A MANTIS CAROL by Laurens Van der Post


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Van der Post's efforts to bring the rare, beautiful life of the South African Bushmen to Western knowledge (The Lost Worm of the Kalahari, 1958; The Heart of the Hunter, 1961) are so laudable that one is ashamed to demur. But his writing has been sinking increasingly into a murky and self-indulgent bathos untouched by more than fleeting rays of objectivity, proportion, or grammatical coherence. Here he describes an event of immense significance in his life: an unlikely meeting with an American woman who had long ago known a Bushman in the even more unlikely ambience of modern New York. No one ever knew how ""Hans Taaibosch""--the Afrikaans name which was her only clue to his origin--had come from his native desert to the Jamaican circus where a friend of her family found and adopted him, but from childhood on she accepted the little man with his strange Bushman shape and inexhaustible capacity for joy as a simple, unquestioned part of her life. As far as anyone could tell, Hans felt no bitterness at his incredible exile: he accepted the greater desert of New York, the ways of a Yankee lawyer's household, and the laughter of circus audiences with a genuine, all-inclusive graciousness which made his life a gift to everyone who ever had the slightest contact with him. Van der Post's portrayal of this extraordinary being is utterly convincing--but he cannot let Hans Taaibosch speak to us on his own. The framework of dramatic coincidences and Christian-Jungian analogies with which he expounds Hans' wonderful story--and even such necessary explications of Bushman legend as the special importance of the praying mantis--become grandiose conceptual decorations of a life which in its own completeness demands no decoration. Matter for gratitude and exasperation, in equally generous quantifies.

Pub Date: May 5th, 1976
Publisher: Morrow