The GoshawkPaperback New York Review Books Classics
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- Publisher: NYRB Classics
- Format: Paperback | 232 pages
- Dimensions: 127mm x 198mm x 10mm | 249g
- Publication date: 18 October 2007
- Publication City/Country: New York
- ISBN 10: 1590172493
- ISBN 13: 9781590172490
- Illustrations note: 13 b/w line drawings
- Sales rank: 37,871
What is it that binds human beings to other animals? T. H. White, the author of The Once and Future King and Mistress Masham's Repose, was a young writer who found himself rifling through old handbooks of falconry. A particular sentence-"the bird reverted to a feral state"-seized his imagination, and, White later wrote, "A longing came to my mind that I should be able to do this myself. The word 'feral' has a kind of magical potency which allied itself to two other words, 'ferocious' and 'free.'" Immediately, White wrote to Germany to acquire a young goshawk. Gos, as White named the bird, was ferocious and Gos was free, and White had no idea how to break him in beyond the ancient (and, though he did not know it, long superseded) practice of depriving him of sleep, which meant that he, White, also went without rest. Slowly man and bird entered a state of delirium and intoxication, of attraction and repulsion that looks very much like love. White kept a daybook describing his volatile relationship with Gos-at once a tale of obsession, a comedy of errors, and a hymn to the hawk. It was this that became The Goshawk, one of modern literature's most memorable and surprising encounters with the wilderness-as it exists both within us and without.
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Terence Hanbury White (1906-1964) was born in Bombay, India, and educated at Queen's College, Cambridge. His childhood was unhappy-"my parents loathed each other," he later wrote-and he grew up to become a solitary person with a deep fund of strange lore and a tremendous enthusiasm for fishing, hunting, and flying (which he took up to overcome his fear of heights). White taught for some years at the Stowe School until the success in 1936 of England Have My Bones, a book about outdoor adventure, allowed him to quit teaching and become a full-time writer. Along with The Goshawk, White was the author of twenty-six published works, including his famed sequence of Arthurian novels, The Once and Future King; the fantasy Mistress Masham's Repose (published in The New York Review Children's Collection); a collection of essays on the eighteenth century, The Age of Scandal; and a translation of a medieval Latin bestiary, A Book of Beasts. He died at sea on his way home from an American lecture tour and is buried in Piraeus, Greece. Marie Winn's recent book, Red-Tails in Love: Pale Male's Story, featured a now-famous red-tailed hawk. Her column on nature and bird-watching appeared for twelve years in The Wall Street Journal, and she has written on diverse subjects for The New York Times Magazine and Smithsonian. Her forthcoming book, Central Park in the Dark, was published in the spring of 2008.
'I read this when I was 17 and everything in the book - the cottage in the wood, White's loneliness, the untameable, beautiful bird, and above all the intricate awareness of the countryside - struck a deep resonance. Still does' -- Monty Don The Week "his prose is so breathtaking I find myself reeling as I read, and the falconry vocabulary is like an incantation." -- Sarah Perry The Gloss
Back cover copy
The Goshawk chronicles a concentrated duel between the author and a great hawk. It is the journal of an intense clash of wills - during the bird's training - in which the pride and endurance of the wild raptor are worn down by the insistent willpower of the falconer. The story is by turns comic and tragic - and it is all-absorbing. (5 1/2 X 8 1/4, 222 pages, diagrams)