Little Doomsdays reviewed on New Zealand Arts Review


Little Doomsdays, the fifth in the kōrero series edited by Lloyd Jones, has been reviewed in New Zealand Arts Review. John Daly-Peoples says of Nic Low and Phil Dadson’s collaboration: 

‘With this work experimental musician and artist Phil Dadson has illustrated the innovative text that is based on sacred texts from antiquity, modern writings and  te ao Māori by Ngāi Tahu writer Nic Low.

The book is an extraordinary combination of fairy tale, parable and scientific enquiry. In it Nic Low in referencing the mythical Ark of Noah, looks at the ways in which humans have attempted to preserve flora, fauna and knowledge over the centuries. He takes the reader to the great Svalbard Global Seed Vault  in Norway which is in the process of preserving examples of all seeds and the Qaitbay Fortress in Egypt where the Rosetta Stone was discovered in 1799, allowing translation of Hieroglyphs.   He also hints at the possible discovery of the flavour  of the Moa, detected in the remains of a long buried umu on the East Coast

Low links the efforts of scientists worldwide with those of past ages who have endeavoured to preserve their culture along with similar attempts by Maori.

With this notion of an attempt to catalogue the history of civilizations the work has certain parallels with the fictions of Jorge Luis Borges  and the remarkable library of Hernando Colón.

Borges’s short stories such “On Exactitude in Science” which imagines an empire where the science of cartography. becomes so exact that only a map on the same scale as the empire itself will suffice or his essay entitled “The Total Library” describing his fantasy of an all-encompassing archive. Low’s themes as with those of Borges, include infinity, reality, elaborate reasoning and labyrinthic concepts.

The idea of the universal library was actually created by Hernando Colón in the sixteenth century. The son of Christopher Columbus he travelled the world to build the biggest library the world had ever seen with the aim of creating a universal library containing all books, in all languages and on all subjects. The resulting collection of between 15,000 and 20,000 books of mainly, contemporary printed material.

Little Doomsdays opens with a typical Borgesian approach from Low, creating an almost allegorical tale – “It’s said — that in the late twentieth century an unstable grouping of scholars, writers and fanatics from several Ngāi Tahu hapū in Murihiku created what has come to be known as the Ark of Arks.”

“It’s said that this project aimed to catalogue all known arks from the last five millennia. It was a failed attempt to capture previous civilisations’ failed attempts to preserve whatever was valuable to them: waka huia, time capsules, caches, burial ships, seed banks.”

Read the full review here.