“All acquaintances recall him as one of the most consummate story-tellers of his time and place, but the mightiest of witnesses were the children at his feet, listening with long-held breath to his stories of bush and veld and dusty roads where mambas slink. The dark would come on. He would rise and go home, and the children, full of magic, would return to new worlds.” Said of Eugene Marais by Professor J. S. Weiner (remembering his youth) to Robert Ardrey
The world of the mind and imagination is certainly “out of this world” being the WordPress photo challenge topic this week. But simply looking at “the normal world” at an unusual time also brings us in contact with “out of this world” new worlds.
We were visiting friends at a camping site till very late in Hartenbos, Southern Cape, South Africa and then strolled to our site via the beach. The children spontaneously took out there mobile phones and lit up the beach. What they saw delighted them as is evident in my daughter’s face. Please follow commentaries underneath the photos. And by the way if you haven’t seen my previous post please visit where you will see a completely different world in an unrecognizable face.
⇑What I have certainly not seen during daytime, is that the snails similar to ants, were moving in a line towards the food, where their buddies were already already devouring the fish. And despite it being after midnight (or because of it being after midnight) my mind jestingly told me that Eugene Marais who wrote a book Die siel van die Mier translated into English as the Soul of the White Ant (as it was actually about termites), may have written the Soul of the Sea Snail if he stayed near the coast.
But it also led my to do some research and although I may not agree with all his views or habits Eugene Marais remains a remarkable person. In the Soul of the White Ant, Marais lay forth the idea that a termite colony is one “being” with the queen as the head and the rest being the body. If the queen dies the termite colony dies. He is deemed to be the father of Entomology, a branch of science only becoming academic decades later. But he was also a journalist, lawyer, poet and sadly a drug addict. His work was stolen by a Flemish writer which could have contributed to his death. The following is an extract from a paper on Marais by C. Reitz and you can read the whole document (only 12 pages) by clicking on the heading.
“And then, finally, in 1935, he began a correspondence
with a young South African, Dr Winifred de Kock, living in
London, and married to the English writer, A. E. Coppard.
She had expressed an interest in translating one of his
books, and he agreed to let her work on Die siel van die
mier. He also wanted her to help him put the finishing
touches on his book, The soul of the ape, written in English,
Marais’ letters excited de Kock, but they also
filled her with a sense of foreboding. He had written to
her in intimate terms of his pain, physical and mental, as
by this time morphine and spiritual alienation had taken
“Please tell me, what is the matter? I don’t like
your reference to being in pain, and what you said about
dying. • Eugene Marais, for goodness sake, don’t go and
die just when we are beginning all this exciting work.
Please assure me when you write that you are not going to
die for years and years.”
Three months later, on March 30, 1936, Eugene Marais
shot himself, and embarked on that Deep River, that Dark
Stream, in whose embrace all his anguish ended.”
(a translation of his poem Dieprivier -Deep river- is in the paper)
I found 5 translations of his most well-known poem but it doesn’t have the validity of the original which I include here for my Afrikaans, Dutch and Flemish friends. The poem is about Lords Kitchener’s scorched earth policy during the Anglo Boer war.
En blink in die dof-lig
so wyd as die Heer se genade,
lê die velde in sterlig en skade.
versprei in die brande,
is die grassaad aan roere
soos winkende hande.
op die ooswind se maat,
soos die lied van ‘n meisie
in haar liefde verlaat.
In elk’ grashalm se vou
blink ‘n druppel van dou,
en vinnig verbleek dit
tot ryp in die kou!