Tarka the Otter, what makes sense and what doesn’t.

This book took me back to a particular moment when I was little, in front of the TV, watching a documentary about orcas. After that one I decided that I didn’t like documentaries. There you are watching the beauty of an orca for half an hour, soft slow music in the background, beautiful footage of the killer whale floating effortlessly in the vivid blue, beauty and grace; getting all emotional when she gives birth and melting over her offspring… and then just like that the overall mood of the documentary changes and suddenly the orca turns into a ruthless killer, devouring a sweet little innocent seal who was doing nothing but minding his own business. Pleading eyes. Blood everywhere. No, I didn’t like documentaries at all. This went on throughout my childhood years; if someone at home was watching a documentary, I left the room. Time went by and so did that innocence. Slowly I started seeing sense in the fatidic circle of life.

Tarka the Otter is about the sense in all that but also about that which doesn’t make sense. For most of the book we get to see what life is about for an otter. In this case, the life of Tarka (meaning Little Water Wanderer or Wandering as Water). His life as an offspring, depending on his mother, and soon enough his adventures and challenges as an adult. You understand why his mother eventually leaves him and why he has to tear a rabbit or a bird into pieces. You understand why sometimes Tarka is the one who is hunted down. You understand all that. But then man comes along, and all of a sudden Tarka’s life is threatened by the senseless and for the life of me, I will never understand that…

Williamson left me speechless, I couldn’t believe all the attention to detail. A great observer for sure, his writing – a means of transportation.  The rawness reminded me of McCormac’s The Road. If not a feast for the senses, it is one of awareness for sure. He managed to write a whole book about the life of an otter, day after day,  without making it sound like a monotonous recurrent episode. My senses became sharper. I swam and played and hunted with Tarka and I became to love him. An emotional read but well worth it, hence that painting!

tarkawordpress.jpg

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