“Land Below the Wind” is a memoir by Agnes Newton Keith, published in 1939, which captures the essence of life in British North Borneo (now Sabah, Malaysia) in the years before World War II. The title refers to Borneo’s location just south of the typhoon belt, hence “below the wind.” Agnes, an American married to Harry George Keith, the Conservator of Forests and Director of Agriculture, provides an enchanting narrative of her experiences in this tropical paradise.
Through her eyes, readers discover the diverse cultures, customs, and communities of North Borneo. Keith writes with a vivid and engaging style, bringing to life the beauty of the landscapes, the wildlife, and the daily life of its inhabitants, including indigenous peoples and colonial officials. Her account is both a personal journey and a document of a way of life that was about to be irrevocably changed by the coming war.
The book is notable for its rich descriptions, warmth, and humor, as well as its insightful commentary on colonial life. “Land Below the Wind” has since become a classic, not only as a piece of literature but also as an important historical document, offering a snapshot of a time and place that are no longer the same. The work remains a beloved introduction to Sabah and is a testament to Keith’s profound connection to the land and people she came to know so well.