“One of the great masterpieces of scientific literature. I would even say it is a master piece of literature alone. I hope this man is remembered by the future and not forgotten further.” – reader review
Eugene Marais spent three years living in the South African wilderness in close daily contact with a troop of baboons. He later described this as the happiest, most content time of his troubled life. This period produced two works which are testament to his research and conclusions; they have very different histories.
Firstly, there was a series of articles written in Afrikaans for the newspaper Die Vaderland. They were then published in book form under the title Burgers van die Berge, and were first published in an English translation in 1939 under the title My Friends the Baboons. These pieces were written in a popular vein suitable to a newspaper readership, and were not regarded seriously by Marais himself. They are a journal; a series of anecdotes and impressions.
The Soul of the Ape, which Marais wrote in beautifully clear and precise English, was the more serious scientific document; however after his death in 1936, it could not be found. It was lost for 32 years, and was recovered in 1968, and published the following year.
The excellent introduction by Robert Ardrey that is included in this volume was part of the 1969 and subsequent editions of The Soul of the Ape, and adds greatly to an appreciation of its importance.
Together, these three texts give us as complete a picture as we will ever get of Marais’ three year study of these complex relatives of humanity, and its implications for the study of consciousness.
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