By Charles Montgomery

In 1892, the Bishop of Tasmania set sail for Melanesia with the motive of rescuing islanders from lives of worry, black magic and cannibalism. Over a hundred years later, his nice grandson, Charles Montgomery, the bishop’s path in the course of the South Pacific, looking for the spirits and myths his missionary forebear had sought to destroy.

Montgomery explored distant seashores the place gospel and empire by no means took carry. He rubbed shoulders with barefoot preachers, witch medical professionals and gun-toting rebels, simply to find that the pagan spirits have been extra tenacious than the missionaries had imagined. Melanesians had stirred Jesus and Mary into an already highly spiced broth of ancestor worship, ghosts, shark gods and magic. via confrontations with a extraordinary forged of characters—the randy ethnographer, the soft-talking murderer, the leper prophet—the trip turns into a debate at the nature of magic, delusion and religion, and a metaphor for the remodeling strength of story.

The final Heathen marks the debut of a thrilling younger author who charts his adventures with ardour, perception and style.

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Extra info for The Last Heathen: Encounters with Ghosts and Ancestors in Melanesia

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But then, in 1996, the white ship from America finally appeared. On board was a friend of Jack and Kay’s. His name was John Rush. Tanna’s beleaguered Christian pastors decided Rush was the saviour they had been waiting for. After all, he was American, he had arrived on a great white ship, and—best of all—he was named John. The circumstances were too close to the Frum myth not to be put to use. ” said Jack, rubbing his hands together. “John from America: John—Frum—America! ” “They figured John could go to the John Frum chiefs and tell them to stop waiting.

There was no squall. There was no lightning. But the spray rose like ghosts each time the Havanna’s blunt nose plunged into the undulating shadow of the southeast swell. The ship twisted and rolled unnaturally, and the night was filled with the hollow boom of waves striking the bow, the groan and flex of the hull and a screeching that sounded like 20-foot containers sliding across the steel floor of the hold. We did not use our cushioned chairs. We clung to the floor like lovers and vomited into plastic bags, purses and open palms.

The men held hands in the shade. They giggled like schoolboys or Hobbits. Small carved crosses dangled from their necks. The shops and the gigglers were merely a backdrop to the real business of Port Vila, which was religion. The town was crawling with American and Australian missionaries. There were Mormons in pressed white shirts and ties, severe Seventh-day Adventists, burger-gulping members of the Assemblies of God, tongue-speaking Pentecostals and charismatic holy rollers in business suits.

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