Thursday 1 July 2010

Whale Ahoy!

North Pembrokeshire has its share of wrecks around its coast but none so improbable as the giant model whale which foundered and sank off Dinas Island during the making of the film Moby Dick in 1954 – the one with Gregory Peck as the obsessed Captain Ahab.

There are no Welshmen among the multi-national crew of the Pequod in Melville’s book, though ace harpooneer and pagan philosopher Queequeg is described as “this fine young savage – this sea Prince of Wales” because he is the first son of a cannibal king. This great American novel captures all the facets of the US, good and bad – melting pot of race and faith, pioneering adventure, paranoia and hubris in the face of shadowy enemies, you name it. The millennial, quasi-religious language and plot could only be American and indeed are hard for Europeans to engage with but worth the effort in order to understand that their rich culture is so vastly more than an exiled version of our own. Truly the States are the new Rome and the best we can ask for is to be their vassal Athens of faded glory, too often ignorantly sneering at their “lack of civilisation” while accepting their protection successively from Imperial German, Nazi, and Soviet barbarians.

Still no fish (or whales).