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NARRATION AS DRY AS SOIL

Christian Kracht’s book Imperium has been considered as a “Melvillean masterpiece of the South Seas” recently. Released in Germany in 2012, it has now been translated into English by Daniel Bowes.

The protagonist of the fiction is August Engelhardt, a “nudist and cocovore”, who purchases land in what was then German New Guinea, in order to establish a nudist colony on the island of Kabakon. “Unfortunately, Engelhardt’s devotion to a ‘carefree’ future safe from the alienating effects of meat, capitalism, clothing, or any other trapping of life in the Industrial Age made it difficult for him to lure followers to his isolated utopia in the South Seas. He instead ruled an empire of one, from 1902 through the first World War, although he did share the island with three or four dozen melanesians and the occasional stray party of confused Germans” (see review on Flavorwire).

First reviews of Imperium even speculate about possible screen adaptions:”It reads like the best Werner Herzog movie, Herzog has yet to make”, it says.

The Swiss author’s evocation of the era of German colonialism makes for some marvelously grotesque – and at times unsettling – images of colonial life in South Seas. Definitely a summer read recommendation!

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