Epeli Hau’ofa: Kisses in the Nederends
Taboos are clearly important in the Pacific Islands and Hau’ofa decides to go after one in this novel – the functioning of the bowels and anus. Before you turn away in disgust, it should be mentioned that he has written a very funny book which uses the bowels and anus to make fun of a variety of sacred cows. The story is set in the fictional Pacific island of Tipota (the Greek word for nothing) but it is clearly based on Fiji, where Hau’ofa lives. Oilei Bomboki is a fairly important man (he is being considered for a position as senator) who wakes one morning with a pain in his behind. His farts disgust his wife Makarita, who leaves him to go back to her mother for the umpteenth time. Most of the book is taken up with his attempts to find a cure for his problem (which is simply anal fistulas). Because he has no faith in the conventional hospital (he has horror stories galore), he consults a variety of traditional healers, most of whom are either crooks or, at best, harmless but ineffectual. Hau’ofa clearly has no time for these people as much of the book is taken up with mocking a whole series of them and these are definitely some of the funniest moments of the book.
Hau’ofa does not reserve his satire only for the traditional healers. While this is going on, the World Health Council (the thinly disguised World Health Organization) organises a conference of traditional healers (in English and French, languages spoken by few if any of the traditional healers) where the health specialists fall over themselves to learn about traditional medicine and make complete fools of themselves. Hau’ofa then proceeds to have great fun at the Westerners trying to understand Pacific culture (and the Pacific Islanders explaining it to them). At the end Oilei is more or less cured but not before his anus has been subject to things that no anus has ever been subject to before and not before Hau’ofa has made fun of a whole range of targets.
First published 1987 by the University of Hawaii Press