Sunday, January 6, 2013

Island of Shattered Dreams by Chantal T. Spitz

Island of Shattered Dreams by Chantal T. Spitz, 2007.

I came across this title in a University of Hawai'i Press catalog and was interested since it is a contemporary novel by an Tahitian author. I had read the Breadfruit trilogy years ago which is also by female Tahitian author but these books couldn't be more different.

Island is a doomed loved story that is highly critical of the French government and their nuclear testing. If you are looking for an armchair travel book about French Polynesia with their happy, nice locals and fun adventures, this is not for you.

In the Bibliotiki I don't just want to read 1930's travel journals by white men who go to Tahiti and fall in love with the beautiful local ladies. I want the full picture and sometimes that means the cold, hard reality of modern Polynesia and the history that got them there.

The book is translated from Tahitian and written in a more lyrical style that seems true to the Tahitian way of storytelling. It covers a few generations of a family and their frustrations, some from certain family members being of Tahitian-European decent and how that affects their lives. The book contains a story about a Tahitian-European man falling in love with a French woman on his island, who is there working for the government to build the first nuclear facility in French Polynesian. Talk about doomed love.

The book is translated by Jean Anderson and I think is the the only translated work by this author. From what I can gather from google translated websites from French, she seems to be a very passionate person about her culture in the modern world. I think this novel has many biographical elements to it, which makes it even more interesting.

I highly recommend this novel for those wanting a different view of the magic of Polynesia. If anyone has any suggestions of other contemporary others to check out, please feel free to leave a comment.