With more than a little help from author Philip Fitzpatrick, we offer readers the book review of Bamahuta – Leaving Papua banned from the PNGAA website by an unknown censor. The review, by John Kleinig, had appeared in the March 2005 issue of Una Voce. Bamahuta is currently being reprinted and will be available soon. Here’s the review someone didn’t want you to read…..
This is a book you will not be able to put down.
The adventures of Philip Fitzpatrick prior to independence are told with wit, humour and pathos. The style is refreshingly crisp and this makes for the telling of a compelling and intriguing series of stories.
There are some unforgettable moments.
Fitzpatrick reduced to his leopard skin jockettes leading a patrol in the oppressive heat of the Western District comes face to face with a group of nuns with their habits hitched up around their knees and wearing white rubber boots. One of the nuns, a French Canadian, who once worked as a dancer in a strip club, reacts in an unpredictable manner much to the consternation of the group.
The story of the contact with the border crossers on the West Irian border carrying the still conscious elder who has been disembowelled by Indonesian soldiers as an example to potential refugees, is heart rending and disturbingly real.
Seconded to the Security and Intelligence Branch in Moresby, Fitzpatrick is rostered for night surveillance duties around Government House during the visit of the Australian Prime Minister, John Gorton. What eventuates is a series of hilarious incidents.
Woven through these adventures is the question of the timing of independence. Fitzpatrick appears to avoid the temptation to overstate the obvious and instead skilfully canvasses the attitudes of others, although he could be forgiven for a little self-indulgence.
His relationship with Ihini, the young, attractive Papuan journalist on the Post Courier, is an integral part of the story. Fitzpatrick generally resists telling us the detail and leaves the reader to fill in the gaps. Perhaps it might have been better not to tell us of Ihini’s fate.
This story will be irresistible to those who have lived, visited or heard of Papua New Guinea. To those who have friends who only borrow from libraries or from others, do everyone a favour and buy an extra copy.
Bamahuta – Leaving Papua, Philip Fitzpatrick, ISBN 1 74076 1367, Pandanus Books, Australian National University, Research School of Pacific & Asian Studies, Canberra. ACT 0200. www.pandanusbooks.com.au. Published 2005.