This book by Eugene Marais is a passionate, insightful account into the world of termites. It is a meticulously researched expose of their complex, highly structured community life.
Originally translated into English in 1937, the quality of research remains as relevant today as it was when it was first published. This illuminating account will not only appeal to those with a scientific interest in termites, but will similarly enthrall readers who are new to their captivating world. An exceptional feature of his detailed research is the extraordinary psychological life of the termite.
While the studies are based in South Africa, the extensive research also includes the termites of Magnetic Island, Australia. You will be taken on an exciting journey into the amazing life of termites, as their astonishing world of hierarchy and roles within their community is revealed in captivating detail.
His years of unceasing work on the veld led Eugène Marais to formulate his theory that the termite nest is similar in every respect to the organism of an animal. He observed that the workers and soldiers resemble red and white blood cells, while the fungus gardens are the digestive organ. The queen functions as the brain, controlling the collective mind, and the sexual flight of the kings and queens is similar in every aspect to the escape of spermatozoa and ova.
Marais was also the author of The Soul of the Ape. It was always his intention that his two bodies of work, on termites and apes, were companion pieces in the search for an understanding of the psyche that would span the gulf between the insect and primate worlds. The point of Marais’ work was, always, the mystery of consciousness itself, on which grounds it is as relevant as ever.
“He offers a vision of nature as a whole, whose parts obey different time-laws, move in affinities and linkages we could learn to see: parts making wholes on their own level, but seen by our divisive brains as a multitude of individualities, a flock of birds, a species of plant or beast. We are just at the start of an understanding of the heavens as a web of interlocking clocks, all differently set: an understanding that is not intellectual, but woven into experience. Marais brings this thought down into the plain, the hedgerow, the garden.” - Doris Lessing in The New Statesman
"I have never read a book written in such a unique style. It is as though Eugene Marais breathes life into the words, animating the lives and struggles of the white ants in such a way that they almost seem human."
"As a safari Guide in the Okavango Botswana for many years, I used this book as a basis for presenting a fascination for the smaller creatures of the African bush, my home for my entire life and which I was privileged to share with many clients from different countries. Termite mounds are really interesting and Eugene Marais compared the infrastructure of a termitary to that of the human body. Writing from the heart, this scientific author instills a wonder in the reader, of the incredible intracacies of nature, in a light-hearted, easily readable manner."