Thursday, October 23, 2014

Gwe: Young Man of New Guinea -- A Novel Against Racism

I love this book by Arnold Perey, Aesthetic Realism consultant and anthropologist.  I respect Dr. Perey immensely.  This novel has both deep, stirring feeling and careful, interesting description, observation that is both scientific -- truthful -- and lyrical.  It moved me profoundly.  Arnold Perey studied and did field work in New Guinea.  This is from his introduction to Gwe:  

"How we meet the new, with contempt or the desire to know, is the test of our intelligence and our ethics. In "The Island" Lord Byron wrote:  
    The white man landed: need the rest be told?
    The New World stretch'd its dusk hand to the Old. 
     The dusk hand is the kind hand of Polynesia, the hand of the beautiful Neuha, who loves a shipwrecked Scots sailor and saves his life. Her people and the sailor both meet the new with good will. Byron shows that light and dark humans can care for each other on an Island.  
     The dusk hand of the New World was extended to me on another Pacific island, New Guinea. I was there, in the mountains, conducting anthropological research for my doctoral dissertation, supported by the National Science Foundation and the US Public Health Service. Margaret Mead was my sponsor for this dissertation, and for her integrity and truly scientific, inquiring mind, I am most grateful.  
     I am also grateful to the people who welcomed me, most particularly Wepil, of the Nguna clan. Wepil translated for me faithfully and accurately from the beginning of my stay in Papua New Guinea.  
     The theme of our story was suggested to me by Eli Siegel, the great poet and critic, in an Aesthetic Realism class when I had returned from the field and was studying the important philosophy he founded in New York City. Could you write, he asked, about a person of New Guinea who meets an anthropologist like yourself, and how they change?  
     Gwe is that person, and Alan Hull is the anthropologist. Gwe is pronounced "Gway." Gwe is based on young men I knew and learned from, including Sania, Gitlep from Gaugutiana, Abineng, and of course Wepil."  

It is a beautiful book.  There are chapters on Dr. Perey's website, but I recommend reading the whole thing. It changes how a person feels about race, people, the world.