translate this pageThe book was first published in 1920 in Germany. Some give the year of publishing as 1936; maybe so, but the first Dutch edition is from 1929, according to the Real Free Press edition of 1976.
You are marooned in
with only kava to drink
an amusing hoax
Erich Scheurmann, a German novelist, in the 1920s visited Samoa, then a German colony. When World War I broke out, he was interned until the end of it. His story is that he collected speeches by Tiavuii (which means "chief") without his consent and translated them to German.
The resulting book has quite a reputation with a certain type of goat-hair socked anthropologists, no offense. My idea is German Erich Scheurmann thought it up himself, needing no help from "Tuiavii of Tiavea", whose real name was Agaese, at all ("tuavii" just means "chief"). The book is presented as discourses by a South Sea chief who has visited Europe. His point is not so badly taken. Very much anti-technology and back to the simple and oh-so-good natural life; very popular on the hippie scene: The book's ideals just fit too well in there.
Naturally, translator Martin Beumer and publisher Olaf Stoop did not care much for my opinion that it was a hoax. I was therefore delighted to be contacted many years later by professor Grant McCall of the University of New South Wales, Sidney, Australia, who requested a copy. He told me he had held lectures about the book for Samoans, who "were puzzled" by it.
Small wonder, as Tiaveii, far from being anti-European, was a member of the German army in Samoa; and, far from being anti-western religion, was a christian. Also contrary to the stories in the book he never visited Europe, let alone hold speeches on it for his fellow Samoans. There was more on the controversy in the Samoa Observer.
ERICH SCHEURMANNWorks by Erich Scheurmann
Scheurmann, born in Hamburg 1878, was a painter, writer, dramatist, recounter of fairy tales, meddled with psychological fringe areas, was a puppeteer, teacher and preacher. At the age of nineteen he made a wandering trip through all of Germany. From 1903 he lived on the peninsula of Höri in the Bodensee, where he met with Herman Hesse.
He travelled to Samoa in 1914 on an advance from his publisher, to be surprised there by the start of W.W.I. He was interned in the U.S.A. in autumn 1916, and returned to Germany only shortly before the war ended. From 1930 he lived in Armsfeld where he died at the age of 79 in 1957.
Erich Scheurmann has not even stolen only the person of "Tuavii" to sell his ideas on The Papalagi; the very idea of his book is based on that of another German, "pacifistic Tolstojan" (whatever that means) Hans Paasche, who wrote Die Forschungsreise des Afrikaners Lukanga Mukara ins innerste Deutschland [The Expedition of the African Lukanga Mukara to the Interior of Germany]. I find this book completely unreadable, but it is more honest in its representation than The Papalagi; if you are fooled into thinking that this has been written by a real African this might have surprised Paasche. Paasche's book, again, reminds me of the hilarious Mark Twain short story How the Animals of the Wood Sent out a Scientific Expedition (first part of Some Learned Fables for Good Old Boys and Girls, 1875).
There also exists a Letter to the president of the USA, famous or notorious depending on your point of view, by "Chief Seattle"; it can be found on the web and is very popular with the more primitive brand of conservationists. But it's an obvious hoax: What Indian would refer to himself as a "redskin"? I only mention it because these three works tend to flock together.
Especially in the  seventies and eighties The Papalagi was beloved reading matter in alternative circles. The printed editions of this almost forgotten book suddenly jumped to more than half a million copies. But, according to Joachim Meissner on the German Süd-West Rundfunk in March 2000, Erich Scheurmann justified colonialism and, later, even wrote propaganda texts for the National Socialists [Nazis]. When I found out about that I could not even be very surprised anymore. Alas, all this tends to make the hoax rather less amusing.
1911 Ein Weg A Way 1920 Der Papalagi The Papalagi
The Mark Twain story is included on the CD.
This edition of the book now is totally unfindable and has become a collector's item. I scanned one of my Papalagi copies for Grant McCall and reproduced it on CD, as he wanted to give a copy to the library of the National University of Samoa. Of course, I can make more copies. If you want one, just let me now. The price is US$30, including shipping by Air Mail (the 1976 edition of 3000 copies was priced at $6.40, without shipping - my price is the same if you figure inflation). As shipping you a slimline jewel CD box is more than twice as expensive as its cost, please buy one yourself; a case insert comes with the CD. Thanks.
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Note: The quality of the CD is quite good, even if I reassuringly tell you so myself: You can print it out on any color inkjet printer and get a very decent copy. It contains the complete 1976 Real Free Press edition, including Martin Beumer's English translation, an ad for RFP publications, all the original Joost Swarte drawings and a special Anton Makassar strip, plus Mark Twain's short story.
If you want to reprint, we can help out with TIF files of the original scans. But beware of potential copyright headaches.
The copyright holder of the German text seems to be Tanner & Staehelin Verlag, Zürich, Switzerland. Legally speaking however, copyright of the original text can only belong to Agaese (Tuiavi'i of Tavea) and his heirs; or somebody has to prove Scheurmann was lying, i.e. hoaxing. An interesting but moot point. As far as I'm concerned, the original book text is in the public domain: You can download it from several web sites.
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