German-born Lind (Soul of Wood, Landscape In Concrete) has not been much in circulation since the Sixties. Now, however,...



German-born Lind (Soul of Wood, Landscape In Concrete) has not been much in circulation since the Sixties. Now, however, he's writing in English; and here he has put together a Gulliver-ian fantasy which, imaginativeness apart (and it has that), seems most successful when taken as a meditation on the difficulties--even the futilities--of language. The narrator is a writer named Orlando who takes a cheap chartered cruise from England to Sarawak. The hitch is that the cruise is a grand-scale, literal rip-off: the crew robs those passengers it doesn't kill, then sinks the ship and makes off in some launches. Orlando and five other passengers reach an island, where they encounter the Enu, ""hominid baboons."" The male Enu wear live birds upon their heads which act as their masters, not vice versa; the Enu speak some English (only curses: legacy of a pair of previous shipwrecks); communication between them and the travelers is vexed. But Orlando can tell the Enu, it seems, about Clausewitz's theories of war. And, in return, the Enu enlighten him as to their culinary habits: they eat feces, called ""POUP,"" re-processed into appetizing shapes and colors and textures. The interchange between civilized and savage, then, isn't exactly on the highest level; the novel becomes a bit tiresome and pointless at times. Yet the sub-text here may be the thing: Lind's concern with strangeness, with the limitations of imagination. ""You have to know why you write what you write,"" Orlando explains to an Enu chief, ""even if you don't know you know it; or to put it differently, you have to construct a place for good spirits to dwell in; or, to put it differently again, you have to be inspired by good spirits, who supply you with words to express what can basically not be expressed; in other words, writing is the art of those who cannot talk."" Thus, the trauma of changing language that Lind himself must have undergone--like a menacing bird atop the head--seems the real point of this dark book; and the result is uneven but subtly thoughtful fiction indeed.

Pub Date: June 21, 1982


Page Count: -

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1982