Thor Heyerdahl Alfred Stanford - Essay

Alfred Stanford

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

It is the deep connection with nature and a tremendous simplicity that makes ["Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific by Raft"] great as few books of our time are great…. [It has quickly spread through the world] with the speed of a small classic being born and the suggestion that it contains a strong medicine for modern man.

The book records the straight-forward chronicle of a 4,300-mile passage across the Pacific by six naked men on a raft. Its pages reflect a minimum of philosophical overtones. But on every page there is a perceptiveness of the sea and the sky that has delicacy and sureness. Through it all runs the awareness that ancient man ventured here before….

It is in the record of daily life, so close to the water as to be virtually a part of it for the 101 days of the passage, that the best writing occurs. (p. 1)

There is no mention of monotony or boredom. Every day was full of its own events, the sky, the stars, the marine life and the clouds. The story of these days and nights creates picture after picture….

The final landing at the Raroia barrier reef that should have wrecked a normal craft and crushed normal men unprotected by pre-Inca legends is told with great skill and excitement, as are the days that followed in exploration and meeting with the Polynesian inhabitants. (p. 10)

Alfred Stanford, "They Floated across the Pacific on a Vine-Tied Raft," in New York Herald Tribune Book Review (© I.H.T. Corporation), September 3, 1950, pp. 1, 10.