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The Heart of the Hunter: Customs and Myths of the African Paperback – 3 Jan 2002

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The Heart of the Hunter: Customs and Myths of the African + The Lost World of the Kalahari + A Walk With A White Bushman (Vintage Classics)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics; New Ed edition (3 Jan 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099428741
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099428749
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 115,874 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"The Bushmen's legends are sheer poetry; their imaginative power is tremendous, their humour and compassion deeply moving" (Listener)

"An outstanding book... I rank Laurens van der Post with the best writers of English... This book confirms my constant admiration and the nobility of his mind" (Raymond Mortimer Sunday Times)

"I hope all those who are appalled by the destruction of Hiroshima will read this book...for a greater understanding of what man is capable of doing to his fellows in time of war" (Daily Telegraph)

"No one can write more feelingly of Africa-an experience not to be missed" (Evening Standard)

Book Description

The moving sequel to The Lost World of the Kalahari.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mr. J. Horsfall on 18 Oct 2010
Format: Paperback
Having read and loved 'Lost World of the Kalahari' and wanting to know more about the San Bushman I bought this. It starts off where Lost World finishes off, and is just as compelling. When the group disbands I felt quite sad. I was expecting a reunion or more travel writing, which Van Der Post is good at. Instead the rest of the book is more of an attempt at retelling of Bushman stories and myths. Which is a good idea, except it is very disjointed from the first third of the book (travel writing), and he just isn't as good at retelling stories as he is doing travel writing of his own.

His constant reference to the bible and Goethe are so inapproiate to a people who have no cultural ties to Western Europe that I almost stopped reading it. The stories he tells are ok, some of them interesting, some of them butchered so where they were clearly interesting to him they weren't to me.

So in conclusion the first third of the book is what I expected, although it does leave you hanging, and doesn't return to finish it off. While the rest of the book is interesting, but not well written or contextualised. I think 2 stars would be a bit harsh, but I wouldn't recommend it unless you had already read Lost World and REALLY wanted a bit more. I'm sure there are better books on Bushman anthropology if that is what you are after.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book arrived on cue, well packaged. I have to admit I have not as yet read it! This morning I finished The Lost World Of The Kalahari which I believe precedes this book. I have about 55 books to read before I get to this one. However I can say that Laurens Van Der Posts books are a terrific read, his deep interest for these amazing Bushman and his attempts to help save them from extinction comes though very clearly.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5 reviews
18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Feel the passion, hear the experiences of the Bushman. 5 Feb 1999
By Frederic S. Waugh - Published on
Format: Paperback
Sir Laurens van der Post has a gift for story telling that we should all explore. The customs and myths of the Bushmen are simple, complex, spiritual, entertaining but always there is a lesson to be learned. This book will feed your mind and you will find yourself through Laurens' craft eager for more. If you have shut down your heart and your imagination, feel the beat of this book and get your pulse back.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
The great divide 16 July 2004
By P. Micocci - Published on
Format: Paperback
I again with the earlier reviewer who pointed out the noticeable difference between the first part of this book and the latter; when Van der Post is recounting his experiences with the Bushmen (or San, if you prefer) and with various other folk who have come to inhabit the Kalahari the book is very interesting and informative. However, in the second half he feels the need to reinterpret the Bushmen's legends or myths through a Jungian perspective, a treatment I found neither compelling nor convincing. While the fragments of the Bushmen's tales are interesting and Van der Post's ruminations are occasionally thought provoking, I didn't particularly enjoy his technique of intercutting between a few sentences of the one and heavy doses of the other. I suppose that for the reader who cares to interpret everything by archetypes and quests it might prove intriguing, but I soon came to find it rather annoying and distracting.
16 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Good beginning but goes no where 15 Mar 2000
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is a decent book because I love anthropology, ethnobotony, and learning about the Bushman. The beginning of this book was great, the author discusses how he and his group fall upon a thirsty group of Bushman. That part is great because it describes the interactions between the author and the Bushman. One of the author's mate on the trip, Dabe, a Bushman himself, also offers amazing commentary when they run into the Bushman.
However, in the middle, who knows what is going on. And the end was so confusing, but sorta okay. Van der Post discusses Bushman creation tales which are good in themselves because most books overlook the spiritual aspect of the Bushman--but the tales need more explanation--Van der Post talks over your head and says things don't need an explanation when they really do.
I would recommend reading 'Nisa, The Life and Words of a !Kung Woman' and 'The Harmless People' which both can be purchased online here!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Friend of the Bushmen 12 Mar 2012
By Richard Reese (author of Sustainable or Bust) - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Laurens van der Post (1906-1996) was born in South Africa and grew up to be a reporter, dairy farmer, soldier, writer, and television personality. He was the godfather of Prince William, and was sometimes referred to as "Prince Charles' guru," because he was a mystical visionary with a wise old soul, quite skilled at thinking outside the box.

He took great pleasure in creating fascinating stories intended to wake up people whose thinkers had fallen asleep. The transformative power of his stories was far more important to him than 100% factual accuracy, and he sometimes "embellished" them to make them more forceful. This was the storyteller's job: creating amazing stories -- not rigidly accurate scientific discourses.

Laurens was not universally loved by white South Africans, because he had an annoying habit of criticizing segregation, racism, and oppression. He had special fondness for the Bushmen, who were sharply mistreated by everyone, both black and white. Bushmen once inhabited all of southern Africa, but black and white newcomers drove them off their best lands, forcing them into the Kalahari Desert, an extremely harsh place.

In 1955, Laurens did a documentary on the Bushmen for the BBC, and it was the second most popular program ever, only the queen's coronation had a bigger audience. He went on to write several books on Bushmen themes, including The Heart of the Hunter. Passages from this book are often quoted by writers of the counterculture, because Laurens had profound respect for the ability of simpler societies to live lightly on the Earth, with great reverence. He also had a robust contempt for modern industrial society, and he did not hesitate to express this. He had a front row seat for World War II, and this adventure in industrial warfare took much of the shine off of civilization's reputation.

Laurens introduced us to his beloved wild Bushmen, people of "irrepressible gaiety." One elder was "utterly at one with all the life that was and could ever be." Bushmen were incredibly in tune with nature, and could feel the presence of unseen animals. They could sense danger from far away. They could communicate telepathically. They didn't work hard, they didn't have jobs, they didn't have leaders, and they were free. Free! They had a culture that worked. John Reader once wrote that the Bushmen were able to live in their ordinary manner during the third year of extreme drought that killed 180,000 people and 250,000 cattle.

Unfortunately, the Bantu and European newcomers were farmers, herders, and assorted moneymakers -- property freaks -- and the way they treated Bushmen was similar to the relationship between Montana ranchers and prairie dogs. Consequently, the Bushmen avoided all contact with the outside world, because the dominant culture treated them like sub-human vermin, or no-cost slaves, or future tax-paying peasants or diamond miners.

Laurens lamented modern society, with its vast hordes of property freaks, the tragic innocent victims of arrested development. Because of our estrangement from nature, our minds had lost contact with core human instincts, we had lost our souls, we were starved for meaning, and we were mindlessly destroying system after system. He decreed: "One look at the identical towns we are building all over the world ought to be enough to show us that this kind of progress is like the proliferation of a single cell at the expense of the rest, which produces the cancer that kills the whole body."

In 1961, Laurens did not think like the herd. He celebrated wild freedom, and denounced the destructive insanity of industrial civilization. Yet he was a popular and respected celebrity in Britain, and he sipped champagne with the richest and most powerful. He was knighted in 1981, becoming Sir Laurens van der Post, an extraordinary achievement for someone who was so at odds with mainstream thinking.

The power of this book lies in its rebellious and unconventional attitude. It's OK to think. It's OK to question. It's OK to shout "Wolf!" when there are wolves as far as the eye can see. It's OK to be different, to prefer integrity over trendiness, to seek truth instead of mindless conformity. If your heart is screaming about the senseless destruction of life on Earth, you aren't crazy, you're awake. What's crazy is our way of life, our culture. This is an important concept to understand.

Creative people have a primary role to play in influencing the path of our society, because society permits them to think outside the box. Popes, politicians, tycoons, and educators aren't allowed to do this, because they have an obligation to protect and preserve the pathological belief system that is laying waste to the world. Everything we need for healing can only be found outside the box, and creative people can help us find them, with luck.

The weakness of the book is that it doesn't teach us a great deal about the Bushmen way of life. Laurens knew few Bushmen, spent little time with them, and didn't know their language. The BBC documentary was almost aborted because Laurens and his team had a very hard time finding any Bushmen to film. Finally they found one band, who allowed themselves to be seen, because they were close to dying from dehydration. You could learn much more about the Bushmen by reading Elizabeth Marshall Thomas.

The Bushmen finally got their own official home when the Central Kalahari Game Reserve was created in 1961. This Denmark-sized park was located in the middle of what is now Botswana. But diamonds were discovered on the reserve in the early `80s, and this inspired the government to remove the Bushmen from their land. In 2006, they won the right to return, but were forbidden to hunt or drink water. In 2011, they won the right to drink water.

Botswana promotes safari tours at the reserve, and this generates a lot of income for an extremely poor country. Rich tourists want to enjoy a pure wilderness experience, gazing at giraffes from their hot tubs, and wild, naked, blood-spattered savages would simply spoil this demented fantasy. Laurens would have a different opinion, of course.

Richard Adrian Reese
Author of What Is Sustainable
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Heart of the Hunter 28 Jan 2013
By JARyan - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Anyone who has ever wondered about mankinds early past and development should read this book. A truly loving read about early man on the savanahs of Africa as told by a South African.
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