Into the Darkness of Exploitation
A review of Premee Mohamed’s “The Adventurer’s Wife” in She Walks in Shadows (ed. Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R. Stiles, Innsmouth Free Press, 2015)
By Derek Newman-Stille
Premee Mohamed’s “The Adventurer’s Wife” plays with the traditional images of the adventurer in a strange land. Mohamed plays with the problematic trope of the western adventurer when she explores the traditional features of the adventure story where the adventurer steals from sacred sites of non-Western peoples, exploits the stories of indigenous populations for his own benefit in publications, and falls in love with and brings home a young woman from Africa. Mohamed complicates these tropes by illustrating the repercussions for some of these exploitative colonial actions by having the older adventurer Penhallick have to face some of the ramifications of his actions. When he is told not to remove artifacts from a sacred site and does so anyway, Penhallick experiences a degradation in health and becomes part of something larger than himself, having made an accidental deal by removing artifacts from sacred locations. The much younger woman, Sima, who he takes back home from his adventures abroad ends up illustrating that, rather than the passive subject that most adventure stories construct, she is an active agent of her own desires.
Exploring the notion of the silencing of colonial subjects, “The Adventurer’s Wife” explores Lovecraftian Silent Ones, old gods from before the gods could speak, playing with the notion that the colonial exercise has been one of silencing the people that it exploited, using them to create adventure stories while ignoring their actual voices and their own stories. Penhallick ignores everything he is told by the indigenous population of the village he explores while seeking out his own stories to tell at home, paying no attention to what he is told by the people who have knowledge of the region because he de-values them outside of the parameter of being characters in his own adventure narratives.
Premee Mohamed reverses the trope in adventure stories that curiosity is an innocent pursuit by illustrating the damaging nature of colonial ‘curiosity’ and the exploitation that comes along with it. She illustrates that colonial exploration is an activity that is shaped from notions of privilege that allowed western adventurers to take from the Others that they constructed, treating them as resources to be mined for cultural stories and artifacts that could be used to wow people back in the West.
To discover more about She Walks in Shadows, visit Innsmouth Free Press’ website at http://www.innsmouthfreepress.com/blog/books/she-walks-in-shadows/ .