LITERATUREnThe Danish Swiftnby Jesse BiernWhy, after half a century, PeternFreuchen’s Arctic Adventurenhas to be rescued from virtual oblivionnis one of the true puzzles of literarynanniversaries. Not quite a best-seller innits day, it nonetheless went into fivenprintings and then fell, almost precipitously,ninto its curious obscurity. Retrospectivenitself as it looked back • tonFreuchen’s Greenland and Baffin Baynexperiences of a generation before, itsnquaintness may have told on it. Thentruth is that Arctic Adventure is annunpretentious 20th-century Gulliver’snTravels, a rich and evocative work,nenergetic though never hectic or harried.nIn brief, last year marked thensemicentennial of a work at once excitingnand reflective, a book that must notnbe permanently lost from view.nIt is not possible to know how closelynFreuchen modeled himself on JonathannSwift’s Gulliver. There are nonexplicit literary references anywhere innArctic Adventure. But at the outsetnthere seems to be an insistent levy onnSwift’s flamboyant urinary episode innLilliput, though the effect is inverted innArctic Adventure. It is the native folk,nnot the narrator, who are the perpetra­n44/CHRONICLESnVITAL SIGNSntors: washing their hair and clothing in,nwell, what is one of nature’s bestncleansers.nThere are other domestic reversals,nless elemental but just as piquant andnjust as Swiftian, such as the coffeencustom.nThe hostess in this part ofnGreenland always serves ansaucer as well as a cup, andnetiquette demands that the cupnbe so well filled that it spillsnover into the saucer. As anmatter of fact, coffee must bensipped from the saucer rathernthan the cup if one wouldnconform to Eskimo standards.nOne merely holds the cup andnpours coffee into thensaucer which is held daintilynwith three fingers outstretched.nThe sugar is hard, lump crystalnand is not put into the coffeenbut held in the mouth likencandy. At parties one is muchnadmired for his dexterity atnsipping coffee, sucking sugar,nand gossiping over the latestnscandals at one and the samentime.nAll we need next is controversy aboutnwhich end of the breakfast egg to cracknbefore opening it — remember BignEndians and Little Endians?—to benforcefully reminded of something.nIf the literary parallels are there,nhowever, they are not obtrusive.nFreuchen is simply, though cannily,nreporting to us. He is at his best in thisnvein when he records moments ofnsuper-civilized or rational mores amongnthese allegedly primitive peoples (or arenthey suprarational Houyhnhnms?). Afterna communal walrus kill, Freuchennmistakenly thanks someone for an allotmentnof meat he is given; later he isntaken aside and confidentially rebukednby the harpooner.n”Up in our country we arenhuman! And since we arenhuman we help each other. Wendon’t like to hear anybody saynnnthanks for that. If I get sofnethingntoday, you may get itntomorrow. Some men never killnanything because they arenseldom lucky or they may notnbe able to run or row as fast asnothers. Therefore they wouldnfeel unhappy to have to benthankful to their fellows all thentime. And it would not be funnfor the big hunter to feel thatnother men were constantlynhumbled by him. Then hisnpleasure would die. Up herenwe say that by gifts one makesnslaves, and by whips onenmakes dogs.”nThe rebuke is good-natured, as is almostnall native behavior, filled with asnmuch benignity and generosity as it isnwith paradox. There is even a quantumnof good nature, or certainly casualness,naccruing to occasional and permissiblenmurder. When a thief and local tyrant isnfinally shot by someone, that person isntacitly approved of rather than condemned.nThe mother of a socially incorrigiblenson eventually garrotes him tonend his criminal pranksterism — andnher.act is not merely condoned butnhonored. The harpoon homicide of anwife-beater and boaster by a widowernwho was incessantly tantalized by thenvictim is similarly accepted and endorsed,nas Freuchen finds for himself.n”Quanguaq,” I said in a sternnvoice, “I hear that you are anmurderer.”n”Let others tell of it,” henanswered. “One never likes tonbrag.”nFreuchen upbraids the killer, who hasnacquired the victim’s wife; in fact,nFreuchen makes considerable headwaynin implanting guilt and shame until thenwife in question comes forward to exoneratenand welcome her new husband asna decided improvement over her first.nFreuchen’s strict imperatives dissolvenrapidly in the general atmosphere ofnpracticality.nIt is this theme of practicality thatn