25 SEPTEMBER 1936, Page 32

, $14ck Marvels

Gari Garl. Bernatzik. (Constable.. 10s.. 6d.) THE tribes of the Upper Nile have inspired two excellent books in a single season. In The Gentle Savage Captain Richard Wyndham chronicled with grace, wit and perception his wanderings in the Bahr el Gazal ; and now Dr. Bernatzik has done much the =same, 'though on (I fancy) a rather larger territorial scale. Grace and wit are not, it is true, the most Conspicuous virtues of his narrative, for his style is unpre- tentious.to the point of naiyete ; but heihas plenty of percep- tion. Like many modern naturalists, he graduated from the rifle to the camera, but without entirely forsaking the former. As a photographer he is above praise ; the hundred odd plates in this book really do justify his publisher's' contention that " few photographic records have so preserved for us the essen•- tial character of a country and a people." - Few of the tribes, and almost none of their women, took kindly to being, filmed, and Dr. Bernatzik was scrupulous to eschew the Hogwasch tactics of dragooning .them, or having them dragooned, into self-conscious poses or displays. With great patience and ingenuity, he bluffed them, ambushed them, lured them until he got the spontaneous results he wanted:;. the description of his subterfuges is amusing and helps to build up an attractive picture of their perpetrator. -Forit is clear that Dr. Bernatzik is exceptionally well qualified to sojourn among primitive - people. He is not one .of those theoretical Back-to-Nature Noble Savagers ; he really does like and admire the much that is likeable, and the perhaps rather less that -is admirable, in the child-like tribesmen. He deplores missionary influence and dreads, on the natives' behalf, the blessings of civilisation ;

and he knows what he is talking about. •

That, incidentally, is one of the pleasantest things about his book, for •the author is not only holiest but extremely well informed. Though "popular," his narrative is sound, for he writes as an ethnologist with previous African experi- ence. His journey took him as far as the frontier of the " Belgian Congo, and the principal tribes of which he writes are the Nuer, the Jur, the Dinka, the Shilluk, and the . Nuba (who still wear, on occasions, chain armour from the time of the Crusades). Their customs, tabus_ and rites.are described with fidelity and a rare lack of condescension. .Dr. Bernatzik, in short, is the ideal man to describe one of the very fear- outputs of primitive life 'which has not yet suc- cumbed to the dry-rot of civilisation. He tells of many strange, and: some fantastic things, and I can .linaginet few , who will not enjoy this book. Even if you cannot read,

there are always the photographs. Palma FLEMING.