My Whit’s End Book Club–Out of Africa–The Savage in the Immigrant’s House

“I was a European, and I had not lived long enough in the country to acquire the absolute passivity of the Native. . .”  Having lived in a foreign country, I understand this comment.

“When I got up and went outside, there was a cruel wind blowing, the sky was clear and set with millions of hard stars, everything was dry.”–I am there.  I can hear it, see it, feel it, and even taste the dryness.

“In the midst of a cluster of pink roses, at every full hour, a cuckoo here flung open its little door and threw itself forward to announce the hour in a clear insolent voice.  Its apparition was every time a fresh delight to the young people of the farm.”  And to think that she could have written, “Every hour the cuckoo clock croaked. The kids loved it.”

“It is an alarming experience to be, in your person, representing Christianity to the Natives.”  –or to anyone for that matter.

p. 44:  conflagration – an extensive fire that destroy much land and/or property

p. 45:  benefaction – a charitable gift or deed

p. 46:  sine die – Latin for without day; a legal term use to mean without a date set for a further meeting.

p. 50:  Odyssey – A very heavy and long book.  It is a Greek epic poem written by Homer at the end of the 8th century.  Odysseus/Ulysses (Roman name) is the main character.  It is of his journey home after the fall of Troy.  It takes him 10 years to return, and he has many adventures along the way.

p. 51:  Polyphemus – a giant Cyclopes.  Here is the abridged story from Wikipedia.

In Homer’s Odyssey (Book 9), Odysseus lands on the Island of the Cyclopes during his journey home from the Trojan War. He takes with him twelve men to find food and drink, and they eventually find a large cave, which is the home of the great Cyclops Polyphemus. When Polyphemus returns home with his flocks and finds Odysseus and his men, he blocks the cave entrance with a great stone, trapping the remaining Greeks inside. Polyphemus then crushes and immediately devours two of his men for his meal. It is said that “rapping them on the ground, he knocked them dead like pups”.

Odysseus in the cave of Polyphemus by Jacob Jordaens, first half of 17th century.

The next morning, Polyphemus kills and eats two more of Odysseus’ men for his breakfast and exits the cave to graze his sheep. The desperate Odysseus devises a clever escape plan. He spots a massive unseasoned olivewood club that Polyphemus left behind the previous night and, with the help of his men, sharpens the narrow end to a fine point. He hardens the stake over a flame and hides it from sight. That night, Polyphemus returns from herding his flock of sheep. He sits down and kills two more of Odysseus’ men, bringing the death toll to six. At that point, Odysseus offers Polyphemus the strong and undiluted wine given to him by Maron. The wine makes Polyphemus drunk and unwary. When Polyphemus asks for Odysseus’ name, promising him a guest-gift if he answers, Odysseus tells him “οὔτις,”(Outis) literally “nobody.” Being drunk, Polyphemus thinks of it as a real name and says that he will eat “nobody” last and that this shall be his guest-gift—a vicious insult both to the tradition of hospitality and to Odysseus. With that, Polyphemus crashes to the floor and passes out. Odysseus, with the help of his men, lifts the flaming stake, charges forward and drives it into Polyphemus’ eye, blinding him. Polyphemus yells for help from his fellow Cyclopes that “nobody” has hurt him. The other Cyclopes think Polyphemus is making a fool out of them or that it must be a matter with the gods, and they grumble and go away.

In the morning, Odysseus and his men tie themselves to the undersides of Polyphemus’ sheep. When the blind Cyclops lets the sheep out to graze, he feels their backs to ensure the men aren’t riding out, but because of Odysseus’ plan, he does not feel the men underneath. Odysseus leaves last, riding beneath the belly of the biggest ram. Polyphemus doesn’t realize that the men are no longer in his cave until the sheep and the men are safely out.

p. 52:  Outis – Greek for “nobody”.  Excerpt from Wikipedia. “OYTIΣ” was used as a pseudonym by the Homeric hero Odysseus, when he fought Polyphemus Cyclops

p. 53:  crocodile tears –  excerpt from Wikipedia

Crocodile tears (or superficial sympathy) are a false or insincere display of emotion such as a hypocrite crying fake tears of grief. The expression comes from an ancient anecdote that crocodiles weep in order to lure their prey, or that they cry for the victims they are eating. This tale was first spread widely in the stories of the travels of Sir John Mandeville in the 14th century.

In that country and by all Inde be great plenty of cockodrills, that is a manner of a long serpent, as I have said before. And in the night they dwell in the water, and on the day upon the land, in rocks and in caves. And they eat no meat in all the winter, but they lie as in a dream, as do the serpents. These serpents slay men, and they eat them weeping; and when they eat they move the over jaw, and not the nether jaw, and they have no tongue.

p. 53:  catechize –  to teach the principles of Christian dogma by questions and answers.  Example: Question. 1. What is the chief end of man?  Answer. Man’s chief end is to glorify
God, and to enjoy him for ever.

p. 53:  positive programme – programme is just a British spelling of the word “program.”  However, the two words together mean more.  They are often used in connection with communism as a syllabus of beliefs or a creed like statement.

p. 54:  the Lewali of the Coast – I couldn’t find the exact meaning.  Lewali is a city in India, but I don’t think that is the reference.

p. 55:  Kongoni –

p. 57:  grotto – Italian for a cave.

p. 59:  a very fine fishing concern – ??????

p. 60:  Ancient Mariner – a long poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1797) about a captain and his crew.  The last few lines are often quoted.

He prayeth well, who loveth well
Both man and bird and beast.

He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.”

p. 60:  Old Man of the Sea –  from Wikipedia.  In Greek mythology, the Old Man of the Sea was a primordial figure who could be identified as any of several water-gods, generally Nereus or Prothacular, but also Tritonylors, Pontus, Phorcys or Glaucus. This in not a reference to the novel by Ernest Hemingway (1951) The Old Man and the Sea” about the battle between a fisherman and a giant marlin as “Out of Africa” was first published in 1937.

p. 60:  carrion-bird – carrion = dead flesh or the carcass of a dead animal

p. 61:  “painted the devil on the wall. . .in a Michaelangelesque manner.” – The Last Judgement painted on the front wall of the Sistine Chapel depicts the righteous going to heaven and the unrighteous going to hell.  Michelangelo included some current portraits in the painting.michelangelo-sistine-wall-full

p. 61:  “except in the third person” – first person = I  and you.  It is a limiting story telling device as you can never see inside another character.  second person = you (the reader) are address.  This is the least common form of storytelling, but is common in songs and greeting cards.  third person = he, she, it, they and is the most common storytelling device.  The narrator is not a character in the story.

p. 61:  guano – from the Inca language Quechua.  It is the excrement of an animal (urine or feces) usually refered to birds, but not always.

p. 62:  trident – Latin for three teeth.  A three-pronged spear.

p. 62:  eminence – a position of prominence or superiority

p. 65:  Wanderobo bow – A mountain tribe of Kenya.

This chapter ends with the sentence, “It was also Kamante who had charge of Lulu.”  In the next chapter, we will meet Lulu.  And we will love Lulu.

So until then,


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5 Responses to My Whit’s End Book Club–Out of Africa–The Savage in the Immigrant’s House

  1. Lynda says:

    Rebecca, I haven’t been reading this book, but it sounds more interesting with every post! Will have to see if it’s in our library when we get books this week. I like to do research on things and found some info that might be pertinant to the “Lewali of the coast” in a book called “The soul of Central Africa : a general account of the Mackie Ethnological Expedition” By the Rev. John Roscoe, Hon. M. A. (Camb.), Leader of the Expedition on this website: This book was originally published in 1922 and here are a couple excerpts and the glossary entry.

    “One afternoon I spent with the Arab Lewali, the
    native Governor of Mombasa, who told me some amusing
    stories about the Germans and their treatment of certain
    natives whom they suspected of being disloyal to them-
    selves and friendly to the Sultan of Zanzibar….”
    “The Lewali has many excellent stories relating to
    the early history of places along the east coast, and his
    father holds a letter from the captain of the first British
    man-of-war that came to Africa. The father was an
    important chief at a town north of Mombasa and
    suppHed the man-of-war with fresh water and meat.
    He was paid in full for the stores, and a letter, thank-
    ing him for what he had done, was given to him. ”

    “Lewali– title of the Arab Governor of Mombasa”

    Hot and humid. Planning to swim this afternoon! 🙂


    • whitsendmom says:

      EXCELLENT!! EXACTLY!!! I couldn’t figure this one out! Where did you find this? Thanks so much. I won’t worry so much about putting up words or phrases that have me stumped, now. I’ll just write that I couldn’t find the reference/answer/etc. . . I really appreciate the research. We just got back from Mr. Ryan’s were the kids swam (after a rather short carving lesson).


      • whitsendmom says:

        Does anybody know what a “fishing concern” is? Taken in context, I think it is something like fishing rights, or a group of fishing nets.


  2. Lynda says:

    Anything I found seemed to indicate that a fishing concern is another way of saying fishing company…or possibly a company with rights to fish a certain body of water or portion of a body of water.


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