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The Sheltering Desert by Henno Martin

The Sheltering Desert (edition 1988)

by Henno Martin

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733164,469 (4.03)5
Title:The Sheltering Desert
Authors:Henno Martin
Info:AD. Donker (1988), Paperback, 328 pages
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The Sheltering Desert by Henno Martin



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The Sheltering Desert (1957) is a fantastic African travel/adventure book, I loved every aspect of it. Two German scientists escape into the Namib Desert to avoid incarceration by the British at the start of World War II. They survive like Robinson Crusoe for 2.5 years in a landscape of harsh beauty and danger. Everything they need they learn how to make from scratch. Like Bushmen they revert to a primitive but naturally ideal state as each day is a struggle for water, food, shelter and safety from other predators. At night, from the safety of a cave eating the days kill, they philosophize on big questions such as the merits of civilization versus hunter gatherers, the nature of evolution, all the while listening to the progress of WWII on a radio. They become highly attuned to the thoughts, emotions and habits of animals around them. For the reader armed with a map of Namibia, it's a total immersion into a place where some of the oldest humans have existed, the next best thing to going there in person, or returning in spirit. For some reason the book is well known in Namibia, most modern travel guide books mention it, but it's completely unknown outside that context. I would put it nearly on-par with contemporary classics like Kon-Tiki and Seven Years in Tibet as a work of outdoor literature, for its mix of adventure, danger, natural description and exotic locale.

The 1958 English translation appears to be in the public domain, there is no copyright renewal registration for it. Internet Archive has a copy of The Sheltering Desert online free in various formats. A German publisher has it in print, and there are some (rather exspensive) used copies on the market. There was also a film version made in 1992, but does not appear to have made it to VHS/DVD (if you have a copy, pls contact me!)

--Review by Stephen Balbach, via CoolReading (c) 2010 cc-by-nd ( )
  Stbalbach | Jun 17, 2010 |
Princeton geologist Adam Maloof has chosen to discuss The Sheltering Desert by Henno Martin on FiveBooks as one of the top five on his subject - Earth History.

“…Henno Martin is a Geologist who before World War Two was famous for finding and supplying water to farms in Namibia.During the war he spent a two year exile in the Namibia desert with his partner Hermann. What kept them sane during those two years of survival in the desert was mapping it. And this is a book about his experiences in the desert. For me the book demonstrates their deep respect and understanding of nature. …”

The full interview is available here: http://fivebooks.com/interviews/adam-maloof-on-earth-history ( )
1 vote | FiveBooks | Apr 19, 2010 |
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