TIN ROOFS AND PALM TREES: A Report on the New South Seas by Robert Trumbull

TIN ROOFS AND PALM TREES: A Report on the New South Seas

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. . . and under both the coconut palms and the modified Quonset huts there lives a bustling polyglot diversity, here vividly sketched by Trumbull, longtime traveler and reporter in the South Seas for the New York Times. From Papua New Guinea, largest of the Pacific territories (where at least 700 distinct languages, not counting dialects, are spoken) to microscopic Niue which flies the New Zealand flag, there are people in the South Pacific who have made the quantum leap from Stone Age to 20th century in a single generation. Will they, despite differences of race, language, and government, find a common ""Pacific way,"" a shared island identity? Trumbull is more sanguine on this score than David Nevin who deplored The American Touch in Micronesia (p. 565) as a short cut to shoddy consumer goods and the erosion of traditional society. Trumbull, who also looks at Melanesia and Polynesia, believes the most vulnerable to Western depredation are the sandy atolls with no resources other than the meager export of coconut products. The most fortunate islands in the long run will probably be the richest--Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and New Caledonia, the last a nickel-plated paradise which also has abundant gold and copper resources. Trumbull combines a graceful travelogue (""Where else would you find people who first saw a wheel on the end of an airplane?"") with historical and political observations--the smallest and weakest of the islands, like Niue, shudder at the prospect of ""independence"" while the French-ruled territories, Tahiti among them, are the most restive since Paris, unlike London, has stymied local autonomy. And interspersed with the more serious problems of island life, Trumbull offers a thousand delights like the ""House of Talk-talk'--that's pidgin for the National Assembly.

Pub Date: Oct. 28th, 1977
Publisher: Univ. of Washington Press