Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Love and the Comforts of Home

Kisses in the Nederends is by far the most astounding work of fiction I’ve ever read! In fact, I was so unprepared for this story that I had no idea what “Nederends” meant until I read half of it and then thought about it some more. But apart from the colorful description of Oilei’s pain and the location from which it originates, the most surprising aspect of the novel to me was Oilei and Makarita’s marriage.

Having been immersed in the often superficial environment of college life for nearly two years, I sometimes catch myself being tempted into its shallow views of others. I obsess over a small blemish on my face, fully expecting everyone to stare; I opt for the revealing top over something I know I would be more comfortable in; I even second guess going through with my plan to get a dramatically short hair-cut because I once heard a male friend mention that he preferred long hair and believed it was sexier. What you appear to be on the outside—your tastes, style, hair, skin—is the making or breaking of how people think of you and feel about you. It was with that frame of mind that I began Kisses in the Nederends, only to be startlingly shaken from it.

Early in Epeli Hau’ofa’s tale, Makarita describes her husband as “a disgusting pig” who is always “gorging, farting, hawking” (3, 4). She complains tirelessly about his crude language and gross bodily functions, threatening to leave him for good (the narrator infers that she has left their home briefly several times in the past). However, when Oilei predicts that she will have returned by the afternoon, she has done exactly that. After a treatment seems like it has done the trick, Hau’ofa writes that Makarita “began sobbing with relief”—something quite the opposite of her frustrated rants (36). The narrator also points out that although Makarita uses harsh words against Oilei and taunts him, “the idea of hitting her never occurred to him” (53). I found it both captivating and inspiring that although they both demonstrate the raw baseness of human imperfection, they are still, in the end, able to love one another and keep returning home.

Maybe you know that you’re home when you’re able to fart in bed or expose your behind without shame and have whoever is there to witness it love you nonetheless.

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