One has just been sent out as a biblical dove, has found nothing green, and slips back
into the darkness of the ark -- Kafka

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Still Reading "Crusoe" & Starting "Foe"

Little more than half way through Robinson Crusoe.

Crusoe first saw a single human foot mark; then he saw the body parts. He waffled like crazy re what to do, and then pretty much decided to play defense.

Morally he had a hard time playing judge:
I debated this very often with myself thus: "How do I know what God Himself judges in this particular case? It is certain these people do not commit this as a crime; it is not against their own consciences reproving, or their light reproaching them; they do not know it to be an offense, and then commit it in defiance of divine justice, as we do in almost all the sins we commit. They think it no more a crime to kill a captive taken in war than we do to kill an ox; or to eat human flesh than we do to eat mutton."

***

Just started Coetzee's Foe and already I'm a third through (most of Coetzee's texts are quick reads).

The curtain opens with three characters: Susan Barton (she gets thrown up on Cruso's island after getting thrown off a mutinous ship--set afloat in a rowboat with the body of the murdered captain), Cruso (a 60-ish version of DeFoe's Crusoe), and a tongueless, dog-loyal Friday (he doesn't understand the word wood, but he understands firewood ).

Many similarities; some differences. In Foe we encounter a Cruso/Crusoe who has been "king" of his island for some while (he gets irritated when Sally asks Why). Also, Cruso (different than Crusoe) is subject to malaria-like fevers that he simply has to "live through" (in one instance, Sally sleeps with him, covers him, to help him through). Eventually (and remember: I'm only a third through) the fever--perhaps together with the fact that he is removed from his island--will lead to Cruso's death.

Three more things I'll mention about Foe: 1.) There are an abundance of apes on the island (not the case in DeFoe's version); 2.) There are mysterious terraces (Cruso only tells Susan that they are for those who come after them: perhaps they'll have the seed to sow); and 3.) Providence plays a lesser but perhaps more sinister role:
"If Providence were to watch over all of us," said Cruso, "who would be left to pick the cotton and cut the sugar-cane? For the business of the world to prosper, Providence must sometimes wake and sometimes sleep, as lower creatures do."
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