Leaves of the Banyan tree by Albert Wendt

leaves of the banyan tree

Leaves of the Banyan tree by Albert Wendt

Samoan fiction

Source – personnel copy

When Lisa  of anzlitlovers announced Indigenous writers week AI wanted to find something unusual ,I search and searched and eventually found Albert Wendt a Samoan writer of German heritage ,Leaves of the Banyan tree is considered his best book ,it won the New Zealand book of the year in 198o .He has taught at various universities around Fiji and Hawaii ,has now settled in New Zealand .He was made a companion of New Zealand order of Merit in the queens Honours in 2013  .

Although the arrival of the papalagi had brought changes to the bush they too had been slow .Even when men used more efficient Papalagi tools the bush sooner or later crept back over their feeble clearings ,The tempo of change had quickened in Tauilopepe’s own lifetime ,But out of the recent attempts to conquer the bush only Malo ,the first Sapepean to realise the rich profits to be made by using Papalagi implements and knowledge ,seemed to be succeeding .

Tauilopepe sees how he could make the leaves of banyan work

 

So leaves of the Banyan tree ,is the name of the book but also a plantation  started by the main character in the book Tauilopepe  ,that during the book is started in Samoa’s sapepe island  .The book is a family saga that of Tauilopepe and his family  ,we meet him as a youngster now time frame isn’t mention a lot til later in the book when we find out about Samoan independence which was in 1962 so the book starts in the 1920’s it far to say .We are on the island of Sapepe we see Tauilopepe grow into a man and take a wife then have a son the second part of the story follows the sons story ,we see how Samoa copes with its new-found freedom .A lot of the story revolves around family  Tauilopepe has a desire to break the shackles of being Samoan ,he wants to rise and be equal  by the Papalagi (the people of white European origins that still tend to hold the power in Tauilopepe time ).But in doing so over time his family falls apart and he maybe loses who he is as a person .

I am a product of my own imagination .I am also as another writer has put it ” a product of our times” .A product of history and whole movement propelling our country towards an unknown future ,or shall I say ,I am the future .If I am evil then our whole history has been drifting toward evil .I cannot feel what other-worlders feel because I am free of that world ,I won our little game because of that and because of the time and place .

Tauilopepe nearing the end looking back on what his life has been .

Now to me Samoa meant the rugby team ,I knew very little else about this small pacific island and its people ,so Wendt’s  book opened a door into a new world .Wendt beauty is the fact he has kept the book, real with  the use of a lot of Samoan words like Papalagi ,Lavalava (the traditional dress in samoa ),tatau (a type of tatoo ),siva (a dance ) and so on the is a welcome index of these words at the end to check the context of them .What he has is a classic view of a world in Flux Samoa is struggling to catch up with the outside modern world ,this is mainly viewed as New Zealand ,Tauilopepe is an example of how some could tackle this new world ,but his is also a cautionary tale of how to tackle this word ,as he lose his sons .The Samoa painted is a world of traditional values trying to cope in a modern world ,will these families so close for so long survive ,will the age-old traditions survive  ,even will Samoan ,with the outsiders using English ,Samoans going to New Zealand to study .I’m surprised this book isn’t better known as Wendt is a talented writer ,I for one will be downloading his other books over time .

Have you a favourite Indigenous novel or book from the pacific ?#

ilw-2013

The brothers by Asko Sahlberg

the brothers

The brothers by Asko Sahlberg

Finnish fiction

Ordinal title – He (they in finnish )

Translator – Emily Jeremiah and Fleur Jeremiah

Source review copy

Asko Sahlberg is a Finnish writer he has written 10 novels and radio plays ,he has been up for the Nordic council prize and the Finlandia prize as well .He has previously work as a journalist and in advertising before turning to writing full-time ,he said about his writing “part only partly link in the chain, part of a long literary tradition” .This was his ninth novel and the first to be translated to English .

I have barely caught the crunch of snow and I know who is coming .Henrik treads heavily and unhurriedly as is his wont ,grinding his feet into the earth ,The brothers are so different .Erik walks fast ,with light steps ,he is always in a hurry ,here then gone .

The farm hand hears Henrik returning .

So The brothers does what it says on the cover and that it is the story of a pair of brothers .Henrik and Erik .The action is set in 1809 as Finland is fought over between Russia and Sweden .Peace has come and the brothers return to their farm ,having fought on opposing sides during the war .One brother Henrik  lost his girlfriend during the war and is returning after a long time away from the farm and his family .Then there is also Erik’s  wife ,the farm hand and the horse  to name a few .This book is told in sections by the characters so we see the story unfold bit by bit , of how awkward the rejoining of these two brothers .The house is full of tension as we finds the brothers at one point had been face to face on the field of battle .

This house is a cadaver .The others are too close to see it ,but it has already begun to decompose ,I flinch from its decay .It is a collection of bones had been unearthed and dressed in fine clothing to create the illusion of a real body

Henrik talking about his family’s farm

 

Well this is one of those books I read and got scared how to describe ,yet again Meike has shown her strength in choosing books for Peirene .This book so fits the theme of last years Peirene’s which was the year of small epics ,at 120 pages long thinking back on reading it and how I felt after I imagined it was a thick book because it seemed to convey so much about life brotherhood , Finland sex what it is to be a man  and death .It is compared to Shakespeare and such luminaries on the cover and yes there are parts that do compare with richard the thirds in place a story around the horse and the great line my kingdom for a horse may come to mind . but I felt it maybe does have origins in Scandinavian art  ,Sahlberg as a radio play  writer must have come across   the Danish film group Dogme 95 where the action is set mainly in one place and this book is the same the action is all at the farm-house although they talk about the past  present and future  .I was most remind of the Lars von Trier film Dogville which like this is set in one place and has some on appearing  like Henrik and changing what happens .Another point may even be the Finnish Epic Poem the Kalevala a sort of collection of Finnish folktales that formed the basis of Finland and early Finnish culture .A fine job has been done by the mother daughter team that translated this book .

Have you read this book ?

June 2017
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