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Books

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Turpi tropici (Troubled Tropics)
Stories from the dark side of Eden

Duccio Canestrini
Year 1997
Zelig, Milan

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Turpi tropici (Troubled Tropics)
 
Five shocking tales, set in places where fingers of darkness creep into the sunlit image of a tropical tourist paradise. Tropics filled with shame rather than sadness, for over the last century their famous tristesse has deteriorated into folkloristic turpitude. Tropics dressed up as paradise on earth to attract hordes of dull-witted and pleasure-seeking visitors, prostituting themselves while hiding their disease. Though they range from Micronesia to the Caribbean, these are not tales of travel, but impossible love stories. At the same time each of them looks at our different ways of being elsewhere. At the behavior of the "inevitable white men" pilloried in the tales of Jack London, at the conduct of traders, missionaries, aid workers, anthropologists, tourists. Neo-colonialists all. The mirage of a shallow exoticism is shattered to reveal realities so contradictory that they are grotesque. Troubled Tropics takes to its extreme the dire effects of the clash between traditional forms of knowledge and the new electronic technology, as it battens onto ancient magic and broadens its hypnotic hold. On a planet-wide merry-go- round, NASA-sponsored zombies, hallucinations produced by psychedelic plants, shamanic journeys, and wild stories of sex surrounded by anti-personnel mines dotted over breathtaking landscapes all pass before our eyes. The "dark side" of Eden, in other words. Told in five novellas with gripping plots and not a trace of moralism. 

THE FIVE STORIES

Too Early for the Sky
The body of Janet, a young English tourist and amateur photographer, is found torn to pieces by hyenas in a luxurious South African wildlife park. Determined not to put the tourist season at risk, the local authorities talk of suicide. Her father calls in a lawyer: the truth is quite different. Janet has been killed, or rather "poached" by a black hunter. The protagonists of the story, black and white, are divided by emblematic electric fences. Inside the safari lodge the guests consume prodigious meals and crack jokes. Outside, in the shanty towns, there is hunger and anger.

Don Tewari
Don Antonio, a young Catholic priest, is sent to a mountain parish in the Mexican Sierra Madre. When he gets there, however, he undergoes a series of shocks. To start with the Amerindians are drunk morning to night. Then he clashes with an unscrupulous woman anthropologist, a feminist out to make a fast buck. And to cap it all he meets Lilia, a beautiful nun who, after offering him a hallucinogenic plant as a "sacrament" undermines his vow of chastity and spurs him to seek new horizons. And so Don Tewari (which means "fake man" in the local language) becomes a real man.

Suicide Atoll
The theater of a famous naval battle in 1944, an atoll in Micronesia has never shaken offthe atmosphere of war. The young natives are obsessed with violent computer games. They are also suffering from an epidemic of suicides, to which neither the wealthy missionaries nor the island's most powerful magic can call a halt. The sturdy young Simako, who guides the tourists - blissfully unaware of the drama - around the wrecks on the bottom of the lagoon, seems to be immune. Simako falls in love with an American girl on vacation. The young man turns to the island's sorceress for a love potion. But he is forced to lie to her, and the lie turns back on him, with devastating consequences.

Cabaret "Macho Feliz"
After a life of professional depravities, including experiments in bacteriological warfare and the transformation of human guinea pigs into "zombies" for NASA, the French biologist Bertrand goes to live in the Caribbean. He finds a steady job and spends his nights at a strip joint frequented by Chinese sailors and American soldiers. Bertrand has developed a philosophy of "global contagion" which he shares with his friend Rutilio, chief physician of the local hospital: like him, a past master of cynicism. But as a human being, the biologist is a failure. One dissolute night, the worst of his past comes back to haunt him. And nails him.

The Master Stroke

Doctor De Santis and the Italian nurse Rosa practice emergency surgery at Ziruk Hospital, putting back together Afghan mujahidin mutilated by land mines. The strong sexual attraction that binds them together becomes a grotesque counterpoise to the horrors of the operating theater. But their story has no future. He is married with a wife and grownup children in Rome, she is just a girl. But their relationship, sincere to the point of cruelty, is the only honest thing in the world of international aid, embroiled in insane sexual passions, vendettas, and the trafficking of drugs and gems. Where no one is any better than anyone else.


 
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