A Mantis Carol by Laurens van der Post

By Laurens van der Post

Publish yr note: First released in 1976

Presented jointly now for the 1st time, Laurens van der Post's gathered writings will display as by no means ahead of the fullness of his perceptive, clever and remarkably constant imaginative and prescient. In them all his proposal has been that of an adventurous pioneer exploring not only the outward points of a turbulent and afflicted international yet, at a deeper point, the styles and paradoxes of human existence, the myths and desires of the human brain, the values and cultures of other peoples, the elusive springs of our personal humans.

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Other options are in fact available. Other forces are in operation. The polarity which concerns us might never have become quite so conspicuous, had not one further vision entered the scene: nationalism. The traditional organic way of life is probably imperceptible to itself. It is lived, it is danced, it is performed in ritual and celebrated in legend, but it is hardly articulated in theory. It is only when the snake of abstract theory appears in the garden, that the garden is suddenly perceived and named Community.

What happened instead was the coming of the age of nationalism. This is a system which in a curious way blends both the closed culturally delimited community and a certain openness, anonymity, mobility and structurelessness. The world of national states has the following characteristics: inside each nation-state, there is a high degree of anonymity and mobility. Accredited fully quali®ed members Romanticism and the basis of nationalism 23 of the culture move legitimately from any one position in the society to any other.

At ®rst, in their con¯ict with the centre, the old Landespatriotismus of the local aristocracy, the new ethnic nationalism of the newly risen classes, and the liberalism of those opposed to the dogmatism and authoritarianism of the centre ± all of them could make common cause. This seemed to be so in 1848. But it was not to last. In the end, a curious, acute, and perhaps rather dangerous polarisation took place in the politics, the hearts, the minds, and the literature of Kakania. The new nationalism of the ethnic-cultural-linguistic groups 32 The Habsburg dilemma assumed, in the main, a strongly populist tinge.

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