April 11 is Chartwell Booksellers’ 33rd Birthday. We’re still here. So is Winston Churchill, at least literarily. His presence looms larger than ever. We’re very happy to have him around.
The arrival of our birthday month now sadly also signals the anniversary of our loss of Cindi Di Marzo, who passed away one year ago this coming April 25.
We miss her.
Winston Churchill celebrated his 33rd Birthday in 1907 near Uganda, on a tour of Britain's East Africa “possessions” as Undersecretary of State for the Colonies. The next year, he would publish a vivid travelogue of his trip, entitled My African Journey. The book remains a fascinating and contradictory pleasure, just like Winston Churchill himself. A riot of rich descriptive prose that celebrates Africa’s environmental beauty with a naturalist's sensitive appreciation, it is also shot through with reflections and adventures that today read as politically incorrect.
Churchill’s sense of Africa’s indigenous tribes, while respectful and in many cases admiring, is inevitably that of the colonialist he was. Then there is the big game hunting that opens the book, though Churchill characteristically takes pleasure in both the wily lion that gets away and in the rhinoceros that doesn’t.
As so often with Winston Churchill, his overarching humanity tempers the simplistic and stereotypical. "In war, there is a cause, there is duty, there is the hope of glory," he writes of the bloody hunt he has just participated in. "But here at the end is only a hide, a horn, and a carcass, over which the vultures have already begun to wheel.”
My African Journey was a pretty big best seller. 12,500 copies were printed for the first English edition and most sold, including 1,400 copies sent off to the United States. That First English edition is today profoundly collectible, featuring a handsome cover woodcut of the author posed beside his trophy rhinoceros. Most of the book first appeared in installments in The Strand Magazine, an arrangement negotiated by Churchill before he’d even left for Africa. Between the serial rights and his book advances, Churchill ultimately claimed to have turned a profit of 2,000 pounds on his African journey.
There is nothing in My African Journey that suggests Cindi’s literary sensibility. Cindi was not the safari type. Her passion was childrens’ books. It is hard to pin down the books that Winston Churchill read as a child, but he loved adventure yarns from a very young age. My African Journey is exactly that sort. And it's all true.
MEMORIES OF CINDI
~"A call was made from Seattle and the phone was picked up at Chartwell. Immediately you were handed a steaming cup of coffee and engaged in the most pleasant conversation one could imagine. Cindi you are beyond missed." -Tom and Sarah Holmes
~"Cindi’s elegance greeted everyone at the entrance to Chartwell. Her warm smile was the perfect embellishment to the store within. While walking my golden retriever on the beach at the Jersey shore, I like to say hello to Cindi’s spirit, as the sun rises over the Ocean. May she send us a shooting STAR!" -Michael Randolph (who also took the photograph of Cindi that you see here.)