Epeli Hau’ofa’s novel Kisses in the Nederlands begins with a fart that forces both its owner, husband Oilei and wife Makarita, to be completely displaced from their beds. From then on, the story includes more farting, cursing and humor than any other book read this semester. Hau’ofa’s style was quite a change and if anyone was as unprepared as I was, it seemed to be simply absurd and meaningless. Who were these people whose lives were described in the utmost vulgar detail?
The novel is a quest of one man, Oilei, to try and find a cure for his “arse” that immediately following his “explosion” of a fart, it began to give him much pain. This opening scene also allows Hau’ofa to describe the home of Oilei and Makarita which involves electricity, a flushing toilet, and troublesome pet dog. This reminded me of the western world before I understood the Pacific land they call home. In the beginning, I was not only taken aback by the
But, Hau’ofa has brilliantly intertwined a complex tale involving the effects of colonization on a country and its people. He provides a tale in which its people attempt to hold on to tradition while at the same time embracing modernity. The whole tale is seen through the life and “arse” of Oilei, a former heavyweight boxing champion of Tipota, who must seek a traditional or modern medicinal way to cure his pain and boils. Thus, the actions of Oilei, methods he tries for a cure, and people we meet are all involved and important to the understanding of how colonization and modernization has and is affecting them. Hau'ofa's novel uses a fart and an arse to begin its tale but is a tale of great depth. There is substance and reason in each event and person that one meets.