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Francis Tekonnang: A Villager
If a Kiribati national has published a novel or even a long short story, I have not found it. Francis Tekonnang has written short stories, including this one, and Beia and Ioane. He also contributed to a book called Politics in Kiribati, published in 1980, published poems in a publication called Lali, also published in 1980, and contributed to Taraan Karakin Kiribati, translated as Kiribati Aspects of History, published in 1979. This story does not even vaguely qualify as a novel – it is two pages long – but it is, along with Beia and Ioane, the best I can do for fiction from Kiribati till someone writes a novel there. The story is about Buta, a Kiribati native, who is a fisherman. He is worried about his financial situation. His wife, Mere, seems happy to give away the fish he catches to her parents, though, in Buta’s eyes, they cannot afford this. He worries about his various obligations. He is jealous of his peers who managed to get office jobs and, thereby, a guaranteed income. He worries about his son, Bero, who is not doing well at school and therefore faces the possibility that he, too, will have to become a fisherman and not be able to get an office job. And he worries about whether Mere will be there to meet him when he gets back or whether she will be out playing bingo, as she claimed she was last time he returned home. It is a gentle, short story that could, perhaps, have been developed into something longer. Let us hope that one day someone from Kiribati will produce a novel.
First published in 1974 in the Mana Annual of Creative Writing, published by the South Pacific Creative Arts Society