiful.

On almost every page there is a wonderful simile or collective noun and his prose is the stuff for which fruity voices were made. He does stray on a number of occasions into prose so purple a whole college of Bishops could dress themselves in it but there are so many breathtaking phrases that I could f
...more
Tony
Thus completes my reading cycle about hawks and falcons ( The Goshawk, The Pilgrim Hawk, and, surprisingly, The Adventures of Augie March). I thought this one the least overtly metaphorical of the bunch and certainly the lushest in language.

It is an odd hobby, to the point of fetish, to spend the day - every day - out in the landscape, regardless of weather, watching the peregrines . . . and the things that they kill. But then you learn this:

Wild peregrines love the wind, as otters love water.
...more
Guillermo Macbeth
Un libro arduo. No tiene trama aristotélica, ni argumento al modo formalista ruso, pero impone una estética fuerte, bien definida. Su lenguaje es exuberante pero preciso. Es descriptivo, colorido, cinético, erudito. Se trata de una lectura difícil que ofrece mucho si el lector logra procesar sus exigencias. Inglaterra, década de 1960, geografía baja, pantanosa, del este británico, la mirada puesta en la naturaleza salvaje. El narrador describe con laconismo sus paseos de observación del halcón p ...more
Chrissie
The writing is exceptional. For this reason alone, it is worth reading. Nature writing that is prose poetry filled with synaesthetic imagery. The reader becomes one with a peregrine. I was told the book would infuse me with such a feeling, and it does.

Yet, not more than three stars? I liked the book. All in all, it wasn't amazing or even very good, and so it must be given three stars.

It is extremely difficult to listen to hours and hours of lines that say approximately the same thing, even if t
...more
Derian
Jul 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Nunca se me hubiera ocurrido, creo, pensar a la luz del sol que se filtra por las ramas de los árboles como columnas. Columnas de sol. O imaginar a la niebla como un pelaje al filo de los campos. Estas y otras altísimas y mejores imágenes van llenando el increíble libro de Baker, quien obsesionado con el halcón peregrino, lo persigue por las zonas selváticas de Inglaterra hasta convertirse en uno. Hacia el final, el yo que construye Baker, integrado totalmente a la naturaleza, transformado en un ...more
lyell bark
Dec 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
Bird.
Eleanor
I read an article about this book recently, celebrating the 50th anniversary of its publication. https://www.theguardian.com/books/201...

The book is every bit as stunning as the article suggests. It was written as an elegy for these beautiful raptors, which 50 years ago were on the brink of extinction in the UK because of pesticides. Fortunately things have changed since then and the Peregrine is now safe again. The book is the result of 10 years of observation, distilled into one period from au
...more
Geoff
Feb 20, 2013 marked it as to-read
So when I get the Higgs boson blues something terrible and I am in a bad spot or life is just clinching its merciless little fist around me and squeezing squeezing something that always, without fail, cheers me up and/or sets my head a little straighter on neck is watching David Attenborough's nature specials- especially "The Life of [fill in the blank with type of animal here]"... I love David Attenborough and like 1200 hours worth of his material is available to stream on Netflix and I can jus ...more
Sebastian
Oct 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned
Un libro extraño, de lectura difícil y repleto de metáforas precisas, inusuales, barrocas pero concretas. Es un diario de observación de pájaros y halcones peregrinos en los fens, la zona baja y pantanosa del este de Inglaterra, entre octubre y abril de un año de la década del sesenta. Carece de estructura dramática. Aunque el autor habla muy poco de él, intuimos que algo muy serio lo aleja del pueblo hacia el campo y las marismas.

Baker se muestra fascinado y deseoso de compartir la experiencia
...more
Paul
Peregrines are one of the most impressive apex predators in this country, but it is one that we almost lost because of pesticides and persecution. They are bold, confident birds, fearing nothing else and can also claim to be the world’s fastest animal as they have been recorded at speeds in excess of 200mph in their stoop to kill their prey. Two things saved them, the banning of pesticides and they moved from the rural to the urban environment, skyscrapers replacing the cliff top eyries.

Half a
...more
Michael Dodsworth
Aug 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I first read 'The Peregrine' back in the early 70's and it was this book more than any other which was responsible for my lifelong interest in Nature writing. I have often thought that there is a correlation between this and my other literary obsession, the Ghost Story. Something about remote landscapes and the creatures which inhabit them invoke an ethereal experience which is both personal and mysterious. My second reading of this ageless book, which won the Duff Cooper Prize in 1967, confirms ...more
Tomas Ramanauskas
May 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Is this book on birdwatching? A poetry tome? A nature lover's journal? An impressive example of the magic of paying attention? I think, all four and maybe even more.

For me, the most fascinating part of this little diary is the focus of the observer, so deep that he becomes the thing he watches. Baker immerses you in a world in which you never had any interest before. It is a unique creation, slow, uneventful, repetitive yet somehow surprising, insightful, revealing.

Oh, and it was recommended by
...more
Kate
Dec 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
this book will go in my best books I ever read shelf, and I will read it again and again. It will sit right beside Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. The Peregrine is J.A. Baker's season walking beneath, watching, learning from, hearing, and being a part of wild nature. He trailed peregrines in eastern England, down by the bottom of the country over ploughed fields, estuaries, woodland paths, fields, farms, towns, and in the process also watched and was part with hundreds of other birds, f ...more
D.A.
Aug 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
Sometimes you read a book to find out "what happened?". Othertimes, you read as a kind of immersion process, to sink into a realm not your own and abide its rules and orders. This book is definitely suited for the latter kind of reading. There is no real plot to this book; it is, like much lyric poetry, interested in the nowness of its subjects rather than in the progress of the reader's journey.

This book really is more about the writer's relationship to nature in general and the peregrine in p
...more
Danny Daley
Jan 07, 2015 rated it liked it
A stirring account of one man's year long relationship with one of my favorite animals on earth - the peregrine falcon. So hard to review, this book is so beautiful and at the same time so completely repetitive. It crosses so many genres; it's like a nearly 200 page prose poem that is part memoir, part natural history, part travel narrative. The use of language is striking, and there are so many wonderful passages, but as the book moves along it's hard not to feel that all the pages sort of blen ...more
Jason
Jun 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2015
I've wanted to read this book for a while now, quite a few other nature books I've read have been inspired by this book, glad I gave it a go as it was a beautifully written book, almost poetic at times. Baker goes into great detail about the countryside, other animals and every aspect of the peregrines life. J. A. Baker was diagnosed as being very ill so he decided to dedicate his life to stalking these peregrines he had spotted. In the end he does start to go feral, at times when writing about ...more
Julian Hoffman
Feb 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nature
Few books dance with language the way The Peregrine does. The story is simple enough:a man spends his winters tracking peregrines over the marshes, fields, and estuaries of eastern England. But that man, J.A. Baker, accomplishes something rare in the history of nature writing—he immerses himself so deeply in his search that he becomes the very thing
he seeks, finally coming to see the “pouring-away world of no attachment” through the peregrine’s eyes. The transformation is startling, lucid, and u
...more
Helena
Jul 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Un libro interesante, que por momentos se puede volver un tanto pesado, pero esta lleno de poesía, pero la poesía involuntaria de los que no saben que la poseen. Una persona avista aves que asume ya no volverán. Sus notas al respecto, un diario formalmente dicho, se despliegan en estas páginas.

En el contexto de la errática edición de Sigilo esto debe ser de lo mejor que tienen.
Barry Litherland
Aug 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Probably the finest natural history book I've ever read and a book of the highest literary merit in its own right. Some of the language is even more memorable than Proust. The wren 'like a little brown priest in a congregation of leaves.' Wonderful!
Pamela
Jan 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir, non-fiction
When J.A. Baker published this book in 1967, it turned the world of birding upside down. He was not a naturalist or a previously published birder. He was, by his own admission, new to birding and his book is based on diaries he kept of ten years of following a pair of peregrine hawks in the fields and marshes of Essex near Chelmsford, in Kent his home in England. These are not day to day reminiscences but rather a detailed compilation of the ten years written in astoundingly beautiful prose poet ...more
Geoff
Apr 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Reading The Peregrine, stopped me in my tracks. As a writer, I became caught up in the incredible structure of Baker's sentences. Anyone who writes should take the time to read this short and gorgeous book. I read sentences aloud to my family touched by the soaring of his language and the world he watched. "Plovers volleyed from the fields and fretted the horizon with the dark susurrus of their wings." Read it again. Through out the book, Baker brings alive all of the senses together in one set ...more
Robert Jacoby
Nov 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: my-favorites
No other way to put it: This book is a treasure of the English language.

In The Peregrine J.A. Baker describes how he tracked and trekked over months and miles in his native England to watch and record in language like you've never read how peregrines hunt and feed and fly and play and rest. The language he uses to construct his sentences is like none other I have ever read. It's a vivid mix of nature writing and the best poetry. The text is so dense, the sentences are so packed with words bring
...more
Michele
Nov 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Werner Herzog recommends that you read this book if you want to learn how to make films. After reading this, I'm not sure I'm now completely ready to make the next indie film.

HOWEVER-if you want to learn about what it's like to fall in love with a wild thing, to get inside the mind of a hawk, and get thoroughly schooled on how to write beautiful, luscious, descriptive prose, this book is the best example of why we love wild things and how to become a better writer too.

After I get a copy for my s
...more
Alanood Burhaima
Mar 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
"His eyes were fixed on my face, and his head turned as he went past, so that he could keep me in view. He was not afraid, nor was he disturbed when I lowered and raised my binoculars or shifted my position. He was either indifferent or mildly curious. I think he regards me now as part hawk, part man; worth flying over to look at from time to time, but never wholly to be trusted; a crippled hawk, perhaps, unable to fly or to kill cleanly, uncertain and sour of temper"
Geoff Cain
Apr 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: herzog, bus
This is a really wonderful book. Incredibly poetic nonfiction about a man who follows peregrines through the countryside through the seasons. And that's it - that is the story. Throughout the book, the narrator becomes a part of the landscape of the hawks and seems to become one as well. The book's repetitions and poetry bring us back to an older world of sagas. This is not a "modern" book at all. It is a book about how nature can transform us with that rare commodity - attention.
Richard Thomas
Jan 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I liked this book a great deal. I know the country described here and I have always been fascinated by the bird and animal life here. He evokes the mystery of the peregrine in an area that many would dismiss as either suburban (which it is on the fringes) or low flat land with little topographical interest. The author manages to combine a near mystical evocation of a predatory bird with vivid and perceptive writing about the Essex landscape. It is unmissable and a book to which I return.
Gregory Day
And if you want beef, then bring the ruckus
This Peregrine ain't nuttin ta fuck with
Bob Gosford
Mar 01, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anybody with an interest in natural history
The most magnificent piece of prose poetry about a single species of bird I have ever read...
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NYRB Classics: The Peregrine, by J.A. Baker 4 25 Apr 13, 2016 08:29AM  
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John A. Baker lives with his wife in Essex. He has had assorted jobs, including chopping down trees and pushing book trolleys in the British Museum. In 1965 he gave up work and lived on the money he had saved, devoting all his time to his obsession - the peregrine. He re-wrote his account of this bird five times before submitting it for publication. Although he had no ornithological training and h ...more
More about J.A. Baker
“I have always longed to be part of the outward life, to be out there at the edge of things, to let the human taint wash away in emptiness and silence as the fox sloughs his smell into the cold unworldliness of water; to return to town a stranger. Wandering flushes a glory that fades with arrival.” 19 likes
“Cold air rises from the ground as the sun goes down.  The eye-burning clarity of the light intensifies. The southern rim of the sky glows to a deeper blue, to pale violet, to purple, then thins to grey.  Slowly the wind falls, and the still air begins to freeze.  The solid eastern ridge is black; it has a bloom on it like the dust on the skin of a grape.  The west flares briefly.  The long, cold amber of the afterglow casts clear black lunar shadows.  There is an animal mystery in the light that sets upon the fields like a frozen muscle that will flex and wake at sunrise.” 15 likes
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