Far Afield-V822

Susanna Kaysen, Author Vintage Books USA $9.95 (338p) ISBN 978-0-394-75822-0
A compulsively readable novel of enormous charm by the author of Asa, As I Knew Him , this stakes out the Faroe Islands, an isolated, autonomous Danish territory in the North Atlantic that Harvard anthropology graduate student Jonathan Brand has ``discovered'' for his course fieldwork. The product of repressed academic parents and of a reductionist scholarly discipline that ``made much of such simplicities as who traded beans or feathers with what cousin or whether dinner was cooked in one pot or two,'' Jonathan sets out to sniff, taste and touch his way to a doctoral thesis from the comfortable remove of an impartial observer. But resisting documentation and analysis, the land of midnight sun and winter ``drear,'' and its deceptively impassive and unevolved denizens, insinuate themselves into the American's underemotive heart. Overeducated and as insular as any of his ``primitive'' subjects, Jonathan is a narrator who manages to be both hilarious and poignant in his bafflement and neurosis. We watch him empty an obstructed septic tank of wheelbarrowfuls of its repulsive contents; nibble tentatively at fish and meat prepared native-style--months old and rotten; negotiate the seduction of a woman whom he barely fathoms and whom everyone assumes will become his bride; clash with otherworldly shepherds, specters who apparently try to wrest sheep away from Jonathan's grip; and play reluctant host to another American anthropology grad student encroaching on his turf. As they flirt with NATO and the CIA, ritually kill whales and cats, enhance their natural moroseness with liquor acquired through payment of their taxes, and open their homes to Jonathan with abundant hospitality, the Faroese are nuanced keepers of a culture not wholly unlike our own. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/01/1990
Release date: 10/01/1990
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-679-75376-6
Open Ebook - 211 pages - 978-0-8041-5107-8
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