Monday, March 7, 2011

The Sieve: Black Lamb and Grey Falcon

Black Lamb and Grey Falcon is a travelogue/amateur anthropological work about interwar Yugoslavia written by Englishwoman Rebecca West published in 1941. It was given to me as a 21st birthday present shortly after my return from Russia, and despite its nigh-1200-page length is incredibly engaging and eminently readable, regardless of whether you know much about the Balkans (though it is clearly more enjoyable if you do!).
"'A woman must not spring about like a man to show how strong she is and she must not laugh like a man to show how happy she is. She has something else to do. She must go round wearing heavy clothes, not light at all, but heavy, heavy clothes, so that she is stiff, like an icon, and when she dances she must move without seeming to move, as if she were an icon held up before the people. It is something you cannot understand, but for us it is right. Many things in our culture accord with it.'"
The above excerpt is Constantine explaining the failings of a Croatian folk dancer to Dame West's (English) husband, who failed to understand why her dances were "shocking" and "terrible". Chapters earlier she introduces him:
"There was Constantine, the poet, a Serb, thaht is to say a Slav member of the Orthodox Church, from Serbia. ... He is perpetually drunk on what comes out of his mouth, not what goes into it. ... Of all human beings I have ever met he is the most like Heine: and since Heine was the most Jewish of writers it follows that Constantine is Jew as well as Serb."

No comments:

Post a Comment