Tag Archives: Epeli Hau‘ofa

‘TALES OF THE TIKONGS’ BY EPELI HAU’OFA

‘Tales of the Tikongs’ is a collection of satirical short stories penned by a well-known Fijian/Tongan writer and anthropologist, Epeli Hau’ofa.

TALES OF THE TIKONGS

Summary

The inhabitants of Tiko, a tiny country located somewhere in the South Pacific, used to lead peaceful and untroubled lives until the first wave of frightening change called D-E-V-E-L-O-P-M-E-N-T appeared on the horizon. Ever since that day, it has been slowly destroying the ancestral ways of the Tikongs.

Some of the natives try to adapt to this new order of their little world, others fight tenaciously to preserve their heritage. But it seems that not much can be done to save the past, because the new has already replaced the old – once and for all.

Review

No one does satire quite like Epeli Hau’ofa did. Honestly, no one. The great Tongan-Fijian author was a genius; the master of words, humour, and subtle irony. He was a storyteller, a poet, a visionary. But most of all, he was an astute and insightful observer who had an innate gift for noticing things most of us do not pay much attention to. ‘Tales of the Tikongs’ is a result of such observations conducted among Pacific Island societies.

Have you ever wondered what ‘development’ really means and how it affects the lives of both single individuals and whole communities? What changes does it bring? Where does it lead? What does it give and what does it take from people? You could probably find dozens of textbooks that would provide precise answers to these questions. But why would you do that if you can read a compilation of entertaining stories that will uncover the mystery behind the ‘D’ word just as well as any piece of academic literature? Exactly. It’s an easy pick, I know. That is why Epeli Hau’ofa’s book is so worthy of your time.

In this slim yet substantial volume, the author focuses on a somewhat academic topic but presents it in a very approachable way. You don’t need to be an expert to understand his ‘discourse’. Nor do you have to be familiar with the Pacific region, where the stories take place. Because the country of Tiko could be anywhere in the world. Well, almost anywhere, as Tikongs (the inhabitants of Tiko) do manifest particular traits that are characteristic of many but not all national cultures. They are religious, compassionate, community-oriented people, deeply attached to traditional values and beliefs. And although they’d like to remain indifferent to the revolutionary change that has been sweeping through their homeland, it’s hard to resist the temptations of the new world. Some things are easier said than done. And some things are just inevitable. Death and taxes? Oh yes! And change. Change cannot be avoided; no matter if you live on a remote island or in a bustling city that never sleeps.

Epeli Hau’ofa tells his tales with a razor-sharp wit and wry humour. You can only marvel at his astonishing analytical skills that are brilliantly woven into each and every word. This compilation of twelve stories is not just a piece of amusing literature. Albeit quite light-hearted, it is meaningful and eye-opening reading material that enlightens the audience, making them aware of the impact imperialism and globalization have on indigenous societies.

Now, can you read this book ‘just for fun’? Absolutely. It’s written in a very pleasant manner that you will absolutely love. It will make you laugh, that’s for sure. And it will probably make you think. Well, just treat this as an added bonus.

ON THE FIRST DAY OF … MY TRUE LOVE SENT TO ME:

‘Tales of the Tikongs’ by Epeli Hau’ofa

This collection of twelve short stories is a brilliant satire of life in the Blue Continent.

In each tale, the famous Tongan-Fijian author takes you on an unforgettable journey to Tiko – a tiny island somewhere in the Pacific Ocean – where you get introduced to a vast array of colourful characters, who are forced to deal with…a sudden wave of modernity and development. And that is not always easy. Especially if you live in the middle of the ocean and belong to a traditional society.

I must admit, it is a truly fantastic compilation. Epeli Hau’ofa created, as usual, a little masterpiece – a humorous book that makes people think. Occasional bursts of laughter guaranteed!

PACIFIC WRITERS YOU SHOULD KNOW (PART 1)

Sieni A.M.

Sieni A.M. is one of the best contemporary Pacific authors who seems to get better and better with every book she writes.

Her debut novel – ‘Illumine Her’ – is a wonderful YA paranormal romance, full of unexpected twists and turns that keep readers riveted from the very first to the very last page. But it’s the second book that fully reveals her talent. ‘Scar of the Bamboo Leaf’ simply delights, and it should be read by every single person, regardless of race, sex, or age. Keeping that in mind, you can’t help but eagerly await her next work.

Albert Wendt

A Samoan living legend. This is how you could describe Albert Wendt – unquestionably one of the greatest Pacific authors of all time.

His exceptionally well-written novels constitute a phenomenal, truthful portrayal of Samoan culture and way of life, so frequently romanticized by foreigners. More than often he broaches the subjects of Samoan diaspora and the relations between Pacific Islanders and ‘white people’, examining the effect the latter have on the traditions of his countrymen.

Lani Wendt Young

They say that talent runs in the family. In case of Albert Wendt and his niece, this is indeed very true.

Lani Wendt Young never ceases to amaze. Her writing style, fantastic sense of humour, and ability to turn great ideas into even greater stories is unmatched. Whether you’ll reach for her famous Telesa series, the new Scarlet trilogy, the collection of short stories, or the account of the 2009 Pacific tsunami, you will be taken on an unforgettable journey, because every publication with Lani Wendt Young’s name on the cover is a promise of something truly extraordinary.

Epeli Hau’ofa

Epeli Hau’ofa was a writer, poet, storyteller, thinker, and mentor, whose beautiful mind created some of the most amazing pieces about the Blue Continent, or ‘sea of islands’, as he used to call it.

Hau’ofa was a versatile author who could write anything, from fiction to short stories to essays to poetry, equally well. Every single of his works is not only highly engaging but also very thought-provoking and thus worth contemplating. It’s impossible to discuss Pacific literature without mentioning at least one (if not all) of his publications.

Célestine Hitiura Vaite

Célestine Hitiura Vaite is one of those authors who have their very own, distinctive style. Not everyone appreciates it, which is quite incomprehensible, because this lady definitely knows how to create a gripping narrative that is funny and poignant at the same time.

Her wonderful trilogy about Materena Mahi, a professional cleaner-turned-radio star, is a literary masterpiece, pure and simple, and a great example of contemporary Pacific fiction. Sadly, the three aforementioned books are Célestine Hitiura Vaite’s only published works, and no new book is on the horizon.

BEST READ-MORE-THAN-ONCE BOOKS

‘Scar of the Bamboo Leaf’ by Sieni A.M.

This incredible story of love between a physically-flawed artist girl and a troubled, misunderstood boy is nothing short of – I dare to say – a masterpiece.

Right from the very first page, the novel grabs your attention and doesn’t let go. A few chapters later, it touches your heart and starts messing with your feelings. The next thing you know, you’re officially hooked. Lush Samoan settings; more than believable characters; well-written, well-paced, thoroughly engaging narrative; words that make you think. What more could you wish for? It is a stunning book. Complex, poignant, thought-provoking, deeply moving. Just beautiful.

‘We Are the Ocean’ by Epeli Hauʻofa

This is an exquisite collection of exquisite essays, public lectures, and poems, in which Epeli Hauʻofa shares his thoughts concerning Pasifika – the great sea of islands.

Written with passion and genuine love for Oceania, the publication can be regarded as unique – truly unique – teaching material. It informs and educates. It enlightens. It inspires. The author’s words, opinions, and ideas are of great significance and should definitely be pondered upon. What can I say, this book is a keeper!

‘Attitude 13: A Daughter of Guam’s Collection of Short Stories’ by Tanya Taimanglo

Tanya Taimanglo’s tales offer a rare and most fascinating glimpse into the lives of various Chamorro people, who try to reconcile their traditions and heritage with modernity.

Even if you read this book hundreds of times, you always discover something new: an inspirational passage, a conveyed between the lines message, a hidden meaning of the story. The narratives are a great reminder of those eternal truths we tend to forget. But, most importantly, they are also a sheer delight to read. Beautifully written, embellished with vivid imagery and a gentle sense of humour, they take you on a wonderful journey to the island of Guam. And – I should mention this – it’s a journey you don’t want to end.

‘Sons for the Return Home’ by Albert Wendt

This story of a cross-racial romance between a Samoan student at Auckland University and a girl from a wealthy pālagi family is one of the most important works in the history of Pacific Literature.

It is a cleverly constructed page-turner, which keeps you riveted from the very first to the very last sentence. Most likely, it is the result of Albert Wendt’s terse, unornamented writing style – thoroughly charming (oh yes, it is charming!) and totally unique. With this ‘shortness’, this lack of descriptive language the author gets right to the point, making the novel all the more powerful. One of the best reads ever; absolutely.

‘Tales of the South Pacific’ by James A. Michener

A Pulitzer Prize-winning book must be extraordinary. And this collection of interconnected stories about World War II certainly is.

Michener’s novel is an emotional roller-coaster ride; thrilling, quite nerve-racking, at times disturbing. And yet it makes you want to come back for more. The war-torn ‘paradise’, the complex characters, the South Seas atmosphere… Some say it’s a good book. I say it’s truly a literary classic. James Michener at his best.

‘WE ARE THE OCEAN’ BY EPELI HAU‘OFA

‘We are the Ocean: Selected Works’ is a collection of narratives written by a famous Fijian/Tongan author and anthropologist, Epeli Hau’ofa, during his long and successful career.

WE ARE THE OCEAN

Summary

The book is a unique compilation of the author’s essays, public lectures, poems, and chapters from his earlier novel, ‘Kisses in the Nederends’. In his writings Epeli Hau’ofa tries to highlight some of the major problems of Oceania. He raises the issue of aid dependency and the lack of economic freedom, which is – according to him – one of the main obstacles to the region’s development. He shares his personal opinions on the state of the islands and encourages people to do whatever they can to preserve the wonderful culture of Pasifika. He also gives some ideas that could help not only the countries, but most of all its inhabitants avert the effects of globalization.

Review

I must be honest, this book is not an easy read. Unless you are an anthropologist or a person genuinely interested in the Pacific Islands, you probably won’t find it very engaging.

In most parts the author uses quite official, I would even say academic language. This makes the whole compilation very college-like. It is not something you’d like to read for pleasure. It is, however, something you’d like to study carefully, if you are passionate about the Blue Continent. For that reason, the book could be taken into account as learning material for the students of Oceania. Analyzing Epeli Hau’ofa’s views, opinions, and concepts could be an extremely valuable lesson, as his insightful words really make you think.

Of course, the compilation has also its funny side. Two chapters from the author’s earlier novel, ‘Kisses in the Nederends’, are simply hilarious. A person not familiar with that story may be a little surprised at first – well it’s a tale of an anus – but will surely end up laughing out loud. Hau’ofa’s sense of humour is great; even if it’s considered somewhat unconventional and a bit warped. Mind you, writing about such intimate part of the human body without crossing the line is quite an art; an impressive achievement. But, this is Epeli Hau’ofa we’re talking about here. And he was a true master of words.

Apart from the ‘academic’ essays and short pieces from the novel, the book also contains some very personal poems (I especially recommend ‘Blood in the Kava Bowl’), an eulogy to His Majesty King Taufa‘ahau Tupou IV, and an immensely interesting interview with the author himself that was conducted by Subramani – a University of the South Pacific lecturer. These fragments definitely lighten the tone of the whole collection, making it slightly less serious and more pleasant to read.

So, is this book worthy of your attention? It is; absolutely and without the slightest doubt. But you must like this particular kind of literature. If you do, go for it. You won’t be disappointed. If you don’t, try Epeli Hau’ofa’s other works. I’m sure you will like them.