Elspeth Huxley: Red Strangers

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Ers are well developed and for the most part sympathetic Kikuyu culture is contrasted favorably with that of the settlers It is hard to believe that the book dates from 1939 less than 50 years after the colonisation of Kenya beganI ead the original edition Huxley also wrote the wonderful Flame Trees of Thika about growing up in Kenya It s funny that I picked up this book because I had been eading a lot of Sci Fi and felt as though I should take a break In a similar fashion to many Sci Fi novels this story is of a first contact situation and how that contact indelibly changes those involved The author does an excellent job of immersing the eader in the lifestyle and customs of the Kikuyu people The introduction of Europeans into their world is viewed through Kikuyu eyes and with only their interpretation of what the Red Strangers motivations could possibly be It is a fascinating world to experience with these men one foot in the past while another is stepping into a new and uncertain future This book was on a Top 5 ecommendation by Richard Dawkins noted atheist and author of The God Delusion He also wrote the Introduction to this It was tough to find evidently sent from Great Britain by Barnes and Noble as it only shows British and Canadian pricing The first half of the book is told entirely of the perspective of African natives and their customs including female circumcision and beliefs in magic and spirits The second half deals with the arrival of the Europeans the Red Strangers so called because of their sunburns and the enormous changes which esulted The story is still told from the African perspective considering machines such as automobiles and trains as animals upon first exposure for example and attempting to understand such strange customs as not using goats as a medium of exchange and It s amazing the way you ll find yourself identifying with the most bizarre things Huxley hurls us into a world so foreign and primitive that initially one can t help but chuckle at the practices we e witness to But by immersing us in the culture so completely our affiliation with it grows to a point where when the Europeans appear their customs our own for the most part are the ones that seem ludicrous and counter to logic You ll be surprised at how stupid and cruel money will seem after eading this bookIf for no other eason check it out because of the glimpse it offers of a dying world and the evealing look at our own culture s arrogance towards practices it doesn t even try to understand This is such a tragic book And I was so torn while eading it mostly for conflicting ideas evolving around the pros and cons of issues such as science and technology as well as cultural elativism If these are topics that interest you then Red Strangers is a must eadRed Strangers is a book by Elspeth Huxley cousin in law of Aldous Huxley narrating the conflicts that appear when European colonialists entered Kikuyu territory The book is written from a Kikuyu perspective and the narrative spans 5 generations showing slowly how traditional Kikuyu ituals and customs are giving way to European ones It is amazingly written and immerses the eader ight in the middle of the Kikuyu mindset such that whe. D Europeans who seek to colonize their homeland the lives of the two Kikuyu tribesmen begin to change in dramatic new ways Soon their people are overwhelmed by unknown diseases that traditional magic seems powerless to

I loved the fiction look into pre colonial Kikuyu life I especially loved the point of view from which the story is told that of the Kikuyu evident in the title of the book Red Strangers As opposed to the egular depictions of how strange pre colonial Africa was to the European Huxley shows just how strange and utterly incomprehensible dare I say senseless the Europeans and their ways were It made me econsider a lot of what today is taken for granted and as matter of fact in the way we un our worlds especially the inherited colonial ways in which we un the worlds of African nations A passage I liked that shows the idiocy of a prison system in dealing with wrongs from pg 202 The affair of the young man s death is between Karue and my father Waseru What has the stranger to do with it That is stranger s law Matu killed he evil man Therefore he stays with stranger Then what does Karue eceive in compensation for his son who is dead He not eceive anything Then the stranger gets something for Karue s loss and Karue s clan gets nothing at all More a fictional anthropological study of the Kikuyu at the time of contact with Western civilization than it is a story of human beings Huxley is always a wonder on landscape but she s better with non fiction Read The Flame Trees of Thika and The Mottled Lizard instead Very interesting fictional account of the profound effects the first Europeans had on the culture and lifestyle of the Kikuyu people of Kenya In the foreword the author states that she wanted to write this book in 1939 while there were still some people living who could emember the way of life before the white man came I have ead several of Huxley s autobiographical works about her life in Kenya and feel that she probably got a lot of this ight Red Strangers is the story of a Kikuyu village set at the time when the first European colonisers arrived in Kenya and the changes that came with colonialism In beautiful exuisite prose Elspeth Huxley describes the ways of the Kikuyu the pastures where young boys are herding the goats of their fathers the sacred fig trees whose oots grow down from heaven instead of up from earth and the majestic peak of Kerinyagga Mount Kenya High and emote the peak floated in the clean air above them guarded from the impudent feet of men by many spirits Above on the far white crest where no man could venture was the seat of God There he dwelt sending ain or withholding it according to his pleasure Sometimes when he prepared to go on a journey men could hear him cracking his joints with a noise of thunder at such times they would not dare to look up into the sky lest they should glimpse his majesty and perishThe consideration that within a few years none will survive of those who emember the way of life that existed before the white man came was what led her to make the experiment of this book wrote Huxley in her foreword I m so glad she did This is a beautiful beautiful book that deserves its place next to Karen Blixen s Out of Africa One of the best books for getting inside a different culture We see the world from the viewpoint of early 20th century Kikuyu people and how their world apidly changes due to the arrival of English settlers The charct. Growing up in Kenya in the early twentieth century the brothers Matu and Muthegi are aised according to customs that they are told have existed since the beginning of the world But when the 'red' strangers come sunburne.

N the Europeans arrive in the narrative familiar European customs become almost unrecognizable to the eaderAll throughout the book I had little mental battles with myself On the one hand I found it tragic that cultural diversity was being educed and that traditional practices were slowly being eradicated because of incoming outside influence It was basically the anthropologist s nightmare But on the other hand I also think that this is a natural conseuence of the progress of science and technology And it is simply natural to expect that the group with the better science will ultimately prevail On top of that I guess I do not believe in cultural elativism any I suppose part of me already thinks that there are some cultural aspects that have flaws and must not be embraced simply because they are part of some cultureTake female genital mutilation for example Should we allow it arguing that this practice is deeply ingrained in some African societies and we should embrace cultural diversity and by extension female genital mutilation Or should we abolish it because we know scientifically that it actually is not beneficial for the female Reflecting on it I don t believe there is an absolute truth Truth and its implications are elative and change over time But I do think that if you take time constant and take a snapshot of the state of affairs of the world in one particular time then you would see absolute truth so to speak I do not buy the idea that my truth can be different from yours ight now in this moment But I do ecognize the possibility that my truth can be eplaced with some other superior truth later in a different time After all this is scientific progress If you give me a better hypothesis then by all means I would adopt that hypothesis But don t tell me that your current hypothesis is also valid when my current hypothesis explains the world better than yoursAll of this is at the intellectual level but what I don t want to forget and now mention is the fact that there are tragic conseuences to these scientific and technological advances This book makes me think on how one can advance science and technology and yet still be esponsible in doing it When Europeans arrived to Africa they were brash and cruel treating locals as second class citizens sometimes even as slaves All because they had the better science All because their medicines were effective than the goat sacrifices of the Kikuyu All because their guns were powerful than the spears and swords of the Kikuyu warriors But I think one thing lacking here is the espect for human ights This is a tricky song to dance to but as esponsible human beings I think it should always factor into all decisions we make It is one thing to advance science but it is another to advance it esponsiblyOverall I found this book very moving and aises important uestions that are elevant to us all even now in the 21st century I give it 5 out of 5 stars And I am glad that Richard Dawkins has ecommended it to meSee my other book eviews here Very interesting novel about four generations of a Kikuyu tribe their customs history and elationship with the British colonialists A good ead to eally explain the tribes life through interesting time. Ontrol And as the strangers move across the land the tribe apidly finds itself forced to obey foreign laws that seem at best bizarre and that at worst entirely contradict the Kikuyu's own ancient ways ituals and belief.

Elspeth Huxley Ñ 0 REVIEW

Elspeth Joscelin Huxley CBE was a polymath writer journalist broadcaster magistrate environmentalist farmer and government advisor She wrote 30 books; but she is best known for her lyrical books The Flame Trees of Thika and The Mottled Lizard which were based on her experiences growing up in a coffee farm in Colonial Kenya Nellie and Major Josceline Grant Elspeth Grant's parents arrived