NOOSA – The manuscript of the Francis Nii Collection, so generously funded by a number of PNG Attitude readers, is nearing completion and shall soon be despatched to Jordan Dean – who runs Papua New Guinea’s only affordable publishing company - for design, layout and publication.
Entitled Man Bilong Buk, the tribute volume includes the best of the late author’s provocative and entertaining essays, revelations from his astonishing life story and insights into how an author imprisoned by his own body in the corner of a hospital ward managed to become such an exceptional figure in fostering a home-grown literature in PNG.
You can download here the Contents pages from Man Bilong Buk which provide a detailed view of what the book offers in meeting its goal of ensuring that the legacy of this iconic figure will be sustained.
And what a legacy. As Phil Fitzpatrick writes in his Preface to the book:
“He was a fearless commentator, not afraid to criticise and chastise individual politicians and to rebuke them when he considered what they were doing was wrong. He particularly abhorred corruption and wrote at length on its evils.
“In the confusing and often brutal world of Papua New Guinean politics this took a great degree of courage. He was not averse to demanding the resignations of recalcitrant politicians, including the prime minister, nor of pointing out hypocrisy and bad faith.
“As people who have experienced the backlash from such disparagement can attest, such public disdain runs a very real risk of physical intimidation in Papua New Guinea.”
Phil also points out that Francis’s sights were targeted on Australia as well as Papua New Guinea:
“He was an astute observer of the Australian media and the goings-on of the Australian government and in particular its representative in Papua New Guinea, the Australian High Commission. In this respect he was critical of Australia’s lack of understanding of Papua New Guinea and its people and the unconstructive and misdirected way it allowed aid money to be spent.
“He was also alarmed at the way Australia seemed to be missing in action when it came to climate change and the rise of China and dismayed at its persecution of asylum seekers by marooning them on Manus Island in a dodgy deal with the Papua New Guinean government.
“From time to time, Francis allowed himself to ponder whether Australia was the ‘big brother’ and friend of Papua New Guinea that it purported to be. Many times in his essays he expressed his sadness and dismay at what he considered the errant decisions of the Australian government and the waste of the many billions of aid money it lavished on Papua New Guinea.”
Man Bilong Buk also includes seven essays written by peer writers which describe and evaluate Francis’s contribution to PNG literature not just as an author but also as a mentor of new writers, a literary administrator, a publisher and a visionary whose goal, ultimately unfulfilled in his lifetime, was to gain broad public recognition within his own country of the cultural, social and educational value of a home-grown literature.
The book contains a section on Francis’s university years when he not only began to write prolifically but also engage in building a foundation for a sustainable PNG literature through the sadly short-lived PNG Writers Union.
In addition to reproducing some 90 of his most important pieces of writing, Man Bilong Buk also includes a poignant essay on his death, an important bibliography of all the books he authored, edited and published and a chronology of his life and literary events,
There is much more, too, and we at PNG Attitude hope that one way or another you will get hold of this book when it is published later this year.
So far we have sufficient funds for a print run of about 200 (400 if we forego colour, which we would prefer not to do).
We want to distribute most of these to strategic institutions and fellow writers in PNG in the expectation that the book will serve as an inspiration and as a guide about how a home-grown literature – which has been through many fallow periods in PNG – may survive and flourish.
That this has not been able to be achieved in the last 50 years of literary fits and starts is a condemnation of those institutions which should understand the importance of a national literature.
But that it has, somehow, been able to survive nonetheless is a tribute to those writers – now growing in number if not in resources - who will not let the flickering candle gutter and die.
You can still donate to ensure that readers in Papua New Guinea can obtain a copy of Man Bilong Buk.
Bank transfers to Keith Jackson / NAB / BSB 082-302 / Account 50650-1355.
All donors of $50 or more will receive a collectors' edition signed by the editors.