Author: Robert Ardrey
Publisher: Collins, 1961
Fourth impression inscribed by Noel Coward to Vivien Leigh, "Dear Darling with my love Noëlie" This book from Vivien Leigh's library. Edges a little spotted, corner of pp.183-4 turned down; dustwrapper (by Joseph Low) slightly nicked, and somewhat darkened at spine.
African Genesis - "a personal investigation into the animal origins of man and his behaviour" - proved an enormous bestseller (the title of its 1966 successor, The Territorial Imperative, entering common currency). It was, declared the publishers' blurb, "at once a story of an unprecedented search and a story of man that has never before been told. It is a shocking book in that it challenges assumptions of human uniqueness that color every segment of modern thought and every aspect of our daily life. Yet it is a deeply satisfying book, for it reveals the personality of man not as some fragile accident, mundane or divine, but as a dynamic expression of the history of all living things."
Its author Robert Ardrey was, however, first a playwright and screenwriter - author of a classic play in Thunder Rock (1939, filmed with Michael Redgrave in 1942, a rival for Noël Coward's In Which We Serve), a prolific writer of screenplays, particularly for MGM, from the 1930s to the 1950s; he was nominated for an Oscar for his Khartoum (1966, starring Vivien Leigh's former husband Laurence Olivier). Noël Coward was a close friend of Vivien Leigh - and her sometime husband Laurence Olivier - from the 1930s. He had given Olivier a part in the first production of Private Lives (Leigh and Olivier starred in a radio version 10 years later, in 1940). She starred in Coward's Look after Lulu! (1959), the printed edition of which he dedicated to her. Harold Hobson complained of the play, "The trouble is that Mr. Noël Coward is too witty, and Miss Vivien Leigh too beautiful."
Coward described Ardrey as “The most extraordinary brain I have ever encountered”