Book Review: Book: Non-Fiction: African Genesis. by Robert Ardrey

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Sep 25, 2014
I have read many times this grand, passionate, minutely observed book; I don't necessarily feel I agree with all of its suggestions and conclusions. All the same I find this book an inspiration and an education in its own right, about the nature of the animal, Man, and his place in the natural order.

“If we defend the title to our land or the sovereignty of our country, we do it for reasons no different, no less innate than do lower animals.”


Published in 1961, it is not completely up to date in its zoological thinking; knowledge has moved on, eg, an observation made about the hunting nature of Man suggests Ardrey had not observed chimpanzees group-hunting live prey, where we've since had the benefit of film to show us that chimpanzees do hunt in teams for meat, and how.

Zoology has carried on apace, and added to his findings, but this is a book still far ahead of mainstream educational provision. It is a profound book, I think much of its message stands. Beautiful. A general science, sniffed at by some because Robert Ardrey (October 16, 1908, Chicago, Illinois – January 14, 1980, South Africa) was not a zoologist but a (very well known) playwright and a screenwriter.
The vision it offers is perhaps, enlarged by that. Science and geography meets the humaities, poetry, and philosophy.

Ardrey's many references in African Genesis to the tragic naturalist Eugene Marais point to further reading with profound implications for psychology and philosophy.

By Eugene Marais, The Soul Of Ape and The Soul Of The White Ant. Available to read online:
Sounds like a must-read. BTW Marais "was plagiarised by Nobel laureate Maurice Maeterlinck, who published "The Life of the White Ant" in 1926, falsely claiming many of Marais' revolutionary ideas as his own"... Wikipedia. Have always felt sorry for him!

For more on Eugene Marais, scientist, farmer, writer/poet, including the plagiarizing of his work by Maeterlinck

Eugene Marais: “Someone once said that all behaviourism in nature could be referred to as hunger. This saying has been repeated thousands of times yet is false. Hunger itself is pain – the most severe pain in its later stages that the body knows except thirst, which is even worse. Love may be regarded as a hunger, but it is not pain..... 'What protects animals, what enables them to continue living, what assures the propagation of race? A certain attribute of organic matter. As soon as one finds life, one finds this attribute. It is inherent in life; like most natural phenomena it is polarised, there is a negative and a positive pole. The negative pole is pain; the positive pole is sex. This attribute may be called the saving attribute of life; and it is here where one comes closest to what appears like a common purpose beyond nature.”

(Eugène Marais, The Soul of the White Ant)
This is fabulous- introduced me to a book I did not know; I believe your reviews will prove invaluable. Thanks, Katie-Ellen.
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