Author(s): Roger Robinson
At the peak of his literary powers, Robert Louis Stevenson, age 37, sailed on a small hired schooner into the almost uncharted vastness of the Pacific Ocean. There, the ailing author found ?my bones were sweeter to me?. To the perplexity of his public in America and Europe, he ?decided to remain.? His last six years were spent cruising the Pacific?s myriad islands, making close friends of kings, princesses, islanders, traders and riffraff settlers, and making a home for his family on Upolu, Western Samoa. His romantic life and early death there have become one of the world?s enduring literary legends. Albert Wendt, the Pacific?s most respected living author, writes in his Foreword of ? the huge mythology? of Stevenson?s years in Samoa. Yet the books he wrote in and about the Pacific have been neglected and misunderstood. A public that wanted more adventure yarns like Treasure Island or science fiction horror stories like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde was puzzled when he wrote about the Pacific as it really was, and in part still is - a varied and dynamic region that can be exquisitely beautiful and unpredictably dangerous, of blue water and terrible storms, and where cultures that pre-dated the Romans were encountering the energetic immorality of colonialism at its most far-flung. "Robert Louis Stevenson: His Best Pacific Writings" shows that the books he wrote in response to that new challenge are among his very best. It collects for the first time a rich selection across the full range of forms he tried - fiction of violence, of romance and of magic, vivid travel writing, autobiography, history, instant-book journalism, poetry, ballads, fables, letters, speeches and prayers. It lets them speak for themselves, and it links them with an incisive and lively commentary. Above all, it illuminates a major writer?s artistic struggle to craft a language and style for the world?s greatest unexplored subject. This is a new kind of book. It provides much more of Stevenson?s own writing than any conventional biography. It provides much more information and elucidation than any conventional ?selected works?. It includes material that has not been republished since the early 20th century. And shows Stevenson?s Pacific writings to be important, richly entertaining, and central to understanding one of the world?s most enjoyed authors. As Roger Robinson?s commentary perceptively says, in our post-colonial era, they are ready to have their day. ?No part of the world exerts the same attractive power upon the visitor, and the task before me is to communicate to fireside travellers some sense of its seduction, and to describe the life, at sea and ashore...? Robert Louis Stevenson, from "In The South Seas"
Shortlisted for Montana Book Awards 2004.