Into the Heart of Borneo, Redmond O’Hanlon

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Into the Heart of Borneo, Redmond O’Hanlon, Pan, 1984, ISBN 0-14-007397-3, $4.99

This was sent me by David Baboulene, who also sent me Mayle’s A Year in Provence. Both of these books are considered humorous books on travel, but they couldn’t be more different. Mayle’s book is like a TV sitcom in some ways–that is, everything is familiar enough to us at sight, but it is the occurrences that seem to work at odds. In O’Hanlon, we are lifted bodily out of the world we know and placed in a situation where it is truly difficult for the modern person to cope. O’Hanlon understands the modern fears–of insects, leeches, snakes, aboriginals–but instead of horror, he plays them as mock horrific. Repetition breeds humor (as fans of Saturday Night Life know well). Still, this book is also full of information. Things like: a) the “palang”– a nail or other object that Bornean men drive through the head of their penis so as to give women maximum pleasure during sex; b) the longevity of memory in a place fairly devoid of writing, seen through the relations between the Ukit and Iban tribes; and c) the descriptions of the leeches, including the thin, threadlike one which hides in the water, attached to a rock, waiting to be drunk by some animal, and then attaches itself to the inner walls of the throat. Overall, an excellent book; however, I was more amused by the Mayle.

[Finished 7 February 1993]

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