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Excerpts From Michener’s ‘Hawaii’

October 16, 1997

Excerpts from the novel ``Hawaii,″ one of James Michener’s best-known works.

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``For us there is only one name,″ the old man insisted in a burst of rhetoric. ``Havaiki of the manifold riches, Havaiki of the brave canoes, Havaiki of strong gods, and courageous men and beautiful women, Havaiki of the dreams that led across the endless oceans, Havaiki that has lived in our hearts for forty and fifty and sixty generations. This is the island of Havaiki!″

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And his prayer must have had power, for the trembling stopped, and the horrified voyagers huddled together to decipher this mighty omen.

They did not succeed, for a much greater was about to envelop them. From the mountain that reached high above their heads volumes of fire began to erupt, and rocks were thrown far into the air. Scattered ash fell back onto the earth and settled on the king’s head and on the newly planted banana shoots. All day the fires continued, and into the night, so that the undersides of the clouds that hung over the islands shone red, as if even they were ablaze.

It was a night of terror, fearful in its strangeness and paralyzing in its power.

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In one sense Abner did profit: he got each of his parishioners properly dressed for the opening of church, and on the Sunday when the sprawling edifice was consecrated, curious processions from miles around marched through the dust in their unaccustomed finery from Captain Janders’ store. ... Had Abner studied the climate for even a moment, he would have built his grass walls only a few feet high, leaving open space between them and the roof so that air could circulate, but churches in New England were built foursquare, and so they were in Hawaii, with no air stirring and the congregation sweltering in the natural heat, plus the radiation of three thousand closely packed bodies.

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