ABOUT BLADY: A Pattern Out of Time by Laurens van der Post

ABOUT BLADY: A Pattern Out of Time

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An autobiographical musing on mortality, suffering, and modern life from octogenarian van der Post, in which his often naive ponderings are relieved by vivid references to his beloved Kalahari and its Bushmen, still his true mÉtier. After a long life rich in adventure and friendship, van der Post is well qualified to reflect on the troubling big questions. His belief in the underlying unity between all living things and the importance of the subconscious has certainly been a major theme in his books on Africa (Testament to the Bushmen, 1985, etc.). Now, however, affected by the death of a son and two beloved friends from cancer, he attempts not only to link cancer, which he regards as a post-WW II disease, with all that is wrong with the present, but to find metaphysical meaning in its occurrence. Going beyond Susan Sontag's idea of cancer as metaphor, van der Post describes it as a condition for attaining grace and salvation. Those afflicted are paradoxically blessed, for they are able to transcend contemporary greed and self-absorption. Recalling first his childhood, special friends, and wartime experiences, van der Post finally comes to Blady, a mare whose story, he says, exemplifies his contentions. Rescued by friends from ploughing the fields, Blady does the impossible and wins a prestigious competition. This victory is van der Post's epiphany and his balm: Blady is not only a symbol of waiting for ""a readiness"" for whatever fate decrees, but, in her unlikely success, a reminder that ""in the short run [we] may have to go through darkness and death but will be joined inevitably with the last great story of all, and its happy ending."" The message is heartfelt, but the antique flavor of van der Post's reasoning and his simplistic tenets about illness overwhelm all that is fresh and moving here.

Pub Date: May 21st, 1992
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Morrow