Kanako el Kananam : aventuroj en la ĝangalo de Novgvineo

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Trafford, 2004 - Biography & Autobiography - 239 pages
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Kenneth Linton, an Australian who served during World War II as an accountant with the Royal Australian Air Force at its base in Madang, New Guinea, wrote his wartime memoirs in Esperanto. Ever since their publication in 1960, they have been enjoyed by Esperantists the world over. They are now available in a bilingual edition with an excellent English translation on facing pages. Desirous of getting to know the natives while off duty, Linton learned Tok Pisin, the Melanesian pidgin, which enabled him to befriend the non-commissioned officers of the native police. He began by offering to take their photographs and brought them small but highly appreciated presents. In return, they had their prisoners build a bungalow for him and his tentmates, a great improvement over the latter's canvas home. He then befriended the prisoners, one of whom gave him conversation lessons. This allowed him to establish a close relationship with Magheu, a man from the neighboring village of Kananam, who taught him how to spear fish from a canoe and invited him for lunch to his house, where he introduced him to his wife and little girl, who was about the same age as Linton's daughter. Later, Linton brought to the village some of his soldier friends, bearing some gifts. They were generously hosted and received much in return. As the Japanese had killed off all the pigs - or, more accurately, boar, wild and domesticated - of the region, the natives had no meat. Soon, tinned meat, kerosene, razor blades, matches, cigarettes, and other products were bartered with the natives for bananas, pineapple, mangoes and coconuts. This resulted in the base commander's permission to the group of soldiers and their native friends to sail on fishing and bartering expeditions along the coast of Astrolabe Bay, thus providing the base mess with fruit. During one of these voyages, the author was almost eaten by a crocodile. Another unfortunate result of porcine death was that young people could not get married if the fiance's father set his daughter's price at a pig or two. Having learned that there were wild boar on the island of Karkar and that one of the prisoners, Bafui the murderer, was the son of the chief of a village located on the steep slope of its still active volcano, the soldiers and their native friends received permission from the base commander to sail to the island in order to go on a boar hunt. Provided with a curious letter of introduction from Bafui, they climbed up the volcano to the isolated village, inhabited by savages, who helped them capture enough boar to replenish Kananam's supply and facilitate one marriage (as well as some future ones, we can assume). Not only is the marriage ceremony and the ensuing festivity vividly recounted, but throughout the book the fauna and flora are beautifully described, especially those seen in the coral reefs through the most limpid water.

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About the author (2004)

Kenneth Gordon Linton was born on March 26, 1906 and died on May 9, 1985. Starting as a salesman and dispatch clerk, he rose to a managership of Noyes Brothers, in Melbourne. At the age of 26 he was initiated into the Masons, eventually attaining the rank of Master. When he was sent to New Guinea in 1944 as accountant for the Madang RAAF base, he was thus in his late thirties, married, and the father of a nine-year-old-daughter.

As we can gather from his exploits, Ken Linton was capable of exhibiting considerable physical prowess. Early in his story, we see him carrying a bunch of 150 bananas on a jungle path. He also seems to have possessed good social skills. Yet he was a gentle and kind man, with a passion for the Planned Interethnic Language. He joined the Melbourne Esperanto Club in 1931, and very rapidly progressed from beginner to honours student in both Australian and British examinations.

The war saw Ken stationed in New Guinea, where, unusually for that time, he made the effort to learn the local language and, with his great respect for all humanity, made friends and was befriended by the indigenous people. From this experience came the unforgettable "Kanako el Kananam," published in 1960.

He continued his studies to succeed with honours in the highest Australian Esperanto exam, the Klereca. He became Comissioner of Examinations, was twice President of the Australian Esperanto Association for 3-year terms, and "retired" to become Vice President and Treasurer for several years. He wrote two guidebooks for the "Elementa" and "Supera" examinations, was the Melbourne Delegate for the Universal Esperanto Association, became Australia's first Committee Member of that world body, and was honoured with the title of Fellow of the Australian Esperanto Association, the highest accolade of the AEA.

In 1983, two years before his death, AEA published his beautiful translation of Neville Shute's "On the Beach."

Ken Linton, scholar, teacher and writer, was highly respected and warmly appreciated as one of the most outstanding contributors to the Esperanto movement in Australia.

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