Some updates on the novel FINAL ISLANDS IN THE SUN (working title)
Retracing the narrative of the novel - in real life
On the 12th December 2014 I set out on a holiday trip that turned out to be a retrace of the novel's aging protagonist's journey into the Great Anuki Country, Milne Bay Province. I wanted to witness again the sort of wild country inhabited by the characters, prominent among them and excluding the protagonist would be an elderly anthropology couple from the US, a visitor from Norway, several high school students and youngsters from Alotau town and, of course, the ever loyal guide and protege of the protagonist, Tomwaya. The following are brief day to day accounts of that holiday trip.
12th Dec. Left Port Moresby for Alotau at 10am arriving there at 10:55am. Signed in at the Saugere Guest House for K80 a night. It was a lovely guest house of the Kwato Missions with quiet and peaceful surrounds. In the novel the protagonist appears at a similar tourist lodge but does not spend the night there even though he had paid K500 in advance for room and board. Saugere is a mile and half out of town. I went for a bus ride to town, visited the famous sites such as the markets, shopping areas and the beautiful waterfront of Sanderson Bay. Couldn't do much the next two days, Saturday and Sunday, as the main shopping centres were closed for the weekend. Even the ATM was closed. Went to Sunday service at the Anglican Resurrection Church.
Monday 15th Dec did a quick shopping - provisions to last me 3 weeks or so. Negotiated with a dinghy crew for transportation from Awaiama to Tototo. Also struck up a deal with a tomwaya (sounds familiar?) for the highway journey from Alotau town to Awaiama. We settled for K200, both parties happy. As for the dinghy I offered K500, but they wanted more, so we finally settled for K700. That's expensive. A total rip-off, to be precise. Nonetheless we all were able to travel to Awaiama that same day. Signed out at Saugere at noon, went back to town and did some more shopping as finishing touches on provisions. Left Alotau town at about 2:50pm arriving at Awaiama at 4pm. The dinghy crew said the weather was fine for further travel so we said goodbye to tomwaya to drive back to Alotau as we set out from Awaiama soon after 4pm.
It was calm all around Goodenough Bay and the sailing proved to be pleasant well into the evening. Soon it was nightfall in mid ocean and lights began appearing one by one as we drew closer to Cape Vogel. We arrived at Rausewa at 8.43pm. Spent the night in that village.
In the novel, the characters go on a dinghy trip to Samarai Island, but upon returning to Alotau late in the afternoon run out of zoom. They are stranded. They float in mid ocean. Night falls and there's a storm. They drift and drift towards Cape Vogel... etc.
Tuesday 16th Dec. We left Rausewa in the morning around 8am, went around to historical Mukawa and thence sailed on to the Great Anuki Country. We arrived at Besima at 9:15am. Had tea at Kaibara. And later walked down to Tototo.
Wednesday 17th Dec. First day at Tototo. Interesting conversations. Yet intriguing. For the next few weeks and well into Christmas and New Year I shall stay at this village, mulling over its 107 years of history - its contact with the Anglican Church and its struggles to maintain itself as a place the protagonist of our novel calls home. It is a wild country, but the stuff of dreams found in every novel - its mystery of being itself a home, of resisting all material temptations that the Western world offers and its very struggle to retain its own dignity as a replica of those ancient civilizations gone by.
There where the excitement of the human passion is, there where much drama is, where the human soul is - there is where truly our novel is set... away from the buzz and hackling of the cities, away from metropolitan quarrels and debates...
...there where the human heart, mind and soul walks through each forest, each kwamra and gubura in search of light and the open sea... out there, from the mouth of Tototo's estuary leading to Posa Posa Habour with so many of its islands in the stream...there is where our novel is...
A lot of novelists have a fair idea of who their audiences are. Many cite E.M. Forster's Aspects of the Novel and the notions of story and plot, the most suitable of places as their settings, the type of characters, round or flat, that they set out to deal with; and the rhythm and flow of narrative. And yet others dream of being Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Leo Tolstoy, Jane Austen, Graham Greene, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, or other, in their endeavour to write a good novel. Some simply shrug and say, "I write to please myself."
But for this novelist the attention of the future generation and those yet to come matters more.
And here is why our novelist, the author of FINAL ISLANDS IN THE SUN, thinks that the attention of future generations matters more. He subscribes that children catch up faster and far more so with diligence to new thoughts and aspirations than older people. They are more attentive in the sense that the language they acquire as they grow up with gives them more of that opportunity to discover and know themselves. Now comparatively speaking children in the strictly rural or rustic or provinciale setting respond far more readily to pure human thought and utterance than those in towns and cities. Everything they hear coming out of the mouths of adults, and particularly in the language that they know, speak and understand better, is poetry, is wisdom and truth. Even they, the children, far removed from comics, far removed from the world of video cartoons and games - which are indeed terribly distracting in the process of their growth from childhood to adolescence - speak like adults. They think like adults. And most important of all they meditate as adults would. This is why our novelist envisages that all good novels, particularly the Papua New Guinean novel, are best placed in the hands of the children. MAIBA wasn't written for nothing, one dares to say! And by this lot of children we mean the rural child, the rustic child, the provincial child. After what this child goes through by the very experience of growing up in a rural setting the chances of seeing the whole world better are enormous. What this child dreams of is that which spells out splendor, the grandiose, the marvelous, the wonder and beauty of the world itself. Thus, if in our novel, FINAL ISALNDS IN THE SUN, we note that the whole world appears in twofold - the rural and the metropolitan - they, the rural children, see it better. They know what it is all about. They know what the old protagonist wants. They know what Lady Gaesasara of the cities is fighting for and defending. These characters represent their well being. Without them they will perish. And so we continue to write this novel. We continue to dream with them, these rural children. We continue shaping and moulding, honing and chiseling, each word, each phrase, each paragraph, each chapter, in their favour. And we watch how they respond as we go along.