Through the Arc of the Rainforest

(Fiction; Coffee House Press, 1990)


In Karen Tei Yamashita’s 1990 magic realist novel, Kazumasa Ishimaru, a Japanese man, and the sentient ball attached to his forehead are magnetically drawn to a mystical swath of shiny material in the Brazilian rainforest. It is called the Matacão, which roughly translates as “solid piece of rock.” Mané Pena, a native of the rainforest, under whose farmland the Matacão has been discovered, finds himself playing an unexpected role as the New Age guru of a magic feather, to which he holds the secret. Chico Paco, a pilgrim to the Matacão, attributes to the material godlike powers and constructs a shrine. A multinational conglomerate, GGG, embraces the Matacão as a panacea—it is not unlike Dr. Seuss’s Thnead, “a small something that everyone needs.” The substance mined from it is declared an improvement on nature by Yamashita’s fictional society, which, like ours, strives toward ever-increasing levels of material comforts.

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