Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Nederends Plot

Reading this novel, I found myself in constant worry that I was somehow missing the point or larger meaning of the work. I understand that it is meant to be satirical and that the humor is meant to illuminate some deeper message, but there were many times when the nature of the thing being described, mostly farts, just got in the way for me. I found myself wondering why the author decided to choose such a distracting motif to write about. Interestingly, however, as the story progresses the gruesome activity of the bodily functions take a back seat and readers are able to learn a lot more about the pacific culture where the story takes place. I think the effect of using such a potentially distracting motif is that most times I wasn’t aware that I was being taught about a culture. It is less didactic than Achebe and Wendt. In my mind, it is trying to communicate the same things, but achieves it differently as it does not make the culture itself the subject of discussion.

            In many ways, I found myself thinking about the oral culture and how it operates in this story as I felt that it did indeed read silly, but if I were happening to hear this story, I can’t help but think that I’d be enchanted. We are told this silly little story about a man with an anus that farts musical tunes, but through this simple story we learn so much about the pacific culture. We learn about the effects of  colonization and modernization of the land and the booming tourist industry, as well as about the conflict between the doctors and dottores. I believe that the novel's plot allows it to more organically unfold the tensions that arise when two cultures clash. Instead of prioritizing the world of colonization as the subject of exploration, I think that Hau'ofa usefully unfolds the reality of the daily lives of people existing in that environment, the ways in which they are both aware and unaware of, as well as defiant and compliant of their own colonization. 

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