New worlds Eugene

“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.

She showed me this common sea snail, but it appeared to have a trunk like a like an elephant and in our world it is now the elephant snail

But if it is an elephant it must also have tusks. Or 1 tusk as in this case. The “tusk” is longer than the shell of the snail. In the previous photo the “tusk” is embedded in the fish’s flesh, thus a type of tentacle it uses to feed with.

Unfortunately this photo is blurred, which stopped my from publishing in scientific journals one of the greatest scientific discoveries of all time. These apparent lowly creatures can communicate via writing. Only a 4×4 vehicle can successfully navigate a beach (fortunately banned on most beaches.). The snails were telling me that they are the true conservation sensitive 4x4s of the beaches!

⇑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.

THE TRAGIC GENIUS OF EUGENE MARAIS

“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
its toll.

“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.

WINTERNAG
Eugene Marais

O koud is die windjie
en skraal.
En blink in die dof-lig
en kaal,
so wyd as die Heer se genade,

lê die velde in sterlig en skade.

En hoog in die rande,
versprei in die brande,
is die grassaad aan roere
soos winkende hande.
O treurig die wysie
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!

31 thoughts on “New worlds Eugene

  1. Agge nee, ek het nie geweet van Eugene Marais se “struggle” en selfmoord nie. Dit het my nou diep geraak. Hier sit ek nou in trane en wonder is daar nêrens in die wêreld ‘n menslike storie met ‘n triomfanklike einde nie.

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    1. Ek dink dat Marais se vermoë om hierdie nalatenskap vir ons te skep ten spyte van sy persoonlike en geestelike stryd ‘n triomf op sigself is. Wintersnag is die eerste gedig wat my laat huil het. Voorgeskrewe werk in standerd 7 of 8. Kyk of jy die fliek wat Katinka Heyns oor hom gemaak het “Die Wonderwerker” kan kry – dit handel oor sy verslawing.

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  2. Hi Kameel. Eugene Marais se vrou is oorlede aan kraamkroos ‘n jaar na hul troue en nadat sy geboorte geskenk het. Sy suster het die baba as haar eie aangeneem. Eugene sou nie ‘n goeie enkelouer wees nie. Dit sou “romanties” wees om te dink dat sy dwelm probleme eers daarna begin het maar dit is nie so nie want dit het op ouderdom 20 begin toe hy reeds ‘n Afrikaanse koerant besit het en as redakteur opgetree het terwyl hy ook vise-redakteur van ‘n Engelse koerant was.
    Dit voel partymaal of “almal” se einde “ontriomfanklik” is as mens op ‘n persoonlike vlak so iets beleef het. Maar ek vertrou jy voel nou al beter hieroor. Die “almal” is darem regtig nie so nie. Eugene was baie soekend maar het nie die christelike geloof onderskryf nie (nie dat dit jou ‘n “triomfanklike” einde gaan verseker nie). Inteendeel baie van sy verwysings na die Here was ironies. Selfs in Winternag verwys hy na
    “so wyd as die Heer se genade, lê die velde in sterlig en skade” Die skade verwys na die uitgebrande plase. En hy vra opreg vrae daaroor. Hy het vir ons ‘n wonderlike nalatenskap gelaat met sy gedigte en boeke. (Dr) AG Visser het op ‘n stadium daarin geslaag dat Eugene ‘n minimale hoeveelheid morfien gebruik het. Maar in sy laaste jare het hy baie gebruik. Daar is ‘n aanduiding dat hy AG Visser aangespoor het om sy gedigte te publiseer. Maar ja daar kan vra aan Eugene ook gevra word soos Louis Britt nog as jong man op sy eerste CD gedoen het. Jy kan na ‘n gedeelte daarvan luister deur onderstaande te kopieer en te plak in google ent te soek. Gaan dan af na onderste liedjie en klik op die pyltjie en as nie onmiddelik werk nie klik weer.
    “Vir Eugene”

    https://play.google.com/music/preview/Bc6wmfccvpf2qcqalbhyxr36s4i?preview=AE9vGKr-nP1qS8BxhyXGAY6XkD1sfsgpu3OVQnIAPHtIZWhzEa17EYqKwQyxw9g_EoYbKWsf-Po6jnVHrgTjFEUhHsMT1r2zTp3-8eqWRY-bR_PUS0zdsoM%3D&u=0#

    Lana ons moet onthou dat on vergifnis en ons “triomfanklikheid” in Christus le nie in onsself nie. Kyk deur die bril van Jesus se bloed na jouself nie deur jou eie vrae en pyn nie. Dit gaan oor Christus in ons, nie die simpel dinge wat ons aanvang nie. En as ja klaar is met Eugene klik op Deur die bril van Sy bloed.

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    1. Dankie net ek, ek het heelwat opgelees oor hom en sy lewe is fassinerend. Hy het AG Visser oortuig om sy gedigte te publiseer en (dokter) AG Visser het probeer om van sy dwelmgewoonte af te kry. In daardie konteks helaas was Eugene Marais meer suksesvol as AG Visser

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