Transit of Venus

Transit of Venus

  • Hardcover
  • English
By (author) 

From Marco Polo, Magellan, and Captain Cook to James Michener and Rodgers and Hammerstein, the South Pacific has exercised a profound influence on the Western imagination. It conjures dreams of Marco Polo's illusory kingdoms, the Noble Savage as imagined by the West, the guilt-free sex and gin-clear lagoons of Polynesia, the perfection of idleness on desert islands, Mutiny on the Bounty and the contention between Captain Bligh and Fletcher Christian. Since Captain Cook first traveled to Tahiti to observe the transit of Venus across the sun, fabulae about the South Seas have enabled the Western mind to imagine itself vis-a-vis the Other.
Written with passion, biting wit, and lyrical sadness, Transit of Venus is a luminous elegy for a fragile, beautiful, corrupted "paradise." Julian Evans's journey begins with a modern myth, a photograph of a Last Judgment sky glowering on the horizon and spears of light streaking down into the ocean: reentry vehicles from a Peacekeeper missile. It was the source of this man-made vision that Evans decided he had to see.
But the journey became a wanderer's tale: Delayed on his way to the Peacekeeper's target (a place that has probably contributed more to the arms race than anywhere else on Earth) by stories of both white men and islanders, he found himself tracing the reality of the Pacific dream. For European interlopers - planters, speculators, and fugitives - it is a place where they lose themselves in schemes and drink-fever. For the islanders - from New Caledonia and Vanuatu to Fiji, Western Samoa, Kiribati, and the Marshall Islands - gifts of money, military aspirations, and crackpot colonialism have had their fatal impact on ancient ways. Few places illustrate more powerfully the inexorable outcome of "civilization."
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From Marco Polo, Magellan, and Captain Cook to James Michener and Rodgers and Hammerstein, the South Pacific has exercised a profound influence on the Western imagination. It conjures dreams of Marco Polo's illusory kingdoms, the Noble Savage as imagined by the West, the guilt-free sex and gin-clear lagoons of Polynesia, the perfection of idleness on desert islands, Mutiny on the Bounty and the contention between Captain Bligh and Fletcher Christian. Since Captain Cook first traveled to Tahiti to observe the transit of Venus across the sun, fabulae about the South Seas have enabled the Western mind to imagine itself vis-a-vis the Other.
Written with passion, biting wit, and lyrical sadness, Transit of Venus is a luminous elegy for a fragile, beautiful, corrupted "paradise." Julian Evans's journey begins with a modern myth, a photograph of a Last Judgment sky glowering on the horizon and spears of light streaking down into the ocean: reentry vehicles from a Peacekeeper missile. It was the source of this man-made vision that Evans decided he had to see.
But the journey became a wanderer's tale: Delayed on his way to the Peacekeeper's target (a place that has probably contributed more to the arms race than anywhere else on Earth) by stories of both white men and islanders, he found himself tracing the reality of the Pacific dream. For European interlopers - planters, speculators, and fugitives - it is a place where they lose themselves in schemes and drink-fever. For the islanders - from New Caledonia and Vanuatu to Fiji, Western Samoa, Kiribati, and the Marshall Islands - gifts of money, military aspirations, and crackpot colonialism have had their fatal impact on ancient ways. Few places illustrate more powerfully the inexorable outcome of "civilization."
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