Sunday, July 8, 2012

Batavia - Peter Fitzsimons
I did NOT enjoy reading this book. Still, it had me up til 2am like a slave one night trying to find out how, when and where Jeronimus get’s his come-uppance! And he does.
Well, what a sorry saga! Even allowing for the brutality that was so commonplace in the 17th Century, and for the tendency events have for expanding in the imagination as they age, the evil described was difficult to grasp. I found myself visualising a trip to those islands and wondering whether there’d be evidence, in some form, of the bloodshed and depravity - surely you can’t wipe away such evil in the space of a few hundred years? I mused. Joe tells me, during his career with the Navy he visited the area.
Makes me shiver.
Yet the narrative was disappointing for me, its style inconsistent and jerky. When I was absorbed I found myself suddenly thrown with unsettling regularity by some inappropriate irony or sarcasm from the author. The bloodshed was certainly gruesome, but in the end repetitive. To document each and every murder (and there were many) seemed not only unnecessary but almost indulgent! So I skipped ahead, wanting to discover how J and the others get caught and are punished, although there was little satisfaction in that when it did finally happen I’m relieved for the sake of my own humanity, to say.
Yet the events of the story are ‘true’ (if there is such a thing) and very real for me and I was certainly confronted by the darker side of the human condition. But the author Peter Fitzsimons is caught, in my view, in the narrow vacuum between report and story and wavers there, brushing against the edges of each and robbing the story of its potential to flow. Still, I don’t regret reading it, for its insight into how life was and how fragile is a society whose fabric is made of fear, desperation and greed.
I read something recently in a New Age journal about a ‘consciousness’ emerging in humanity which emanates from the ‘higher self’, and I began to feel that, yes, despite relentless war, starvation and tragedy, we have evolved, because beside it I see plenty of examples of compassion, generosity and pure love.
But maybe that’s just the naivety of someone insulated from reality by the limited bounds of daily life?