South Wind, A Lovely Penguin Books Original (Book Acquired, 1.04.2013)


Big thanks to Ryan Mihaly for sending me this copy of Norman Douglas’s novel South Wind, which is the 11th Penguin Book (1st printing, 1935). This book is beautiful and it was very kind of Ryan to send it to me. Ryan writes reviews (good ones!) at Flying Object.

South Wind is now in the public domain, so you can read it for free if you like. Here are the first few paragraphs:

The bishop was feeling rather sea-sick. Confoundedly sea-sick, in fact.

This annoyed him. For he disapproved of sickness in every shape or form. His own state of body was far from satisfactory at that moment; Africa—he was Bishop of Bampopo in the Equatorial Regions—had played the devil with his lower gastric department and made him almost an invalid; a circumstance of which he was nowise proud, seeing that ill-health led to inefficiency in all walks of life. There was nothing he despised more than inefficiency. Well or ill, he always insisted on getting through his tasks in a businesslike fashion. That was the way to live, he used to say. Get through with it. Be perfect of your kind, whatever that kind may be. Hence his sneaking fondness for the natives—they were such fine, healthy animals.

Fine, healthy animals; perfect of their kind! Africa liked them to “get through with it” according to their own lights. But there was evidently a little touch of spitefulness and malice about Africa; something almost human. For when white people try to get through with it after their particular fashion, she makes hay of their livers or something. That is what had happened to Thomas Heard, D.D., Bishop of Bampopo. He had been so perfect of his kind, such an exemplary pastor, that there was small chance of a return to the scenes of his episcopal labours. Anybody could have told him what would happen. He ought to have allowed for a little human weakness, on the part of the Black Continent. It could not be helped. For the rest, he was half inclined to give up the Church and take to some educational work on his return to England. Perhaps that was why he at present preferred to be known as “Mr. Heard.” It put people at their ease, and him too.

Whence now this novel and unpleasant sensation in the upper gastric region? Most annoying! He had dined discreetly at his hotel the evening before; had breakfasted with moderation. And had he not voyaged in many parts of the world, in China Seas and round the Cape? Was he not even then on his return journey from Zanzibar? No doubt. But the big liner which deposited him yesterday at the thronged port was a different concern from this wretched tub, reeking with indescribable odours as it rolled in the oily swell of the past storm through which the MOZAMBIQUE had ridden without a tremor. The benches, too, were frightfully uncomfortable, and sticky with sirocco moisture under the breathless awning. Above all, there was the unavoidable spectacle of the suffering passengers, natives of the country; it infected him with misery. In attitudes worthy of Michelangelo they sprawled about the deck, groaning with anguish; huddled up in corners with a lemon-prophylactic against sea-sickness, apparently-pressed to faces which, by some subtle process of colour-adaptation, had acquired the complexion of the fruit; tottering to the taffrail….

There was a peasant woman dressed in black, holding an infant to her breast. Both child and parent suffered to a distressing degree. By some kindly dispensation of Providence they contrived to be ill in turns, and the situation might have verged on the comical but for the fact that blank despair was written on the face of the mother. She evidently thought her last day had come, and still, in the convulsions of her pain, tried to soothe the child. An ungainly creature, with a big scar across one cheek. She suffered dumbly, like some poor animal. The bishop’s heart went out to her.

He took out his watch. Two more hours of discomfort to be gone through!
Then he looked over the water. The goal was far distant.


4 thoughts on “South Wind, A Lovely Penguin Books Original (Book Acquired, 1.04.2013)”

  1. This is the first book VS Naipaul bought when leaving Trinidad and passing through New York on his way to England. He talks about it in The Enigma of Arrival: “Here, part of the great wealth of New York, was the book, immediately available. I paid one twenty-eight, and the assistant, who must have been eight or ten years older than me, called me sir. South Wind! But it remained unread.”


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