Why not read the original instead?

April 19, 2012 § Leave a comment

The style of Godschalk’s Kalimantaan belongs to that branch of Anglo-Saxon literature wherein the writer attempts to attain literature through heavy use of trope; but strives to avoid criticism of being hackneyed by carefully constructing tropes incomprehesible – “his lips are dragged over cobblestones of verisimilitude”; “days swing open like red earth”; and “palms sway arithmetically at the back of infamy” — as if saying nothing was better than repeating what has already been said to death by others.

The manoevre – not especially ancient, it’s origins may not go further back than Pound’s Cantos — is thought to avoid baroque tiresomeness, but does just the opposite. And it isn’t necessary: telling one hell of a yarn – which is what the story of Rajah Brooke’s is – it is not necessary to dress it in “literature”.

This was perhaps Godschalk’s problem:  if one does not do something with the story, one ends up merely repeating it.  And if that is all one does, then why not just read Baring-Gould’s A history of Sarawak under its two white Rajahs, 1839-1908, published 1909, instead?


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