from Sind to Sunda
I sent the manuscript of the (perhaps) book from which the title of this weblog is derived to my agent today. Now I don't know what to think. Most of what I have posted here, however disparate, has had some kind of connection to this book, which predates the weblog by some months or even years. I do remember how it came about. I had written an essay, called "Fenua Imi, the Pacific in History and Imaginary", for Alan Brunton's imprint, Bumper Books. It was the last thing Bumper published while he lived. In the interim between its publication and his untimely death in June, 2002, we were tossing ideas back and forth for another essay, one which might give his New Zealand based imprint greater access into the Australian market. I suggested, perhaps naively, that I could follow up "Fenua Imi" with a book about the Indian Ocean ... unaware at the time how vast that subject is, how much human history is (literally) submerged there. Anyway, after that project was unavoidably curtailed, I could not get the ocean out of my mind. It was my attempt to grapple with the histories of the seas lying to the west and north of Australia which led me in to the writing of Luca Antara, the (perhaps) book. In fact it does no more than toe-dip into those, to us, western seas. The first part of it ventures from Sydney out into the eastern Pacific and then follows late 18th and early 19th century trails back to Europe. Part two is largely set on the coast of Western Australia. Part three goes up into Southeast Asia, but only to describe a 17th century voyage from there to here. The last part is a description of my travels in those countries of Southeast Asia where the (perhaps) voyage originated. None of these distant locations is exclusive, in that all sections of the book are narrated from a point of view anchored, if that is the word, on the east coast of Australia: Sydney and environs. Now I don't know what to think. There is a tsunami in Luca Antara, one of the images in the book is an evocation of the catastrophe that drowned Sundaland circa 8000 BC. Not much is made of it, in that it doesn't occupy much space in the text, but to me it is central. This is why the event of 26 December 2004 seems so strangely like a memory ... but is it a memory of the future or the past? Or a present memory? Or immemorial? Or memorial? I don't know ... what to think?