The 1001 Nights of Iarcus Oralto


We have previously posted extracts from the  Gertrude Stein manuscript discovered by Denis Kodaly. Here is an extract from the beginning of Denis’ own magnum opus, The 1001 Nights of Iarcus Oralto, which  follows the travels of a a pompous Englishman in the strange land of Arrapamatta. Iarcus’ tale starts with a shipwreck from which  he barely escapes. Now read on…  

My readers will recall that I, Iarcus Oralto, worthy scion of a respectable family, having been cast adrift in a frail dinghy by a villainous sea-captain, found myself bereft of all worldly substance save a small pudding and a flask of Macassar oil. You must know also that I found myself in the company of one Arabella Fundament, a woman of uncertain temper with a fondness for spiritous liquors. My heart was heavy as I gazed into the countenance of this woman. Her teeth and wig, both of which had appeared so gloriously natural during our voyage, had clearly been stored in a missing piece of luggage, and her appearance was now displeasingly coarse. Nor did she fall in graciously with my suggestion that I should divide my pudding into small portions, of which we should partake sparingly every six hours during the day. Consequently I had to use all my acuity and rapidity of reflex to prevent her flinging herself upon the pudding while my attention was distracted.

After our morning collation on the second day, Miss Fundament observed somewhat sharply, “Awful still, isn’t it Mr Oralto?”

“It is indeed, my dear young lady,” I returned pleasantly.

“I wonder where we are going,” she observed.

“In an easterly direction,” I informed her.

“I’d say,” she burst out in a tone I can only describe as venomous, “ we’re not going ANYWHERE. We might be going somewhere if a certain gentleman could pick up them oars and row, but seeing he ain’t, we’re not, are we?”

“My dear Miss Fundament,” I replied somewhat stiffly, “Rowing is a sport for the brutish. For this reason I have never indulged in it and never intend to do so”.

Such was my contention, and my firm intention, but, gentle reader, I reckoned without the force of personality of this unfortunate woman. Some hours later, I set up the oars and commenced rowing. However, my inexperience proved most inconvenient: instead of the prow cutting smoothly through the water, the boat began revolving in an aimless and choppy fashion. After some fifteen minutes of valiant effort, I appeared to have made no progress at all. Furthermore, I had drenched Miss Fundament on two occasions when inadvertently lifting the blade of the right oar completely out of the water. Her demeanour changed yet again.

“Oh, stop, you fool!” she cried, a spasm of irritation rippling through her ample frame. “Of all the ninnies to get maroonded with!”

Too exhausted to reply, I pulled the oars back into the boat and settled myself for a brief rest. Suddenly, I found Miss Fundament kneeling in front of me with a most determined expression on her face.

”Give me that pudding,” she demanded.

“It is only two hours since we last ate. We must conserve our rations,” I warned.

“I don’t care, I’m starving. I haven’t ever gone this long without food. I’ll die.”

“No, you must wait,” I protested, “you must not give way to greed!”

“Greed, ho! I’ll give you greed!”

Somewhat intimidated by the lady’s grim demeanour, I reached into my valise and seized the pudding. Clutching it to my abdominal region, I began to insinuate my body past Miss Fundament. Becoming aware of this evasive manoeuvre, she lunged forward, both hands extended in an attempt to capture the pudding. However, her initial hesitation had enabled me to gain a position out of her immediate reach. A curious stalking procedure now ensured. Maintaining a resolute grip on the pudding, I continued to move around the edge of the boat as Miss Fundament relentlessly tracked me. We completed some three circuits of the boat, during which time I delivered some timely advice on the need for dignity and restraint in social intercourse.

Suddenly Miss Fundament paused and raised her hand to her head, as one about to swoon. In my concern, I also paused. Seizing her opportunity, she leapt forward and pinioned me against the gunwale. Taken by surprise, I released my grip on the pudding, which the wretched woman seized and devoured in the manner of a genuine savage. Seeing my aghast expression, she flung back her head and guffawed coarsely, stamping her feet and swaying her hips in an abandoned manner. Alas, our frail craft was ill-fitted to such terpsichorean excesses. A plank giving way beneath her foot, Miss Fundament was hurled backwards by the sudden lurching of the boat, and disappeared into the boundless ocean with a mighty eruptation of water, such as some intrepid seaman might behold when one of the great denizens of the deep rises and sinks again in its majestic power…


18 thoughts on “The 1001 Nights of Iarcus Oralto

  1. “terpsichorean” Now that is a new word for me. I think Oralto should have eaten the entire pudding because he burned a lot of calories rowing the boat at her prodding. It would have saved her life. But of course, neither of them knew that at the time. It certainly got me laughing.

    1. A word that applies to your belly-dancing video, Leslie. And who knows what Arabella would have done if Iarcus had devoured the pudding before her eyes?

  2. Looking forward to more of his tales,

    Just finished the first MFA residency, during which I learned a great deal that will serve me well. But there is an immense lot more to learn, much of it just procedural — how to use Microsoft Word, how to format things in MLA (rather than as the law journals do), how to annotate a bibliography . . . Nonetheless exciting and fun.

    Hope winter is going well for you — warmer than usual in Alaska, and dry, with lots of forest fires.

  3. All those formatting things are quite fun when you master them – you feel so immensely clever and you can spend lots of time doing them when you really should be working on your writing. We are having an autumnal winter- cold nights, crisp mornings and quite often sun in the middle of the day.

      1. It does snow, and is snowing, on the snowfields that are a few hours drive away. A good season I hear. And on very very rare occasions a few flakes actually fall in Melbourne.

        1. That sounds better to me than the amount of snow we usually get in Anchorage. However — in another fifty years, Melbourne’s weather pattern could be Anchorage’s. It will still be much darker in the winter and much colder in the summer though.

  4. Don’t tell that to our cloth-eared Prime Minister who is on record as saying “climate change is crap”. He would deny the he thinks that now but his actions speak louder even than those words. A great mate of the Canadian PM.

    1. Haven’t read much about how climate change is affecting Australia, but you are getting much hotter summers, right? My siblings and friends in the Midwest, on the other hand, are turning on their fireplaces and furnaces this summer because it is so cold there. Anchorage has had the warmest month of May on record. Most of the time that we were in LA at school it was cool and cloudy, while in Anchorage it was in the 80s — exceedingly warm indeed, and much warmer than LA by the coast. I hope your PM has secured himself a retirement home safe from the effects of rising sea levels and more intense storms. Not sure where that would be . . .

  5. Yes, hotter summers, worse bushfires and more frequent droughts. Our farmers are said to be among those likely to suffer most from climate change. Not to mention the low-lying islands in our region that are likely to be inundated because of rising sea-levels so their people will have to find somewhere else to live. Will Australia take them? Not if Tough Tony has his way.

    1. Not so much out of print as never in print. We really do have a brother called Denis (not Kodaly) and the Gertrude Stein ms is entirely his responsibility, but the Iarcus stories are a joint effort arising from stories we used to tell when we were kids.

  6. I have been waiting along time for Arrapmatta to be allowed to appear anywhere. It appears that the files can now be released.

    1. Yes, Sally, the embargo on the great thoughts of Iarcus is lifted. His wise observations on how things should be are much needed in this slipshod modern world.

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