Albert Wendt predicts a future for New Zealand, whether it utopian or dystopian ceases to be affirmed. But apparently darkness suffocates the light, the bleakness of the future turns our protagonist a soft magenta… jokes aside, Wendt takes a much more assertive and piercing subject matter than his first novel. I came to know the charming writing style of an intriguing New Zealander, Wendt, when I first read Sons for the Return Home. There he cultivates a love story of opposing cultures, Samoan and Papalagi, to convey divisiveness and adversity in the name of true love. Here, in Black Rainbow, it is hard for me to distil the exact tactic. It could be allegorical harbingering of an uncertain and unfulfilled future, a collection of interesting chapters that converge into a flow of consciousness much like the Sartre River, or maybe it is premature to pin the exact essence of this work. Though his voice and patience as a writer are apparent, the specifics elude me. My favorite passage thus far is in chapter eight, “Tales in the Safehouse.” Wendt crafts, “Her litany moved in and out of my attention. She certainly knew how to cook for souls. ‘Yes, I know what you’re going to remind me of: that the Tribunal has out-lawed metaphysics, but what’s a soulkeeper-housekeeper-storyteller like me got to talk about?” (Wendt, 102). It is just awesome, how he wields language to an extent where you don’t feel like you are reading; you float through words in the presence of his lucid style. He writes, “She certainly knew how to cook for souls,” like shrimp in a spicy paella dish; he writes the metaphor so confidently. But “cook” could suggest search, as in it takes effort to “cook” a dish for your family; reading recipes, measuring ingredients, and perfecting temperatures all culminate into a search for a great meal. Therefore this “cook,” a soulkeeping storyteller who knows her way around the house, knows the ins and outs of our souls much like a tablespoon of butter for a baker.
Another thing that I really enjoy about the book is the cover art. Awesome and vivacious, the colors and intensity of shade make for an ambiguous but arousing entry into Wendt’s novel. The face in the middle seems to be more than just a face, the different parts of it might suggest the composition of our protagonist; taking from literature and archives, living in a restricted dystopia, and not knowing the all powerful Tribunal and President.