PNG author Daniel Kumbon’s seventh book The Old Man’s Dilemma has just been published. It will become available in Port Moresby and Wabag soon. Almost all his books have been based on facts or collections of writings he compiled. This latest book is the only novel he have written. It is based in Port Moresby but the story goes to Enga, Jiwaka and Lae. Below is the foreword to Kumbon’s latest book by Keith Jackson.
DANIEL Kumbon is one of Papua New Guinea’s most prominent modern day authors and he has accumulated a substantial collection of non-fiction writing – all of it offering a Melanesian worldview. Since 1998, but more so over the last six years, Daniel has produced six books and numerous commentaries and essays, but has never before ventured into fiction.
With The Old Man’s Dilemma, Daniel has produced a gloriously written novel that, in the Kumbon-style, is full of truth.
Although a work of fiction, its underpinning reality is always present. It flows from the author’s eye for detail, his understanding of his own disparate people and the innate wisdom derived from traditional Melanesian values and Western ideals.
The Old Man’s Dilemma is an enchanting tale of kindness, love, tragedy and the self-questioning that comes with grief. It is situated in that shadow world where traditional Melanesian and Western cultures coincide, sometimes overlapping with ease and sometimes clashing and delivering great uncertainty.
Such conflicts compel The Old Man, Akali Wakane, a protagonist for whom the reader forms great compassion, to wrestle with himself about what constitutes The Right Way.
Daniel Kumbon is a university educated and much-travelled journalist who, after a career beyond his home, decided to spend the balance of his life back in his birthplace of Enga living and working among his own people.
This commitment shines through all his work, which has consistently shown him to be able to successfully blend the rich traditions of Melanesia with the exacting demands of modernity.
There are few Papua New Guinean writers able to transcend the conflicts that inhabit Melanesian culture as it finds itself in a state of constant transition – a process without a defined end point – that has brought great problems to the country and its people.
Daniel Kumbon is one of less than a handful of contemporary Papua New Guinean writers who understand these underlying forces – and his resultant knowledge and sensitivity inform this book. The Old Man’s Dilemma is both a fascinating story in its own right and a fine insight into the challenges for the individual who has been forced to come to grips with a culture in conflict.
And it brings to that small club of all-round Papua New Guinean authors, the distinguished presence of Daniel Kumbon.
Keith Jackson AM
7 April, 2021