Kids’ Treat

March 12, 2018
draw-straws.jpg

Drawing Lots – Illustration by Arianna Vairo

I collect illustrated editions of two books:  Candide and The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym and I have a particular thing for Pym.  I came across this etching from a children’s, or perhaps young adult, edition of the grisly Poe novel.  I imagine they edited out the “good parts.”  I couldn’t quite recall whether the drawing of lots to determine who would be sacrificed to feed the other surviving crew members was followed by an actual meal, and if the hero partook, so I checked the text.

I recovered from my swoon in time to behold the consummation of the tragedy in the death of him who had been chiefly instrumental in bringing it about. He made no resistance whatever, and was stabbed in the back by Peters, when he fell instantly dead. I must not dwell upon the fearful repast which immediately ensued. Such things may be imagined, but words have no power to impress the mind with the exquisite horror of their reality. Let it suffice to say that, having in some measure appeased the raging thirst which consumed us by the blood of the victim, and having by common consent taken off the hands, feet, and head, throwing them together with the entrails, into the sea, we devoured the rest of the body, piecemeal, during the four ever memorable days of the seventeenth, eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth of the month.

In searching for the text, and  yet again for illustrated editions of the book, I came upon several webpages dedicated to the “strange” pre-cognizance of Poe’s tale:  it seems that forty or fifty years hence, there was a famous shipwreck that led to some castaways in a lifeboat drawing lots and eating the loser.  The name of the victim was, as in Poe’s story, Richard Parker.  He was a mere cabin boy, and probably didn’t know about Poe’s book, or he would probably have shipped under a different name, just in case, that is.  And, of course, Richard Parker was also the name of the tiger (real or imagined) in Yan Martel’s The Life of Pi.

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Cannibalism and the Resurrection

March 6, 2012

Just cannot get enought of this Saint Augustine!  What will I do when I put aside his weighty tome, City of God?  Maybe I’ll go back and read over the parts I only skimmed.  (I estimate that I’ve read about 75% of the 1070 pages in my edition.)

Augustine is thorough, and he’s determined to refute all the arguments he has encountered against his religious views.  It can get pretty detailed.

…So, the knotty question comes up about the Second Coming and the resurrection of the dead.  We are talking about the virtuous, saved souls, who are bound for heaven.  What size body will they get on their reawakening?  If they died old, will they get their young body?  What if they lost a limb or two in this vale of tears, our worldly life?  Will it be reconnected to their body?

And this…surely one of Augustine’s weirdest forays into the logic of miracles: What about those people who were victims of cannibals?  And that includes people who were eaten by others who may not have been pagans, e.g. during the travails of the sack of Rome by barbarians – some Christians may have taken this last resort to stay alive.  Will the resurrected victim somehow get a reassembled body, even though his flesh has been consumed and incorporated into that of another?

Yes, we are assured that the saved will be made whole.


Tasty Frenchman

August 14, 2011

How Tasty was My Little Frenchman (1971) is classed in many reviews as a black comedy, but except for the first few scenes, that is totally off the mark.  It takes place on the coast of Brazil when the French and the Portuguese were fighting for dominance of that part of the New World.  The Frenchman, fed up with life as a member of the French force, rebels and is put in chains.  The narration tells us he was given a hearing and allowed to speak in his defense while we see him summarily pushed off a cliff to drown.  That was black comedy.

He survives, and is taken prisoner by the Portuguese.  Shortly after that, they are attacked by Indians allied with the French, and he is taken prisoner.  The Indians assume he is Portuguese, and the chief makes him his personal slave to be kept in the community for eight  months, then eaten.  An amoral French trader who periodically visits the tribe meets the slave and tells the Indians that he is indeed Portuguese – he has his own uses for the man.  He gives him an axe and a lot of hints on how to make himself useful in gathering material to trade – maybe he will escape, maybe the Indians will change their minds, maybe not…

The film is shot in a verite style, and the native dialog is in a local dialect.  Everyone is naked (recall the naked-nude distinction), i.e, unclothed, as people actually lived then.  (Many reviewers refer to this as National Geographic realism, which says a lot about a lot of cultural attitudes and histories.)   Given the date of production, there must be a political subtext here (Brazil was under a military dictatorship) in addition to the unsettling questions it provokes about the nature of The Encounter between the civilizations of the New and Old Worlds.   It would make a good double-feature with Black Robe.