The “Lost” Chapter of John Jourdain

Read an excerpt below from the new story. The whole work is in the current issue of Conjunctions — on newsstands today.

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THE ‘LOST’ CHAPTER OF JOHN JOURDAIN

Scholars of Seventeenth Century literature of the sea have yet to fully take up cudgels in the debate on the veracity of the purported “lost” chapter of John Jourdain’s journal. In the published account (as reprinted in the venerable Hakluyt Society edition of 1905) of his visit to the island nation of K., The Journal of John Jourdain, 1608-1617, Describing his Experiences in Arabia, India, the Malay Archipelago and Lands Nearby, Jourdain wrote scathingly, describing K. as “hotte, uglie, and wythoute even those accomadations anye beggar mite finde agreeable.”

Little more was said for some two hundred years, the location of K. left a mystery, which it remains to this day, and the subject thought of little interest; until, inside an old seaman’s chest abandoned in a Kent attic, were discovered the yellowed pages of what appeared to be the entire original manuscript, which included the never before seen “lost” chapter. This seaman’s curiosity was passed among a group of self-described ‘enthusiasts’ for many years, and has only recently entered the broader realm of scholarly interest.

Though many consider it a forgery, the fact remains that the handwriting matches verified contemporary samples from John Jourdain, and the spelling matches his own quite unique form, which meandered among possibilities as much as he meandered across the globe. That the seaman John Jourdain, or his original publisher, would want to suppress this version seems more than likely, as it touches upon topics that might well have been considered inflammatory in its age: the hot-blooded whimsy of a traveler obviously affected either by fever or alcohol or, as is suggested in the account, other substances. As such, it can placed next to Cyrano de Bergerac’s account of his journey to the moon or the adventures of Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelhausen’s creation Simplicissimus in his flights of unfettered imagination.

But such poetical whimsy from so otherwise as obtuse a seaman as Jourdain seems unlikely, a fact that the considerable number of supporters of the veracity of the lost chapter never fail to point out. The weight of testimony on both sides of the argument thus stands quite strongly, and the debate, as noted above, has only begun to be argued among scholars and the more learned professionals of the sea. In the meantime, it is up to the reader to decide for him or herself as to the credibility of events, places, and individuals described.

A Mostt Curiose Sojerne inn the Landes of K.

by John Jourdain

Att my cominge aland upon an Unnamed Shore I found the Kinge and his Unkle both together, with many Others; of whome I demanded Leave to rest for several Daies for the Heate had strucke myself and my companions alsoe siche that wee knewe not some among us our verie Names and walked the Deckes like Ghosts unto ourselves and unto each one the other; all of us terriblie affrighted by the casualtie to our Common Senses. At one time I would calle my Chief mate by the Name of the most common Seeman, even of the Boy, and he would looke att me as though I had become one of the verie Natives that had soe affrighted us manie Daies before on the Ilandes wee did lande upon. At another time the entyre Crewe would not knowe me and calle me by siche strange Names and speake with siche curios Tonges that I guessed not who I myself was, holding the Beliefe that they who knewe me not knewe some larger Truthe. The Heate was the verie Devile Himself for it would leade oure Sense one way and when we felt the strength of Certaintie it would knocke all wee knewe downe and wee were but required to Build up again oure Worlde from Senses recentlie attacked. And then when again wee felt a common Beliefe growe among us, that wee each knewe the Name of each other, that wee knewe our owne Selves, the Devil in the Cloake of the Heate would come at us againe and knocke at our Certainties and Knowledge. Sailing aboute like this wee were at the edge of Great Blows and Violence wiche, had notte we landed at the Unnamed Coaste and there mette with soe kindlie a Kinge, wee would without doubt have become the Servantes of the Evile One in his Designes upon this Worlde.


A “Lost” Chapter Found…

Very happy to report that my story The “Lost” Chapter of John Jourdain will appear in the upcoming Fall issue of Conjunctions.

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Reading at Bowery Arts on June 1st

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Join Quintan Ana Wikswo, Matthew Sharpe, and Ranbir Singh Sidhu as they bring new work to the stage for an evening of morphological misadventure within the uncanny nooks and crannies of newly invoked worlds.

$10 at the door; advance tickets online here: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/702551

QUINTAN ANA WIKSWO (www.QuintanWikswo.com) is recognized for projects that integrate her original literature, visual art, video, and performance works. Her collection of short stories and photographs – The Hope Of Floating Has Carried Us This Far – is forthcoming on Coffee House Press. Her fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and theory appears in anthologies, fine art catalogues, artist’s books, and in magazines including Tin House, Gulf Coast, Conjunctions, The Kenyon Review, New American Writing, Golden Handcuffs Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, and many more. Her works are exhibited, published, and performed at prominent institutions through Europe and the Americas, including three solo exhibitions at major museums in New York City and Berlin, and performances at (Le) Poisson Rouge, St. Mark’s Church, Incubator Arts Project, Dixon Place, Beyond Baroque, and others. She is the recipient of fellowships from Creative Capital, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Pollock Krasner Foundation, Center for Cultural Innovation, Theo Westenberger Estate, Yaddo, and more. She maintains a lively visiting artist practice at NYU, CUNY, Colgate College, California College of Arts, California State University, and others.

MATTHEW SHARPE (http://sharpestories.blogspot.com) is the author of the novels You Were Wrong, Jamestown, The Sleeping Father, and Nothing Is Terrible. He is the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment of the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts. He teaches in the graduate writing program at Columbia University, and has been posting a one-page story every week to his blog Very Short Stories R Us.

RANBIR SINGH SIDHU (www.ranbirsidhu.com) is the author of Good Indian Girls, and a winner of the Pushcart Prize in Fiction and a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, and other awards. His stories appear in The Georgia Review, Fence, Zyzzyva, The Missouri Review, Other Voices, The Literary Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, The Barcelona Review, The Happy Hypocrite and other journals and anthologies. His work for theater has been supported by MCC Theater, the Edward F. Albee Foundation, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, La Mama ETC, the September 11th Fund, and the New York State Council for the Arts among others.

 


A conversation with Quintan Ana Wikswo

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Over at the Degenerate Art Ensemble, Quintan Ana Wikswo and I talk about hellhounds, death, toast, TS Eliot, talismans, and jam. Check it out here.


A Tribute to Agha Shahid Ali

For those in western Mass on Thursday, April 24, I’ll be reading in a very special tribute to the late poet Agha Shahid Ali at Mass MoCA, in North Adams. It’s organized around the mid-career retrospective of the artist Izhar Patkin. Details here.

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Far outside the expectations…

A feature interview over at India Abroad this week. Check it out here.

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Harper 21 publishes “The Consul’s Wife” as a Kindle e-single

For readers in India, the wonderful folk at HarperCollins are putting out e-singles for the Kindle in a new, and beautifully designed, series called Harper 21. The current batch focus on the short story form, and they’ve included my story “The Consul’s Wife.” If you’re in India, and own a Kindle, it’s a mere 21 rupees, which is a steal by any standard. Click here to purchase.

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