Antarctic feuilletonists

Elephant Island by Ben McAlpine

The Wide White Page: I'm slowly chewing my way through this eccentric anthology edited by Bill Manhire. It's highly entertaining, and not one to gobble. Antarctica has iced the imagination of hordes of writers from Dante to Monte Python, most of whom have never been within cooee of this mythic area. (It takes one to know one.) Manhire has chosen a mere 37 from whole libraries of contenders, and they're fascinating.

Currently I'm reading The Republic of the Southern Cross by Russian writer Valery Bryusov (1873-1924). The Republic is a fully-fledged, internationally recognised independent nation (pop. 50 million), with its chief city at the South Pole. Its demise is the result of a pandemic of mania contradicens. But never mind the plot — feel the vocabulary!

There were reporters who took note of the happenings of the town, journalists who debated hotly the condition of affairs, and even feuilletonists who endeavoured to enliven these tragic days.

Ninety years later, in this alarming era of mania pecunia, we still have reporters who take note of the happenings of the town and journalists who debate hotly the condition of affairs.

But do we have feuilletonists who endeavour to enliven these tragic days?

Why yes. We call them bloggers. (Or in the mainstream media, cartoonists and columnists.)

Even without knowing their meanings, the two words convey almost too much onomatopeically. A feuilletonist sounds like an aesthete, a dilettante, a dancer, a frivolous charmer. A blogger sounds like a plodder, a digger, a thumper, a wielder of blunt instruments. And perhaps we are. If so, the ease of publication must take part of the blame. It couldn't possibly be in our nature.

Photo of Elephant Island (c) Ben McAlpine.
Victoria University Press
Feuilletonist: one who writes or publishes feuilletons, I presume.
Definition of feuilleton from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
1: a part of a European newspaper or magazine devoted to material designed to entertain the general reader
2: something (as an installment of a novel) printed in a feuilleton
3 a: a novel printed in installments b: a work of fiction catering to popular taste
4: a short literary composition often having a familiar tone and reminiscent content

Rachel McAlpine
Rachel McAlpine


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