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The Tree Where Man Was Born Hardcover – 2 Jul 1998

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Hardcover, 2 Jul 1998
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 248 pages
  • Publisher: The Harvill Press; New edition edition (2 July 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1860463746
  • ISBN-13: 978-1860463747
  • Product Dimensions: 25 x 2.3 x 28.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,194,751 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 8 Jan 2001
Format: Paperback
Matthiessen is as perceptive in his observations as he is in his writings. The attention to detail - to colour, movement and sound - brings every sensation of being in the Bush back to mind. He is one of the few African writers who not only understands much of what is African, both of man and of animals, but is able to convey this 'African-ness' to the armchair reader. To read descriptions of both flora and fauna is utterly exhilarating; the vast knowledge that Matthiessen has of these things is combined with an ability to recount these experiences in a way that is not only beautiful and convincing, but breathtaking, and sometimes, frightening. Despite not promoting overt conservation, Matthiessen describes an Africa that reminds us of what we risk losing should we continue headlong to destroy the areas he describes. The power of vast open spaces of Africa is tantalisingly balanced against a desperate fragility of a truly wild place. This eats gently at a conscience that is otherwise overawed with the beauty of his descriptions.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 11 April 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
a unique writer captures an adventure in africa that anyone would want to experience. Matthiessen should be cherished by all who enjoy deep and thoughtful and humane writing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Robin Berry on 9 April 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
On time, excellent value and good condition what more is needed.

Had not appreciated how good a book it is the photographs are also first class.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mr. N. Foale on 17 Feb 2010
Format: Paperback
The "tree where man was born" is the ancient baobab, the thick-trunked 'upside down' tree (as if its roots spread out from its top). This arboreal oddity saw our oddity of a species descend from the branches and out onto the African plains.

This book will bounce you over Africa's washboard roads. It describes Africa's broad 360-degree panoramas, the intimacies of its wildlife, and its crazy locals (of all colours). Matthiesson is naturalist poet and this book is as beautiful to read as it is informative. More than any other it evokes the spirit of Sub-Saharan Africa.

I still have my paperback that I read on on the road from Nairobi down to South Africa. Since then I have also since picked up a hardback copy which entwines Eliot Porter's equally resonant "African Experience" photography. Definitely, though, pack the paperback in your rucksack should you set off to discover, or to rediscover, Africa.

P.S. Africa fans will also love Africa: A Biography of the Continent and Congo Journey
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 21 reviews
72 of 82 people found the following review helpful
A loving and detailed account of a difficult journey 27 Jun 2000
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
Is there anyplace wild enough to lift the weight that Occidental culture has placed on our shoulders? Africa, where the first man walked erect, may be the last place where man can feel awed enough by Nature to try and remember that he, also, is just another among the millions of other species that populate the planet. Paul Bowles, Bruce Chatwin, Doris Lessing, Isaak Dinesen and Peter Mattieshen found that answer, and shared the experience. In Mattieshen's poetic account, the tragic and fabulous beauty of a continent that has been devastated by greed and war is revealed, as the impossibility of traveling Africa and not falling in love with it and being changed by it forever.
37 of 41 people found the following review helpful
Good combination of natural atmosphere and history 18 July 2001
By Frances C. Morrier - Published on
Format: Paperback
I wasn't certain what to expect when I got this book. I was a bit concerned that since it was written about experiences in the 1960's that it would feel a bit dated. Although the 1960's view of the future of East Africa's peoples and wildlife is not entirely accurate, I am finding the book to be an excellent way to prepare for a trip to Tanzania--for someone wanting a combination of background on the peoples, landscape and wildlife. Matthiessen's usual subdued, to me, dry style seems leavened a bit by his awe. And the account of the elephant researcher who's 'close encounter' approach puts Matthiessen off his feed, was really enjoyable to me--a departure from his usual, very dry approach. I recommend this one to anyone interested in the peoples and wildlife of Eastern Africa.
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Transcendent Prose 8 Feb 2007
By ESH - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is one my very favorite of Matthiessen's impressive canon, ranking easily with Far Tortuga and The Snow Leopard. Indeed, I think some of the passages in The Tree Where Man Was Born might surpass the stunning Himalaya descriptions in the latter book. Matthiessen's eye for landscapes is unparalleled, and his lyric evocations of beast and horizon have an otherworldly quality. A prime example, and one to look out for, is his account of finding rhinoceros tracks on the high volcanic slopes of Mt. Lengai. Another highlight are his crystalline observations of ecological moments during a vigil atop an East African kopje.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
His respect for the land and people fills every observation 21 Oct 2010
By J. Murray - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Tree Where Man Was Born (Classic, Nature, Penguin)The Tree Where Man Was Born

by Peter Matthiessen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I bought this book before I knew who Peter Matthiessen was, namely, one of the greatest nature writers of all time. Because of the book's title, I thought the author would tie present day East Africa to a by-gone era when man was primitive and evolving and nature ruled. I read the first one-hundred fifty pages and put it down for five years before returning to it. At that time, I was lost in my passion for the life and times of early man and not so interested in anything that rhymed with 'present day'.

Then, after finishing that portion of my writing, I returned to what might be Matthiessen's greatest nature book (well, there is Snow Leopard and At Play in the Fields of the Lord. Hard to pick). When I picked it up the second time, I couldn't put it down. His descriptions of nature, the depth of understanding he voices for the people of the land, his vivid descriptions of what happens around him are like no one else. Here are a few of my favorites:

* Soon vegetation crowded the road, which was crossed at dusk by a band of bush-pig, neat-footed and burly, neck bristles erect, as if intent on punching holes right through the truck
* Soft hills inset with outcrops of elephant-colored boulders rose beyond a bright stretch of blue river
* Kamande Gatora is a contained person with the watchfulness of the near-blind; he had taken the Mau-Mau oath and been imprisoned, in the years after his mistress had gone home to Denmark, despite 'the kind deeds I was receiving from her untold and the old life we stayed with her
* Marsabit in June: great elephants and volcanoes, lark song and bright butterflies and far below, pale desert wastes that vanish in the sands.
* By morning the wind was blowing up in sandstorms. Flights of sand grouse, seeking water, hurtled back and forth over the cracking palms, and a train of camels etched a slow crack into the desert to the south.
* Inland, black boulders climb to far-off ridges that rise in turn to the Kulal Mountains, in Rendille Land.
* ...because the heat is dry and because the wind is never still for more than a few hours.
* Since gnu are ever willing to stampede, the crossing is a hazard for the calves, and one morning of early winter more than six hundred drowned.
* By late afternoon, when the predators become restless, raising their heads out of the grass to sniff the wind, those calves would already be running.

I'm only to pg. 127... Does it take your breath away, too?
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
By Dorothy K. Morris - Published on
Format: Hardcover
If you have always wanted to go to Africa, when you read this book, you will feel that you must go. If you have not wanted to go, you will feel that you have gone. The prose is sheer poetry, if that is possible, and the pictures drawn with words bring joy. It is raw, real, deadly, lovely, soft and gentle...all the things that I imagine Africa was and still is. A great read for pleasure or knowledge. I recommend it highly.
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