The Harmless People Author:Elizabeth Marshall Thomas RACHEL CARSON, author of The Sea Around Us: "Mrs. Thomas' fine book lingers in my mind with a dreamlike sense that at some time I myself must have watched the sun set and the moon rise over that austere Kalahari desert and felt the antarctic winds of its winter! The beauty, simplicity and force of her prose delighted me. She has an extraordinary... more » ability, far beyone mere description, to evoke the atmosphere of this strange desert world. Although its people seem at first as alien and unfamiliar as inhabitants of another planet, in the end we find ourselves caring deeply about them as human beings."
And from the dust jacket: It is a book about a mysterious people and the vast and terrible sweep of dry bush desert in which they live. The Kalahari Desert is all low sand dunes and great plains, flat, dry, a hostile country of thirst and heat and thorns.
Here the African Bushmen live or perish, on the thin edge of survival. They are a naked, hungry people, slight of build and yellow-skinned. The only feature they have in common with their Negro neighbors is their peppercorn curly hair. They have developed the art of invisibility, and conceal themselves from all but their friends. They live by precarious hunting and by digging watery roots, and death is always near. They survive because they try to repress possessiveness and jealousy, sharing what they have. Their children must be among the happiest anywhere.
Elizabeth Marshall Thomas was a member of an expedition which, under the auspices of the Peabody Museum of Harvard, went three times to the Kalahari, spending there about two years in all. This book deals with the last expedition, whose members had come to know the Bushmen well and learned many strange and intimate things concerning births and deaths, hunting and tracking, marriage, religion, and great ceremonies.
The Bushmen became individuals to Mrs. Thomas. Who will not be moved by the unremitting labor and devotion of Twikwe, delighted by the inexhaustible humor of lazy Kwi, or amused by the vanity of Beautiful Ungka, the girl with the flaming past? Mrs. Thomas is not a scientist, but a very gifted writer. Although this beautiful and exciting book offers valuable anthropological information, it is more art than science.« less