Sunday, 16 February 2014

He Who Would Train a Hawk

Here's a very charming film adaptation of T. H. White's poetic book 'The Goshawk' (1951) made for the BBC in 1969 and boasting a perfectly pitched score by Carey Blyton (who is kindly hosting the video). The narrative itself is very different from J. A. Baker's infamous classic 'Peregrine' (1967) in that it deals not with the observation of birds in the wild but with White's own somewhat eccentric, 'on the job' introduction to falconry. White is best known for his sequence of Arthurian novels collectively titled 'The Once And Future King' and so it's fitting that he approaches the tale of training his first bird of prey with a deserved dose of magic and lore alongside noting its harsh realities. As the story develops, White becomes obsessive in the act of taming his beloved hawk, delirious in fact, and whilst 'Gos' is somewhat immovable, T. H. becomes gradually more like the bird itself; fervently focused, immutable and ever harder to decipher. It's a fascinating account, as humorous as it is heartbreaking and bypasses Baker's verbose distance and mystery for a closer study, by bringing the bird to the hand. 'The Goshawk' is an intimate look at how man and bird can interact, understand each other even, without losing any respect for a wildness that never truly breaks.

You can watch David Cobham's "bloody marvelous" documentary here!
New York Review Books recently republished White's book, more on that there!

Native Surrealism