Reader's Choice

OF THE many books about Africa published during the past few years, certainly the most unusual is The Dark Eye in Africa (Morrow, $3.00) by Laurens van der Post; and certainly the most comprehensive is John Gunther’s 958-page Inside Africa (Harper, $6.00), a Book-of-the-Month Club selection.
Colonel van der Post has turned to depth psychology to explain the mounting unrest in Africa, and his argument is directed toward bringing about a radical change in the white man’s thinking. The question of objectivity and balance is virtually irrelevant in a speculative and missionary work of this kind, but it is highly relevant in the case of a book of detailed survey and appraisal such as Inside Africa. Mr. Gunther’s warmhearted liberalism sometimes makes his examination of the policies and personalities of African nationalists somewhat less trenchant than his assessment of the errors and crimes of colonialism. It is not that Mr. Gunther fails to present all sides of any particular case, but rather a matter of tone and emphasis. I was in Egypt, for instance, around the same time as Gunther’s last visit, and it seems to me that his sympathy for the NaguibNasser revolution has led him to overaccent the positive in describing the country as “bursting with contemporary reality.” Gunther’s account of the post-revolution developments conveys a rather more cheerful and dynamic impression than did Prime Minister Nasser himself in his little book on the revolution.
Insofar as organization is concerned, Inside Africa is more slapdash and repetitious than its predecessors in the “Inside” series; but once again Mr. Gunther left me marveling at his unrivaled talent for dispensing a stunning amount of information about a huge area in an almost unfailingly lively manner. Inside Africa deals with no fewer than forty-four countries or political subdivisions. Along with the vital facts there is the customary sprinkling of bizarre trivia — in the Congo language, Kele, the same two words mean “He watched the riverbank” and “He boiled his mother-in-law”; a Christian sect in South Africa calls itself the “Castor Oil Dead Church"; and so on. The profiles of the continent’s V.I.P.s, an intriguing and spectacularly varied lot, introduce to us some men with remarkable stories — Edgar Edouard Sengier, for example, a Belgian Congo tycoon who had never before allowed himself to be interviewed. In 1940, Mr. Sengier, acting on his own initiative, secretly shipped to the United States and stored in a warehouse the uranium ore which was later needed to produce the first atomic bombs.
Mr. Gunther’s survey points up the painful dilemma inherent in colonial rule. Of the three main colonial powers, Britain is the most hard-pressed (south of the Sahara); yet, according to Gunther, British rule is all in all the best — Britain is the only power that has had as its official policy the systematic training of Africans for self-government. The quietest situation is in the Belgian Congo, where a stern paternalism has given the natives a relatively high standard of living, but where no one— black or white — has a vote. (A high-ranking Belgian said to Gunther: “Sooner or later we will have to have elections. After that, five years” — and the Belgians would be on their way out.)
Gunther gives race prejudice precedence over politics and economics as the source of the acutest tensions in Africa. If explosive unrest is to be avoided, he concludes, the color bar will have to be relaxed; even some supporters of apartheid in the Union of South Africa somberly concede that it cannot work out successfully and will eventually bring disaster to the Union.
The black man, says Gunther, will also have to be given more education, fairer economic treatment, and more self-government. Ironically, the more rapidly he progresses, the more eager he will be to throw off the tutelage of the West. The crucial issue, however, as Gunther sees it, is to stem the rising tide of African resentment which, when the inevitable withdrawal of the white man comes, could easily carry Africa into the Communist camp.
Laurens van der Post’s new book consists of a talk on “The Invisible Origins of African Unrest” originally delivered at a meeting of psychologists in Zurich, and of his answers to the questions put to him by this and other audiences. As a good many readers know, Colonel van der Post is a native of South Africa; a soldier with a distinguished war record; an explorer who has trekked into uncharted regions of the African hinterland — and a spellbinding writer. His previous books were notable for their eloquence and descriptive power, their nobility of feeling, and their profound insight into the heart and mind of primitive Africa. The same qualities make The Dark Eye in Africa a stirring venture into the interior of the human spirit.
A speculative dissertation which has much to do with the Unconscious cannot be persuasively summarized in a couple of paragraphs; but with this warning, I will try to suggest the drift of van der Post’s argument. The problem of Africa, he writes, is “fundamentally a problem of being.” Western man has become half-blinded by a shallow rationalism which overvalues the conscious, “civilized” self and represses with fear and disgust the so-called “dark,” instinctual aspects of man’s being, engendering thereby a submerged civil war. In an effort to escape from the pressures of this inner conflict, the white man has externalized it; has sought to expel the “dark” enemy within him by projecting onto the dark peoples the despised and threatening aspects of his being — and only those aspects. This terrible unconscious projection prevents him from seeing what is of value in the primitive African — his sense of unity with nature; his rich intuitive and instinctive promptings; his deep spontaneous laughter. In the society which the white man created in Africa, the black man was prevented from living out his unique being and was simultaneously denied the right to thrust forward freely and find integration in a new way of life. Thus he, too, was condemned to an inner conflict, and is now confronted with a terrifying sense that he is being robbed of his soul. The Mau Mau revolt, in van der Post’s opinion, is a desperate attempt on the part of the Kikuyus to save their souls by returning to the crude and revolting religion of their forefathers. It is a sinister portent of how other primitive Africans may seek release from the pressures of the inner conflict imposed upon them.
I cannot attempt here to follow van der Post in his fascinating discussion of myths which have a bearing on the African situation. The crisis between whites and blacks in Africa, as van der Post sees it, represents a crisis in the development of man. To modern man, troubled by his sense of estrangement from nature, Africa holds up a timeless mirror in which is reflected his natural self. It offers him an opportunity to recognize the worth of that rejected self, and also a warning that when human beings sacrifice an aspect of their humanity, “that aspect eventually returns, knife in hand, to sacrifice that which sacrificed it.”

Inside China

Mandarin Red (Rinehart, $3.50) is the account of a visit made to China in the last months of 1954 by James Cameron, Chief Correspondent of the London News Chronicle — the first Western journalist not affiliated with the Communist press or accompanying an official delegation to be admitted behind the Bamboo Curtain since the People’s Revolution. Mr. Cameron was, of course, accompanied throughout his 7000-mile tour by official guides and interpreters; but his stubbornness and curiosity led to encounters and observations which were not on the program and which left him with more favorable impressions than the government’s repellently self-congratulatory propaganda. “The splendid and admirable things,” he writes, “you found out for yourself, the bad somehow always exposed by your guides and mentors.”
Cameron seems to be as naturally immune as any man can be to the horrid vice of doctrinaire thinking. He went to China determined to remember that much that would strike him as deplorable or impressive might well be Chinese rather than Communist; and further, that “neither side ever lost or found a pennyworth of face by pretending things to be otherwise than they are.” His book is the product of a sensitive eye and a singularly well-tempered mind. It is written with style, astringent humor, and no pretensions to certainty.
Statistics and matters of ideology, though they have their place in Mandarin Red, are subordinated to the concrete facts of Chinese life: the human element is always in the foreground. Cameron encountered no evidence of a reign of terror —that there had been wholesale purges in 1950-51 was freely admitted. What he found was a reign of puritanism: a population encased in blue boiler suits which have banished bosoms from the Chinese landscape; no cabarets; stringent morality regulations; a new generation of bright young men and women who have been molded into insufferable Murxist-Leninist prigs.
He found, too, amazing cleanliness; surprisingly efficient railroads; delicious cooking; and a host of piquant paradoxes — glossy Buicks flying red flags; a Revolution’s Day parade of the New Chinese Capitalists Association whose banners bore the slogan, “Long Live Private Enterprise in the Glorious Revolution!”; an up-to-date hospital in which the patients were allowed to choose between the old herbalists and contemporary medicine.
Cameron concluded that the Chinese Communists have been much more realistic than the Russians about compromising with the past, and have spared themselves a good deal of trouble by their efforts to coordinate the old and the new in such spheres as land reform, medicine, and business. (Thirty-five per cent of Chinese business, though subject to government supervision, is still privately owned.)
Though Cameron is not the sort of reporter who dishes out sweeping conclusions, certain significant generalizations are tentatively stated in his report. 1) China’s dependence on Russia remains immense, and the government is doing its utmost to glorify the Soviet Union. 2) The most conspicuous feature of the Revolution is the emancipation of women. 3) The Revolution appears to have produced “a nation more united and, as far as one could see, happier than ever before.”

Theater

Me and Kit, (Atlantic—Little, Brown, $5.00) by Guthrie McClintic is pleasantly free from the jarring egotism prevalent in the memoirs of theater folk. In putting himself before his celebrated wife in the title, Mr. McClintic has merely played fair with the reader, for his book is essentially an autobiography in which Katharine Cornell does not make her appearance until after the halfway point.
Mr. McClintic succumbed to the spell of the theater as a twelve-yearold in Seattle, where a bewitching young woman called Laurette Taylor was appearing in a series of melodramas with such titillating titles as Escape from the Harem and Stolen by the Gypsies. It took him five unhappy years to overcome his parents’ opposition to his studying for the stage. When finally he landed his first job, it was to play not one but two parts — The Artful Dodger and the love interest — in a touring production of Oliver Twist. Unfortunately, the manager soon absconded with the take, and there followed a period of crushing discouragement which was terminated by the intervention of the supernatural. The table-tipping of his landlady brought the astonished young McClintic a message from the spirit world which prompted him to mail an angry letter written three weeks earlier and locked away in a trunk. The letter resulted in a nineyear association with the producerdirector Winthrop Ames, who in 1921 — the year McClintic married Katharine Cornell — helped him to strike out on his own with a production of The Dover Road which proved a smashing success.
In the last three and a half decades, Mr. McClintic has directed nearly a hundred plays, among them all the hits starring his wife; and his story of these years takes in a large slice of theatrical history. In his Beekman Place home, Gershwin played his newly composed Rhapsody in Blue; Noel Coward tried out his latest songs; and Katharine Cornell gave her first reading of The Barretts of Wimpole Street, which, when it was performed before American troops overseas in World War II, moved a G.I. who was seeing it for the second time to say loudly to his buddy, “Didn’t. I tell you it’s better than a whorehouse?”
Me and Kit is written with zest, humor, and the right touch of nostalgia. As in most theatrical memoirs, one finds a certain amount of professional cant and tributes overloaded with sentimentality; but I should say that Mr. McClintic’s failings in this regard are certainly not heinous.

The Freudian revolution

The second volume of The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud (Basic Books, $6.75) by Ernest Jones extends from 1901 to 1919, and carries its subject from his forty-fifth to his sixty-fourth year. In the first years of the century, Freud emerged from a decade of intellectual isolation. Weekly meetings with Adler and Stekel led to the formation of the Vienna Psycho-Analytic Society; and important relationships were formed with disciples and supporters outside Austria. From 1906 onward, psychoanalysis began to achieve a growing international recognition. In 1909 Freud was invited to the United States to lecture at Clark University in Massachusetts, and the following year the International PsychoAnalytical Association was launched. There followed, however, a period of disturbing dissension within the movement, in the course of which Adler, Stekel, and — this was the bitterest blow to Freud — Jung broke away from Freudian doctrine.
The second section of Dr. Jones’s biography is devoted to a detailed account of Freud’s writings and contributions to theory during the middle span of his life.
In part III the author deals with Freud’s way of life, and completes the descriptions of Freud’s personality and the analysis of his behavior which have been scattered throughout the narrative.
Aside from unusually long working hours, the pattern of Freud’s existence could not have been more typically bourgeois — patients all day, and after the evening meal and constitutional, three hours’ work in his study; a contented family life; summer holidays in quiet mountain resorts with occasional sightseeing trips to Italy. Nonetheless, Freud’s life story is almost continuously charged with intellectual excitement, for it is a chronicle of heroic struggle and adventurous discovery; and its protagonist is playing the lead in the greatest cultural drama since the battles over Darwinism.
Dr. Jones, a pioneer in the psychoanalytical movement, was one of Freud’s close friends for thirty years. He combines an unrivaled knowledge of his subject with a high sense of duty to the truth and considerable biographical skill. By the conclusion of the present volume a prodigious close-up of Freud has taken shape in which we begin to see him in his totality — a genius whose strongest impulse in life was the passion for knowledge, and who pursued it with a strange mixture of cautious patience and reckless audacity; a chainsmoker of cigars with chronic psychosomatic indigestion; a self-styled “cheerful pessimist,” a Viennese who hated Vienna, a puritan who was unutterably shocked by his own discoveries but nevertheless went on to rain explosives on the buttresses of puritanism; a kindly man of simple tastes whose outstanding attribute was immense moral courage.
The sex-haunted wasteland
After passing through half a dozen publishing houses, provoking sharp editorial disagreement as to whether it was too scandalous to print, Norman Mailer’s new novel, The Deer Park (Putnam’s, $4.00), was finally purchased by G. P. Putnam’s for the largest advance in the firm’s 118-year history. Although the original text has been revised and the roughest passages eliminated, Mr. Mailer’s publisher warns prospective readers that some will find the book shocking. On this issue, all I have to say is that Mr. Mailer’s treatment of sex is artistically gauche and therefore often tasteless. I happen to believe, however, that whatever Mailer’s artistic failings, he is a desperately honest and serious-minded writer who does not deliberately indulge in sensationmongering. While much of the surface activity in his book has to do with the erotic antics of the movie colony and leaves an impression of trashiness, The Deer Park is really a novel about integrity — about the consequences of losing it, the pains of struggling for it, and the price that must be paid to achieve it. Unfortunately, what the novel is really about only emerges in an extremely muddled fashion.
Mr. Mailer’s setting is Desert D’Or, a new resort town in the California cactus wild, a couple of hundred miles from Hollywood; and his novel counterpoints the stories of two men of different generations, each of whom has reached a turning point in his life. The youthful narrator, Sergius O’Shaugnessy, who grew up in an orphanage, has recently been discharged from the Air Force. With $14,000 won in a poker game, he has settled down in Desert D’Or to have a good time — but his ambition is to write. Charles Eitel, for many years a successful movie director whose sense of guilt made him a soft touch for leftist organizations, has been booted out of his job for refusing to denounce himself and others before a Congressional Investigating Committee. Exhilarated at having at last rejected timid compromise, he has come to Desert D’Or with the intention of writing a film script of blazing honesty, a work of art.
Mailer’s story (which has the technical defect of being written partly in the first and partly in the third person) leads the narrator into a love affair with a movie star, a ravishing nymphomaniac; and Eitel into a love affair with a beautiful waif who is also decidedly sans gêne about sex. Presently, Eitel is given an opportunity to regain a lush position in the cinema by reversing his attitude toward the investigating committee; and Sergius, too, is offered a movie career, if he will coöperate in the making of a dishonest film about himself as an orphan-boy war hero. In the course of building up to this situation, Mailer has peopled his novel with a sordid assemblage of Desert D’Or degenerates and successful movie folk, among whom there are two well drawn characters — a studio head as cynical as he is sanctimonious, and a producer whose caginess and utter shamelessness are at times positively endearing.
Mr. Mailer brings to his fiction a powerful reportorial talent. There is much that is telling, and a few scenes that are brilliant, in his savage picture of a success-worshiping society without morals or integrity. But while Mailer’s hatred of dishonesty is exhilarating up to a point, it contains a hint of paranoia. One detects the immature obsession that the whole stinking world conspires against the individual who seeks to be true to himself, and that the only way of escaping corruption is a lonely, defiant withdrawal into artistic creation.

Other fiction

Anthony West’s third and best novel, Heritage (Random House, $3.75), is an admirable handling of one of the trickiest subjects a writer can tackle: the story of the unhappy son of separated parents. The narrator, Richard, is the illegitimate child of a famous English actress and a celebrated English writer. Max Town — both of them high-powered personalities. Richard has reached prep school under his mother’s aegis without knowing his father’s identity. At this point, a chance remark arouses Town’s paternal feelings and he decides to take a hand in the upbringing of his son. Thereafter Richard is shunted between his mother in England and his father’s more expansive household in France, and each parent hits upon subtle way s of using him to irritate the other. At fifteen he concludes in a fit of wretchedness, “My mother was a liar, my father a buffoon who lived with a madwoman.” But by the time he has reached the threshold of manhood, he has come to understand his brilliant parents and their need to dramatize themselves; and he can forgive them. He recognizes that he, too, has indulged in self-dramatization — has acted the role of The Wronged Child, the low comedy part of Max’s Boy.
This is a story which might easily have slipped into the familiar dispirited key, but Mr. West has given it a spirited individuality. The characterizations of Naomi and especially of Max Town are truly superb, and there is choice comedy throughout the novel. What is best about it, perhaps, is the maturity of feeling — the ability of the narrator to write movingly about his hurts and disappointments without relapsing into self-pity.
Last year, the French writer Pierre Boulle was introduced to us with a strikingly original novel, The Bridge over the River Kwai. Now Mr. Boulle, who delights me with his clean, quick, ironical prose, has written an ingenious spy story of wartime England — Not the Glory (Vanguard, $3.50) — which has an ending that is both extraordinary and utterly right.
At the novel’s opening, William Conrad has just been discharged from the British Army after being badly wounded in Flanders and decorated for gallantry. We learn that Conrad turned up in London in 1935 as a Polish refugee from Nazi persecution; that he quickly won a reputation as a novelist ; then turned to journalism and dedicated himself to alerting his new countrymen to the Nazi menace. At the outbreak of war, he insisted on enlisting. Now he is writing again for Victory, and so tremendous is the effect of his articles on British morale that the Ministry of Information has charged him with revamping Britain’s propaganda strategy.
Possibly the only man in Fngland who has doubts about Conrad is Sir William Goodfellow, head of British Counter-Intelligence. He is troubled by a report that in 1935 a Nazi agent whose description seems to tally with Conrad’s disappeared from Poland; and when Conrad receives a peculiarly worded fan letter, Sir William’s suspicions are definitely aroused. On the other hand, Conrad’s propaganda plan has just been accepted in toto by Churchill himself. Why should a spy carry bluff to the point of helping the Brilish war effort as zealously and as effectively as Conrad has done?
For further details, hurry over to your local bookstore.