Not 10 minutes have passed since I finished reading "The Bone People" by Keri Hulme, a well-respected Kiwi author.
And it resonates within me. And so I must let it out.
There are moments in your life when something will take hold of you, drawing you in until you can not wait to be immersed in it every time you are separated from it.
Art has a funny way of doing such things.
I had heard of this author several times by several people, Maori and white New Zealander alike. So, being in Wellington now and planning on staying for a few months I joined the public library, figuring it would cost less and be less of a hassle to travel when it came time for me to move on again.
I go through periods of prolific reading and periods of absent escapism, where light-hearted non-heart-involving things are what I need around me.
For the past 5 years or so, I have veered away from what I would consider "real" literature, settling for the escapism-factor I felt I needed. My emotions too sensitive to any kind of pain, I looked for anything else to distract me from the difficulties I was facing in my own life.
Since arriving in New Zealand, I've made a pact with myself. Part of this journey is to open my mind again, hence the mindless jobs I've taken up (to allow my head to think of other things). I'm working the brainmuscles I've let atrophy in the past years and I'm reading art again.
When I first borrowed "The Bone People", I was not ready for it. I began to read and what I saw were words. Just a jumble of large, sometimes incomprehensible (her vocabulary is one of the most extensive I have ever seen) words printed on page after yellowing page. I stopped reading about 30 pages in and went on to read another book.
A few weeks later I picked it up again, determined to give it another chance.
Keri Hulme doesn't give you a book on a platter for you to nibble on while you chat with your friends. No, there is work to be done here. With all great literature, there is work to be done. You cannot open this book and expect to be entertained.
Instead you will be challenged...by the strangeness of the sounds she uses as words, the poetry interspersed with the prose...the omniscient point of view cut criss-crossed and diagonally by first person possessive where you enter the heads of three different people with no warning given and you must do the sorting out. Sometimes I would have to backtrack and reread a few paragraphs before the meaning showed itself to me.
But despite the work put into it, when I opened that book a second time, I stepped into a world that I was loath to leave.
The human condition:
Who am I?
What am I worth?
Where do I fit in, on this earth?
Where is my past and do I belong to it?
What is family and do we deserve each other?
What is love?...what is love...what is love...? How do we define something that is so utterly subjective? How do we find it and how...how do we maintain it?
As I sit here and think of what to write next, a plethora of ideas coming to mind, I think upon how it has changed me...this book...and tears come to my eyes.
We are human...we breath, we hurt, we laugh, we cry...we die. But before we die, we live. It is up to us to decide how we will live.
p.s. There are translations from Te Reo Maori to English at the back of the book with page references. I only realized that after I had finished the book. Use the translations as you go along. It'll add more to the understanding of the culture, the history and the people.