[ToC]

 

NOBLE SAVAGE

Terese Svoboda

 

In 1766, Jeanne Baret became the first woman to circumnavigate the world—but as a man. No one remembers her.

Her captain, Bougainville, became the first Frenchman to sail around the world. He is remembered by the bush named after him.

The difference between humans and monkeys: monkeys don't reproduce when there's no food. What they know: we’re all on an island, one way or another.

Someone is pushed from a plane over an island. A woman, just as easily as a man.

A woman falls, was the first to fall.

The plane over water: looking up mirrors looking down. The plane over island: a dark cross.

After two weeks of sailing into Tahiti, Bougainville wrote: Their only god is the god of love. Paradise before The Fall.

What do monkeys dream?

Woman on a pedestal, the indigenous as Greek gods--Bougainville’s journal inspired Jean-Jacque Rousseau’s concept of the Noble Savage.

Guilt is what blooms after a fall. And blood.

The monkeys eat guilt, guilt that expands and fills them until they rise into the trees, until they have to catch branches to keep them from rising.

Bougainville is searching for sandalwood, that century's equivalent to oil. As the botanist’s assistant, Baret digs specimens, hauls big collection boxes on her back.

Woman are closer to nature and therefore closer to God, wrote Rousseau.

Only the Polynesians can tell the difference. They sniff Baret when her hands are full. Or are those kisses?

Beware of god reads the sign but there's always barking.

The monkeys bark.

Bougainville wrote: Women pretend not to want what they desire most. But Baret does not pretend--she is a man.

What should we do with Baret now? the sailors cry. Women on board are bad luck.

In dreams you catch yourself, you wake up.

Baret can’t watch--the Polynesians are eating the mirrors Bougainville gave out.

How noble.

If we dream, are we guilty? Or is that a god's work?

A Vietnamese general interested in oil pushes a French journalist out of a plane. It is a woman, a woman’s body. She is not remembered.

A fall is always political, a body stands in the way.

We stand on that island, covering ourselves.

This is not paradise, say the monkeys.

What? What? We can’t hear them.

They put her off. Swim, Baret, there's your island. She reaches Marseilles.

The monkeys eat while someone falls.

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