IT is not very often that a second book written in the same vein as a highly successful first one can equal its predecessor in the freshness of its approach. But Anne Lindbergh's "Listen, the Wind," though not so exciting as "North to the Orient," is even more of a work of art. In describing places and experiences that have never been described before, Mrs. Lindbergh, with unusual sensibility and insight, has succeeded in making her story both beautiful and real.
There is comparatively little action for a subject of this kind. The book is principally concerned with the planning of the flight from Africa to South America; and the flight, when it finally takes place, turns out to be an anticlimax. It is, therefore, not from the number of events that the book derives its absorbing interest, but from the way they are described and integrated. Mrs. Lindbergh keenly singles out the small but unusual details that make the story unmistakably real: "The were newspapers on the floor, French ones, old and yellowing, gritty with dust, their emphatic black headlines staring up at the ceiling as they had been staring ever since the old chief had left them there." Yet these are more than mere details, they all add something to the impression the author is trying to create. She goes on to say "and none of these things mattered now, I thought, none of these emphatic headlines, those photographed faces, those men hurrying to meetings. I wondererd how much they ever mattered to Porto Praia."
Moreover, the author is clever enough to leave out the mass of facts that burden down the usual narrative, and by her subjective approach produces a series of vivid sketches. The first one, concerning her stay at one of the Cape Verde Islands where the wind blew forever and time meant nothing, is an artistic triumph, and at times comes very close to being poetry. it is beautiful prose, natural, rhythmic, and expressive.
Although most of the book is concerned with the problems met in planning the trans-Atlantic flight, so many of these problems are interesting that the reader only occasionally becomes impatient for the takeoff. The struggle with the elements, the difficulty of removing excess weight from the load--these matters, especially to the layman, are often fascinating. They add to the reader's interest in the actual voyage exactly as the entree adds to the interest in a meal.
But the outstanding aspect of the book, for which Mrs. Lindbergh deserves great credit, is the extraordinary reality of the narrative. The story is truly alive, breathing the freshness, enthusiasm, and wisdom of the author's treatment.