Thor Heyerdahl Philip Snow - Essay

Philip Snow

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Two unique voyages, three ponderous books of scientific probings: what more can Heyerdahl do? He can continue to produce entertaining books.

Fatu-Hiva is of the same quality as his three popular classics, The Kon-Tiki Expedition, The Ra Expeditions and Aku-Aku. But it appears to be a reissue (for the first time in English) of a 1938 Oslo publication, and retains some inevitable naivety….

It was on Fatu-Hiva, the first Polynesian island seen by Europeans nearly 400 years ago, that Heyerdahl came to believe in the likelihood of Polynesia being inhabited from the direction of America. His search for links with ancient South America is indefatigable, but may still leave gaps (fairly, he has always acknowledged a shortage of linguistic affinities).

In Fatu-Hiva he is graphic and forceful throughout. It is not surprising to anyone having experiences of life close to nature, even as it is in the South Seas, that his wife and he would not elect to live there for ever. Disease, deprivation, discomfort overwhelmed them. Very soon he was to give further proof of his intrepidity in the Norwegian Resistance movement. But he had previously recorded this fine account of the realities of escapism….

Philip Snow, "Polynesian Bliss," in The Times Literary Supplement (© Times Newspapers Ltd. (London) 1975; reproduced from The Times Literary Supplement by permission), No. 3822, June 6, 1975, p. 632.