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White Shadows in the South Seas por…
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White Shadows in the South Seas (original 1919; edição 2002)

por Frederick' O'Brien

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452459,804 (4.42)3
This 1919 memoir, a huge bestseller that was made into an Oscar-winning movie of the same name, chronicles O'Brien's pre-World War I travels in the South Seas. There he encountered beautiful, semi-clad women, such as the evocatively named maid, Vanquished Often, and spent long, drowsy days and nights full of passion and mystery a romanticized yet vivid portrait of a vanished time and people.… (mais)
Membro:RoseWilderLane
Título:White Shadows in the South Seas
Autores:Frederick' O'Brien
Informação:Washington, DC : Ross and Perry, Inc, 2002.
Colecções:A sua biblioteca
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White Shadows in the South Seas por Frederick O'Brien (1919)

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This book on the South Seas, and two others that followed, gained its author, Frederick O'Brien, much fame and popularity in the 1920s. Today, the book is difficult to find, and Frederick O'Brien has slipped back into obscurity. But never was there an individual about whom we know so much and so little at the same time. His works describe his life in the Marquesas in detail, but outside of his books on Polynesia, little remains to be known about him. A planned autobiography O'Brien was in the process of writing soon disappeared after his death. Meanwhile, White Shadows in the Southern Seas (the title refers to the calamity that European--especially French--and American civilization had brought to the Marquesas), along with Mystic Isles of the South Seas and Atolls of the Sun, did much to revive the popularity of the South Seas as a literary genre and a subject of romance and adventure for the general public in the West.

O'Brien himself was something of a globetrotting wanderer, and this trilogy of so-called Travel Books leaves him looking like a Jack Kerouac of the South Seas. Or, rather, as O'Brien undertook his journeys a generation earlier or more, perhaps Kerouac was the Frederick O'Brien of the American open road. At any rate, O'Brien was also a moralist and a loner. He brought these values to the Marquesas and the South Seas, and, in so doing, was able to stand apart and make a critical commentary on the lives of Polynesians ravaged by their encounter with modern civilization.

I have labeled O'Brien's work as "so-called Travel Books" because they are much, much more than that simple designation indicates. They are part autobiography, part philosophy, part social science, and part scientific journal. But most of all, they are storytelling in a grand style. Perhaps O'Brien did occasionally lapse into what we today consider overwhelming and flowery prose (not all that unusual in his era), but essentially he is a writer devoted to detail and the interruption of his own tale with stories of the people and places he encounters. This makes White Shadows in the South Seas, then, almost an anthology of myths, adventures at sea, and high personal drama and romance.

O'Brien died in 1932 in Sausalita, California. His fame died with him. And it is a pity that today, even among scholars on South Seas literature, he is sometimes forgotten. But he remains popular among the circle of people these days who still find something alluring in the now vanished world of Polynesia. O'Brien was, I suppose, the fulcrum between two great generations of South Seas writers and artists. He followed in the wake of Herman Melville, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Paul Gauguin, all of whom came to Atuona, on Hiva Oa, in the Marquesas. Almost simultaneously with O'Brien, although just a bit later, came the postwar generation. Edward A. Salisbury, along with Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, brought their motion picture cameras to the region. And Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall set up both their homes and literary shop in Tahiti. Jack London, a bit earlier, also wrote of his encounter with the South Seas, albeit most of his stories are centered on Hawaii.

One final note. O'Brien harshly denounces Europeans and Americans for their role in "depopulating" Polynesia. In the language of current criticism, the depopulating might be seen as genocide. For O'Brien describes islands and peoples who were in the process of dying away. Not only did they succumb to Western diseases for which they had little or no immunity, but they were also subject to black-birding (exported as virtual slave labor to Australasia), armed invasion, and commercial trading that eviscerated the traditional patterns of work, worship, and social hierarchy. (Salisbury and Nordhoff and Hall also mention the effect of the Spanish flu epidemic on Polynesians.) O'Brien was outraged with these developments. The only thing he could do about it, however, was to give life to their dying traditions. This he did in three volumes deserving of a better fate than they have so far met. ( )
  PaulCornelius | Apr 12, 2020 |
In this little-known (but much-loved by those who do know it) classic, Frederick O'Brien writes the true story of his life and adventures among the natives of the Marquesan Islands in the year 1919. In that year, those islands were among the least touched by white man of all the South Pacific islands, and the inhabitants were but one or two generations removed from the cannibals their ancestors were. This is an amazing story, documenting in detail an entertaining and interesting piece of history not well known to most people. From what they ate, to how they dressed, to the very language they spoke, this book has so much to teach, and yet it unfortunately has too few readers to teach it to! ( )
  SDaisy | Sep 14, 2016 |
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This 1919 memoir, a huge bestseller that was made into an Oscar-winning movie of the same name, chronicles O'Brien's pre-World War I travels in the South Seas. There he encountered beautiful, semi-clad women, such as the evocatively named maid, Vanquished Often, and spent long, drowsy days and nights full of passion and mystery a romanticized yet vivid portrait of a vanished time and people.

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