Wilkie Collins

Ioláni, or, Tahiti as it was

Princeton university press

Princeton (N.J.), 1999
bibliothèque insulaire


parutions 1999
Ioláni  ; or, Tahiti as it was / Wilkie Collins ; ed. and introduced by Ira B. Nadel. - Princeton (N.J.) : Princeton university press, 1999. - XXXVII-205 p. ; 22 cm.
ISBN 0-691-03446-X
NOTE DE L'ÉDITEUR : The novel is set in Tahiti prior to European contact. It tells the story of the diabolical priest, Ioláni, and the heroic young woman, Idia, who bears his child. Determined to defy the Tahitian custom of killing firstborn children, Idia and her friend Aimata flee with the baby and take refuge among Ioláni's enemies. The vengeful priest pursues them, setting into motion a plot that features civil war, sorcery, sacrificial rites, wild madmen, treachery and love.

Collins explores themes that he would return to again and again in his career : oppression by sinister, patriarchal figures ; the bravery of forceful, unorthodox women ; the psychology of the criminal mind ; the hypocrisy of moralists ; and Victorian ideas of the exotic.

❙ Wilkie Collins (1824-1899), perhaps best known for « The Moonstone » and « The Woman in White », was the author of more than thirty novels, more than fifty short stories, as well as many plays and essays. Collins, even more than his close friend Charles Dickens, was a master of the suspenseful Victorian thriller.
MAGAZINE LITTÉRAIRE, n° 374, mars 1999 : Wilkie Collins avait vingt ans. Commis dans une compagnie de commerce de thé, il dissimulait sous ses registres des cahiers où il consignait d'exotiques aventures. Ainsi nacquit son premier roman, Ioláni or, Tahiti as it was. Dont aucun éditeur ne voulut.

Cette histoire très saignante de sacrifices d'enfants en Polynésie choqua. « Ma jeune imagination se déchaîna au milieu des nobles sauvages, écrit-il en 1870, dans des scènes que le très respectable éditeur britannique refusa de cautionner de son nom ».

Collins rangea son manuscrit dans un tiroir. A sa mort, en 1889, on le crut perdu, puis on l'oublia. Quelque cent ans plus tard, en 1991, un libraire de Manhattan est chargé de l'estimer. Le dernier acheteur, qui conserve l'anonymat, a décidé de le faire enfin publier ce printemps.
EXCERPT Years and years after the period of our narrative, the Polynesian peasant, was used to describe to his affrightened children and his curious neighbours, the altered and horrible aspect of Ioláni, the Priest, when he returned to the Temple. What had occasioned this alteration never was known. The popular superstition, however, soon ascribed it to an encounter with the wood-daemons and ghosts, that were supposed to haunt the shores of the dreaded and desolate lake ; and in after seasons, among the wild songs of the land, was numbered as the people's favourite legend — « the night battle of the Priest ».

pp. 66-67

mise-à-jour : 25 avril 2007