TAMATA AND THE ALLIANCE by Bernard Moitessier


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 The picaresque life of a seagoing vagabond, a fascinating tale told with remarkable insouciance by the wanderer himself. Moitessier (The Long Way, 1974) starts this autobiography (published posthumously) at the beginning, with his early years (late 1920s to 1940s) in Indochina. He does a beautiful job of conjuring ``that teeming anthill called Saigon.'' There's a sensuousness to his recollections that makes the town palpable: the smell of foods, sounds of the street, the foreignness of it all. He brings the same touch to the rest of his audacious doingssailing his junk about the Indian Ocean, where he is constantly under suspicion by the authorities for being an agent provocateur, or a smuggler, or a gun-runner; imprisoned for what amounts to sedition under the Japanese occupation of Vietnam. He fled Southeast Asia for the great oceanic expanses and never looked back. He proceeds to set a host of small-vessel sailing recordsat one point under sail for more than 37,000 miles without touching landthen cranks out bestselling accounts of each voyage. He eschews the monetary windfall; to take it would betray the spirit of the sea that gave him such pleasure. He settles for a while on a remote atoll in the Tuamotus (ingeniously pioneering agricultural techniques, controlling mosquitoes, battling ratsgaining the honorific Tamata, which means ``you can do it'' in the local Polynesian language), then it's off to California to put together a few dollars to continue his peregrinations. Finally to France, there to battle canceran encounter that ultimately gives him a one-way ticket to Davy Jones's locker. Risk-taker, romantic, holistic environmental philosopher (his ``alliance'' with nature), biodynamic horticulturalist, husband and father and national hero, and a fine writer to boota character who brought brio and dash to all he undertook. (50 b&w and 35 color photos, maps, not seen)

Pub Date: Sept. 18th, 1995
ISBN: 0-924486-77-5
Page count: 400pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1995