Schnee (schnee) wrote,

The Book of Puka-Puka

I've finally (finally!) started reading Robert Dean Frisbie's (Ropati's) Book of Puka-Puka, which was published bvy Eland in a new edition earlier this year. And even though I've only just started I can already recommend it; it's fascinating, and written in a captivating, evocative style that draws you in and really brings those southern seas alive.

On breaking my way through the bush I closed my eyes before the glare of exposed sand and the shallow water between the reef and the shore, reflecting the full blaze of the sun like countless mirrors. The shallows were alive with cross-seas meeting in sparkling ridges of spray, falling back in dancing undulations. Miniature waves washed up on the beach, which gulped them down, leaving no backwash; and from farther out came the incessant thundering of the great Pacific combers as they rose high to crash in resounding cannonades along the reef and to spill back into the sea, exposing rust-red ridges of coral broken by pools of sea foam.

It's obvious that Ropati is a gifted author. I wish I could write like that.

EDIT: here's another short excerpt:

On the western side of Matauea Point is a half-mile stretch of shallow water, where at low tide are exposed tracts of salmon-coloured coral as flat as a table and broken by shallow basins filled with six or eight inches of tepid water where the fish find refuge until the next tide. On the northern and eastern sides of the Point are beaches of coral sand shelving steeply into water about ten fathoms deep. This makes an ideal swimming place; and, better still, one can throw a line from the bank and catch a morning's breakfast without greatly exerting oneself. Fine rock grouper are caught there, and every now and then a young jack, a milk mullet or a red-snapper will take the book. The trade wind blows refreshingly cool across the Point, clearing it of mosquitoes and singing an eternal psalm in the fronds of the coconut palms. It is a beautiful spot, and I have often fancied that when my trading days are over I would build a comfortable house on Matauea Point, devoting the rest of my days to a hedonistic, pagan life: fishing, falling to sleep among the volumes of a picaresque library, dreaming at times of the delirious, turbulent world I once knew, now happily so far away; and again at times loving some island woman with the clear-eyed appreciative passion of an old man. It would be a fitting way for an island trader to end his days; and when he closed his eyes for the last time and he was snugly buried in the clean coral sand, how well he would sleep there, the trade wind rocking the palms over his grave and the long Pacific rollers thundering along the reef offshore.

Tags: books, islands

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