Scoop Review of Books

Archive for May, 2009

Master Storyteller’s Challenging Vision

In Search of the Friendly Islands, by Kalafi Moala
Hawai’i: Pasifika Foundation Press, and Auckland, NZ: Pacific Media Centre (AUT University), Reviewed by JOSEPHINE LATU

KALAFI MOALA is no stranger to confrontation. He spent 26 days in prison for contempt of Parliament in 1996, along with MP ‘Akilisi Pohiva and fellow journalist Filo ‘Akau’ola. The ruling was later overturned as “unconstitutional’, but this didn’t stop the government from systematically banning his newspaper, Taimi ‘o Tonga, from the kingdom—twice.

Before that, the Taimi team had suffered numerous raids, arrests and threats at the hands of the authorities.
Things have changed since these landmark crackdowns on media freedom—Moala has now taken over the government-owned Chronicle as one of his projects—but as his new book proves, the man still has an uncompromising propensity to ‘tell it like it is’.

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Juan Goytisolo: the Revenge of the Exile

Tim Bowron marks the twentieth anniversary of the publication of the first English translation of a great work of ‘anti-patriotism’. count

Juan Goytisolo, Count Julian, translated by Helen Lane, Serpent’s Tail, London, 1989.

It is funny how sometimes a single line or fragment of a poem can lead you off on the strangest of intellectual tangents.

I had this experience a couple of years ago when I was reading the through some of the Civil War poetry of Antonio Machado – the Spanish modernist writer and contemporary of Unamuno and Azorín – and came across a sonnet entitled ‘A Otro Conde Don Julian’ (‘To the other Count Julian’).

The poem itself, which is far inferior to Machado’s earlier works such as those found in his collection Campos de Castilla (Lands of Castille) and of primarily propagandistic rather than literary significance, held little interest for me, but the title, which casts the nationalist leader General Franco in the role of the arch-betrayer of Spanish history Count Julian of Ceuta held a strange fascination.

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Five Translated Children’s Books

fearsome-fiveBy Camilla During
Gecko Press is a boutique publishing house, the brainchild of New Zealander Julia Marshall. She specialises in publishing foreign children’s books which she then gets translated into English. Marshall is careful to choose “curiously good books from around the world by well-established authors and illustrators”.

Gecko Press publications (which now number over thirty) continue to impress me with both the calibre of the authors and illustrators as well as the unstinting production values.

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Hidden Treasure

The Hidden by Tobias Hill
Faber and Faber, 2009. Reviewed by MARIA McMILLAN

It’s an interesting time to be reading a book about a man whose remorse over past wrongs is saturated in denial and self pity. The Hidden is a wonderful book. It shines out in an era where many conversations analyse and contextualise acts of violence to the point of making them disappear. That’s a clever and comforting conjuring trick, but one that author, Tobias Hill, refuses to engage in.

Ben Mercer is an Oxford academic whose speciality is Sparta, a civilisation he’s obsessed about since childhood. We meet him his first night in Greece. He’s left Oxford, his ex-wife, and his daughter who doesn’t want him to go. Ben appears a nice guy. Recognisably flawed and vulnerable. He’s lost and sad and missing the married life he feels like he should be leading. He feels sorry for himself and we feel sorry for him.

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A Brief Description of An Alternative View

The Scoop Reivew of Books is happy to be able to to re-publish Scott Hamilton’s introduction to Ted Jenner’s recently published Writers in Residence and other captive fauna.

For Reality, Against Certainty: an Introduction to Ted Jennerted27s-book-cover1

I first encountered the name Ted Jenner in 1991, when I was fossicking in the dimly-lit back shelves of the Rosehill College library. Ted was one of the writers included in The New Fiction, the fat, baffling collection of ‘experiments in prose’ edited and introduced by Michael Morrissey, a man whom I then imagined to be related to the lead singer of The Smiths. The texts in The New Fiction broke all the golden rules we had been taught by our English teachers at Rosehill: there were stories without plots, let alone trick endings, pages broken into multiple columns of texts, and characters whose names seemed to change with every new paragraph. Read more »

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