Afrikaans Rezension eines englischen Buches

Walden (Reblogged von Gert Rautenbach)

„When I wrote the following pages, or rather the bulk of them, I lived alone, in the woods, a mile from any neighbor, in a house which I had built myself, on the shore of Walden Pond, in Concord, Massachusetts, and earned my living by the labor of my hands only. I lived there two years and two months. At present I am a sojourner in civilized life again.“

So begin Henri-David Thoreau se 1854 boek „Walden“. Dit beskryf sy groot eksperiment van ’n dekade vroeër: om alleen, sonder inkomste selfstandig te lewe, die natuur en die stilte te waardeer en tyd te maak vir diep refleksie.

„Walden“ het een jaar voor Walt Whitman se „Leaves of Grass“ verskyn. Beide boeke is vandag bakens van die Amerikaanse lettere, geesgenote in toon en inhoud, maar destyds twee klein blips in die oseaan.

Thoreau verduidelik die doel van sy verblyf aan die hand van ’n insident wat hy waargeneem het – ’n Indiaan wat geleer is om mandjies te vleg en dit daarna deur tot deur aan witmense te smous, sonder sukses.

Vir die Indiaan was die skep van die mandjies maklik en sinvol, maar wat onverstaanbaar gebly het is waarom hy dit aan ander mense moes verkoop: waarom hy ander mense moes oortuig dat hulle die mandjies benodig. 

„I too had woven a kind of basket of a delicate texture, but I had not made it worth any one’s while to buy them. Yet not the less, in my case, did I think it worth my while to weave them, and instead of studying how to make it worth men’s while to buy my baskets, I studied rather how to avoid the necessity of selling them.“

En so het hy begin in Maart 1844, deur ’n byl by ’n plaaslike boer te leen en die bome een vir een te fel waaruit hy uiteindelik sy beskeie houthut gebou het. Op 4 Julie – Independence Day – het hy ingetrek.

„Walden“ is ’n wonderlike mengsel van Thoreau se lewensrefleksies (die man wat later „Civil Disobedience“ geskryf het, die manifesto wat Tolstoy, Gandhi en Martin Luther King Jr beïnvloed het) en ’n eenvoudige beskrywing van sy lewe in hierdie tyd.

Die groentetuin waarvan hy gelewe het: bone, rog en aartappels; die bessies van die woud; die meer waaruit hy gedrink het (water was sy enigste vloeistof), dieselfde meer waarin hy gebad, klere gewas en geswem het.

Die kuns van broodbak uit rog; die geluide van die woud, die voëls en die diere, die bars van ys op die meer, die veraf fluit van ’n trein oppad na die naaste dorp (die wereld bestaan nog); sy lang daaglikse staproetes en gedagtes.

„This is a delicious evening, when the whole body is one sense, and imbibes delight through every pore. I go and come with a strange liberty in Nature, a part of herself. As I walk along the stony shore of the pond in my shirt-sleeves, though it is cool as well as cloudy and windy, and I see nothing special to attract me, all the elements are unusually congenial to me. The bullfrogs trump to usher in the night, and the note of the whip-poor-will is borne on the rippling wind from over the water.“

Thoreau het aanvanklik gejag en visgevang, maar die Walden tydperk het hom van vleis laat afsien vir praktiese redes: die groot moeite, wreedheid, stank en gemors waarmee dit gepaard gegaan het:

„Having been my own butcher and scullion and cook, as well as the gentleman for whom the dishes were served up, I can speak from an unusually complete experience. The practical objection to animal food in my case was its uncleanness; and besides, when I had caught and cleaned and cooked and eaten my fish, they seemed not to have fed me essentially. It was insignificant and unnecessary, and cost more than it came to. A little bread or a few potatoes would have done as well, with less trouble and filth.“

Met die aankomende winter begin Thoreau met groot moeite ’n binneshuise kaggel van klip bou, daarna dae van hout bymekaarmaak, die eerste sneeu, die stadige vries van die meer [aanvanklik deurskynend, sodat hy dae lank op sy maag na die bodem van die meer lê en kyk], die loeiende winterwinde buite, hyself, sy boeke en sy vuur binne.

Die boek bereik sy mees liriese toon met die stadige uitbreek van lente deur die loop van April/Mei. Die klein voelertjies van lewe wat oral spruit. 

„You see some innocent fair shoots preparing to burst from his gnarled rind and try another year’s life, tender and fresh as the youngest plant. Even he has entered into the joy of his Lord. Why the jailer does not leave open his prison doors — why the judge does not dismis his case — why the preacher does not dismiss his congregation! It is because they do not obey the hint which God gives them, nor accept the pardon which he freely offers to all.“

Aan die einde praat hy oor wat die tydperk vir hom beteken het:

„I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings. In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.“

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