Two stories gathered for one production:
Acclaimed as the work of a "boy Thoreau," this brief, charming story of a mythical animal was published in 1930 when Patrick O'Brian, who went on to write the celebrated Aubrey/Maturin series of historical sea novels, was just 15. With its detached, authoritative narrative voice, Caesar: The Life Story of a Panda-Leopard reads more like a novel for young adults than a book written by one--though it is hard to imagine a grown-up writer including so many vividly realized hunting scenes, culminating in spurting blood and gore. In the introduction to this reprint of his juvenilia, O'Brian remembers being given a copy of "the Reverend Mr. Wood's Natural History, a mid-nineteenth century edition illustrated with a fair number of engravings." Already something of a naturalist, the boy "devoured the book." It must have spurred his interest in predatory animals, for Caesar demonstrates exceptional knowledge of the environments and habits of leopards and other large hunting cats of India and Asia. O'Brian's odd, matter-of-fact tone also derives from books like the Reverend Mr. Wood's, and provides much of the twisted pleasure to be found in Caesar. After his mother dies in a forest fire, the panda-leopard is forced to teach himself the fine points of hunting. One day he spots a large herd of pigs, strangely unguarded by a boar or sounder pig. He approaches cautiously, then notices a tall creature standing on two legs. Eventually his hunger overcomes him, and he snatches up a small pig, breaking its neck. "Unluckily the pig had time to squeal," writes the young O'Brian,
and this attracted the man who, with a cry, picked up a stone. His arm went back and the stone flew towards me like a bird. It hit me on the nose and hurt me more than the bee sting which I had had when a cub. It hit me on the same tender place which had never quite got better, and it angered me beyond words, and dropping the pig I charged, running low along the ground. Then I sprang straight at him.
With a shriek, the man tries to fend off the panda-leopard with a stick. "We fell together," Caesar recalls, "but his skull was cracked like an egg-shell. It was ridiculously easy to kill him." When he is eventually captured and tamed, Caesar learns to appreciate one or two humans, though his contempt for the species never diminishes. A wonderful read, recalling Kipling's Kim and The Jungle Book. --Regina Marler --
From Kirkus Reviews
This early work from the now-deceased OBrian (Blue at the Mizzen, 1999, etc.) has nothing at all to do with the Iraqi leader. Written when the author was in his 20s, the story tells of a young mahout (elephant handler) whose father and grandfather also trained the great beasts. The third-person narrative chronicles Husseins childhood, his love for elephants and for a girl named Sashiya. Forced to flee his hometown in India, Hussein begins a series of adventures that includes stints as a snake charmer, spy, and thief, but he eventually returns to claim his love. OBrians readable and gripping tale is aptly subtitled: it never strays beyond the realm of entertainment.
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Caesar: The Life Story of a Panda-Leopard Hussein
|The British Library 1st Thus Hardcover edition, Date published 1999, ISBN 0-712-31115-7, 94 pages|
||The first reprinting of O'Brian's first two books, originally published under the name Richard Patrick Russ in 1930 and 1938, respectively. Released in an edition of 1000 copies, of which 250 were signed by Mr. O'Brian and 750 were not. Two volumes, fine in pictorial boards with leather spines, housed together in a red cloth slipcase.||
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|Both volumes As New in As New slipcase, #19 of 250 copies signed on the limitation page by Mr. O'Brian. An excellent chance at an authenticated signature from one of the great authors of historical fiction!||
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