Noa Noa; my voyage to Tahiti

by Paul Gauguin

Other authorsOtto Frederick Theis (Translator)
Hardcover, 1947





New York, Lear, 1947.


Impressions from two years in Tahiti. Compelling autobiographical fragment. 24 black-and-white illustrations.

User reviews

LibraryThing member paradoxosalpha
Although based on his journals, Noa Noa is really a crafted memoir of Gaugin's time in Tahiti. At the outset, it seems as if it is going to be a tragic tale of the European seeking to escape alienation by immersing himself in a traditional culture of the colonial sphere, only to find that his condition is inescapable, and that he himself perpetuates it no matter where he goes. And that reading could be sustained--but it's not Gaugin's assertion. Instead, he eventually claims to have succeeded in "going native" sufficiently to reap spiritual rehabilitation and creative inspiration.

A considerable section toward the end of the book is given over to an attempt to describe indigenous Tahitian religion, with special attention to cosmogonic myths and the rituals involved with the secret society of Areois which is supposed to have ruled the island in the pre-colonial period. Most spectacularly, Gaugin relates his understanding of the Matumua ceremonies transacted with the enthronement of a new king. This rite allegedly culminated in a royal gang-bang: as Gaugin suggests (in more circumspect phrasing), it was a formalized opportunity for the people to screw the king before he screws them.

Gaugin's language emphasizes the sensuous throughout, although he refrains from being too explicit regarding the conspicuous erotic contents of his own experiences. His relationship to his eventual native bride offers the unselfconscious intimation that the way he exploits the island paradise may not be so far removed from the other agents of that prudish and dirty Christian civilization he professes to deplore.
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LibraryThing member varielle
Gauguin was unable to publish this memoir of his two years in Tahiti as he wanted with his woodcuts and without censorship in 1900 because of the prudishness of the day. Today it seems rather mild. He was on a quest for a purity and escape that he never quite found. He documents his perception of the damage done by Europeans to the Tahitian culture and his understanding of their theology as conveyed to him by his young native bride. It's an interesting look at a vanished world the price imperialism imposed. His accompanying art is delightful.… (more)


Local notes

illustrated with 36 woodcuts, 14 of which are color


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