Monthly Archives: October 2014

‘THE EBBING OF THE TIDE’ BY LOUIS BECKE

‘The Ebbing of the Tide’ is Louis Becke’s second collection of fictionalized short stories inspired by his adventures in the Pacific Islands.

THE EBBING OF THE TIDE

Summary

As the Blue Continent becomes more settled by the visitors from the Western World, indigenous Islanders get showered with not-so-wanted gifts of civilization: cruelty, greed, jealousy, resentment, malice. The once-peaceful paradise starts to uncover its dark, rough side; life mixes with death, love with blood, laughter with tears. And yet, despite the hidden dangers, the natives and the incomers are inexplicably drawn to each other. Much like two magnets with a force as strong and irresistible as gravity.

Review

This book is very similar to Becke’s first collection of the South Seas yarns, ‘By Reef and Palm’. It’s equally good and engaging; it’s equally tragic; it’s equally honest. And, just like its predecessor, it’s hard to read at times.

None of the 21 stories could be described as light-hearted. This extremely realistic portrayal of the islands many consider a tropical paradise is a chilling, often shocking account written by a man who ‘saw it all’. Louis Becke was not only a novelist; he was a traveller, sailor, trader, and some people say, even a pirate. His ‘friendship’ with the infamous buccaneer, William ‘Bully’ Hayes, resulted in many adventures, during which Becke witnessed the dramatic and far-reaching effects of ‘civilization’. The clash of cultures, the clash of traditional values and ‘Western’ moral codes, took a heavy toll on the Pacific’s native inhabitants. Their serene, harmonious world suddenly faded into oblivion, and dark clouds appeared on the horizon. Very few people had a chance to see the tragedy and devastation. Louis Becke was one of them. And his tales, although considered fiction, are a valuable record of the Pacific Islands’ history.

Of course, as is always the case with compilations, some of the narratives are better than the others. Nevertheless, all of them are worth reading. The author’s literary rawness – quite exceptional, to be honest – fantastically reflects the reality of the South Seas’ colonial past. Becke might not have been on a par with Robert Louis Stevenson, James Michener, or Jack London, but he was a master storyteller, and his works – ‘The Ebbing of the Tide’ among them – definitely prove it.

If you want to travel back in time, this book can serve as your time machine. It will transport you to the Blue Continent the minute you start reading the first page, taking you to all the places you’ve probably always dreamt about. From the Marshall Islands to French Polynesia, from tiny Pitcairn to New Caledonia… Take this opportunity and cruise the Pacific Ocean. Let Louis Becke be your captain. He is phenomenal. You couldn’t ask for a better person to do the job.

THE ‘P’ FACTOR

Since the 16th century, the Blue Continent has been a playground for adventure-seeking travellers. Early navigators’ quest for knowledge (officially) and glory (unofficially) prompted them to undertake hazardous voyages in search of new lands in the vast Pacific Ocean. White traders saw the islands as a source of wealth. Missionaries came to convert the cannibals and wild savages into civilized, God-fearing men. Artists, poets and writers simply searched for inspiration somewhere among the swaying palm trees and little lagoons. And ordinary tourists… What really attracts us? Why are we drawn to this corner of the globe? Well, there are more than plenty of reasons, but let me name just a few of them.

‘And that Palau is where? Oh right, it’s at the end of the world!’

Exactly, the end of the world. Let’s be honest, every once in a while we all have this thought: to leave it all behind and travel to a distant land where everything is new and different. Pacific Islands are the most remote, isolated location on the planet Earth. And even though the world doesn’t really end there, it is still fun to be able to enjoy this exceptional feeling of freedom.

‘C’mon, don’t you wanna go to a place where everyone goes?’

No, not really. I need some privacy; I’m tired of being surrounded by thousands of people. Do you know that feeling? Well, the islands are perfect, because they are completely off the beaten track. Visiting the South Seas gives you the opportunity to explore places far away from the usual tourist routes. Go there and you’ll get something more than a typical all-inclusive holiday by the pool.

‘Kiri-what? Ah, Kiribati. Yeah, that sounds kinda exotic!’

Oh yes, we all like those exotic-sounding names. Somehow they seem to represent things that are more unique, more unusual. And when it comes to the Pacific Islands, they are as extraordinary as they sound.

‘Paradise doesn’t exist!’

Maybe it doesn’t, but if there’s any place that resembles Eden, that’s the Blue Continent. It is the land of eternal beauty and utter perfection (well, most of it anyway). It’s so easy to fall in love with all the sights, sounds, tastes and colours. And believe me, this love lasts forever (and ever, and ever, and ever…).

‘Those overwater huts are quite romantic!’

Not just them. Dreamy locations, beautiful beaches, magnificent sunsets and sweet aromas of tropical flowers are perfect for loved-up couples. But, just to be clear, you don’t need a partner to be able to enjoy this exceptional scenery! If you are in the mood for love – Pacific region is the right place to go.

‘It’s like it’s Photoshopped!’

There’s no need for Photoshop in the Pacific! The islands are filled with picture-perfect scenery, so every snap (well, ok, almost every snap) taken looks like a postcard. So, what were you saying about that Photoshop…?

‘Do you realize they eat people???’

In the South Seas you get a chance to encounter some of the most unique cultures in the world. So many islands, so many traditions. Every single one is different; every single one is totally captivating. Indigenous Melanesian, Micronesian and Polynesian folkways are well worth exploring. Oh, and don’t be afraid, you’ll come back alive…

‘Yeah, they are good-looking; but friendly? I don’t think so.’

‘Friendly’ doesn’t even describe how amazing Pacific Islanders are. They are warm-hearted, welcoming and hospitable. Known to be very family oriented, they always make sure that any guest feels at home and as comfortable as it is possible. Only in Pasifika can you arrive as a visitor and leave as a member of the community.

‘But what will you eat there? And what will you drink?’

And who cares? The Pacific diet may be a little unvaried, but at least you know there’s one thing you can never run out of: fresh coconuts! And by ‘fresh’ I mean a coconut straight off the tree. You just have to ask one of the very friendly Islanders!

‘Yeah, so.. Ok… Maybe it is an incredible place…’

If you don’t live near the Pacific Islands, it is quite probable that your visit there was, is or will be a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. But even the shortest trip leaves great memories. Memories that are to be cherished forever.