Sunday, May 2, 2010

Keep Writing Arnold

The edited version appeared in The National newspaper on April 10th, 2010, p.5.
Losing the manuscripts for his third novel, Arnold Mundua wondered if publishing his first two books were worth it. He had spent his limited resources and time to research for the novel. He hopes to complete the story began with Yaltep, the protagonist in Ignatius Kilage’s My Mother Calls Me Yaltep. Arnold is devastated with the experience of losing his laptop with the manuscript in it to some lazy thieves. All he wanted to do was to stop writing altogether. He felt disrespected for being a writer.

Arnold wrote and published two books early this century. His first book is A Bride Price: a Novel (2003) and the second book Elep Returns (2005) is a story of a tree and its conversion into paper—an experimental fiction using the literary device of personification. Arnold is a forester by profession, based in Mount Hagen, Western Highlands Province. Arnold is from Gembogl district in the Simbu Province of Papua New Guinea, but spent most of his time in other provinces like the Morobe, West New Britain, and West Sepik Province. Arnold has a Diploma in Forestry, received at the PNG Forestry College, PNG University of Technology.

Arnold is not the average forester, he writes profusely, as if talent was something he would not run out of. His first novel A Bride’s Price, a semi-autobiographical novel, set in the Simbu Province was published by the CBS Publishers & Distributors of India. To introduce his novel to many Papua New Guineans I wrote a review on it some time back. His second book Elep Returns, is a story of a tree named Elep that grew in Kandrian on the south west coast of West New Britain in Papua New Guinea. The second book is also published by the same publisher in India.

I gave a raving review of his first book when it came out of press. Recently, he wrote to me expressing his disappointment that he was one of the PNG writers that the Education Department ignored. In his own words, Arnold says: “I spent close to K20,000.00 to get my two books published in India and shipped to me, only to find that there was no market for them in PNG. I distributed copies to the relevant government institutions and departments, but strangely received not a single response, let alone an acknowledgement letter of receipt to all my letters. I really don’t know why, but I am truly and deeply upset particularly with the Education Department for not seriously considering my book: Elep Returns: The Story of a Tree & its Conversion into Paper. This particular book was intended for Grade 8, 9, 10, 11, & 12 students in PNG schools, to give them an overview of forest, foresters and forestry in PNG. It is simplified English, illustrated and made ideal in thickness for any school child to read, enjoy and learn about the forest industry in PNG. Many adults found the book very educational too but I really don’t know why the Education Department ignores it”.

Arnold’s second book falls under the category of personification, a literary device used by writers to add human characteristics to non-human things. The book is suitable for use as a text in the Language and Literature curriculum, environmental studies, or as a social studies book. The quality of the book is that it is written in a language that is playful, fun, and recognizable. I’m surprised it was never picked up as an interesting book for use in our schools.

Elep Returns is the story of a tree, named Elep, which grew in Kandrian on the south coast of West New Britain in Papua New Guinea. The book relates Elep’s own adventurous story, blossoming from a seed to a big tree, its metamorphosis to log of wood and then its export to Japan, its transformation as paper, import of paper by Australia and then its export to the country of its origin for printing of school certificates. As a matter of coincidence, Elep, now in its new incarnation, as school-leaving certificate, has the proud privilege to display the academic excellence of the boy who used to relish its nuts while in the Kandrian village.

This science fiction, profusely illustrated, is written by a Forest Officer and brings to focus the knowledge and information of the various stages in the growth of a tree, working of the Forest Authority, mechanism undertaken from the stage of its export to the pulping of log and to its transformation as paper in Japan. The voyage of the logs from PNG to Japan and then to Australia, in the form of paper, provides a kaleidoscopic view of the places the ship sailed through and the beautiful ambience of Japanese ports and cities. It also describes the distinct nature and skill of Japanese workers.

Arnold Mundua’s two books are in my professional view, relevant books for use in different levels of our education systems. The first book A Bride’s Price is a book I would recommend for use in upper secondary schools and university level courses, but more particularly it will make sense for every young Simbus to read and reflect on the experiences and perhaps consider writing their own books to capture their own experiences.

The second book Elep Returns is narrated in a simple way and keeps the reader engrossed. In view of the educational nature of this novel, it should be essential reading both for the young and the old alike. It is a must for every school level, colleges, university, and institutional libraries.

Arnold makes the point that writing books is one thing, but when the books are ignored by the responsible entities there is no point in writing anymore books: “It is sad to admit that such ignorance has led me and many other potential writers to lose interest to commit anymore time and energy on new books… because there is no incentive or motivation in book writing in PNG from the government and public alike.”

Email:; blog:

No comments:

Post a Comment