"There are some things which cannot be learned quickly, and time, which is all we have, must be paid heavily for their acquiring. They are the very simplest things, and because it takes a man's life to know them the little new that each man gets from life is very costly and the only heritage he has to leave."
-- ERNEST HEMINGWAY
In the winter of 1933, Ernest Hemingway and his wife Pauline set out on a two-month safari in the big-game country of East Africa, camping out on the great Serengeti Plain at the foot of magnificent Mount Kilimanjaro. "I had quite a trip," the author told his friend Philip Percival, with characteristic understatement.
Green Hills of Africa is Hemingway's account of that expedition, of what it taught him about Africa and himself. Richly evocative of the region's natural beauty, tremendously alive to its character, culture, and customs, and pregnant with a hard-won wisdom gained from the extraordinary situations it describes, it is widely held to be one of the twentieth century's classic travelogues.
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March 04, 2004
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Excerpt from Green Hills of Africa by Ernest Hemingway
We were sitting in the blind that Wanderobo hunters had built of twigs and branches at the edge of the salt-lick when we heard the truck coming. At first it was far away and no one could tell what the noise was. Then it was stopped and we hoped it had been nothing or perhaps only the wind. Then it moved slowly nearer, unmistakable now, louder and louder until, agonizing in a clank of loud irregular explosions, it passed close behind us to go on up the road. The theatrical one of the two trackers stood up.
"It is finished," he said.
I put my hand to my mouth and motioned him down.
"It is finished," he said again and spread his arms wide. I had never liked him and I liked him less now.
"After," I whispered. M'Cola shook his head. I looked at his bald black skull and he turned his face a little so that I saw the thin Chinese hairs at the corners of his mouth.
"No good," he said. "Hapana m'uzuri."
"Wait a little," I told him. He bent his head down again so that it would not show above the dead branches and we sat there in the dust of the hole until it was too dark to see the front sight on my rifle; but nothing more came. The theatrical tracker was impatient and restless. A little before the last of the light was gone he whispered to M'Cola that it was now too dark to shoot.
"Shut up, you," M'Cola told him. "The Bwana can shoot after you cannot see."
The other tracker, the educated one, gave another demonstration of his education by scratching his name, Abdullah, on the black skin of his leg with a sharp twig. I watched without admiration and M'Cola looked at the word without a shadow of expression on his face. After a while the tracker scratched it out.
Finally I made a last sight against what was left of the light and saw it was no use, even with the large aperture.
M'Cola was watching.
"No good," I said.
"Yes," he agreed, in Swahili. "Go to camp?"
We stood up and made our way out of the blind and out through the trees, walking on the sandy loam, feeling our way between trees and under branches, back to the road. A mile along the road was the car. As we came alongside, Kamau, the driver, put the lights on.