Peace Corps Writers
Mortiz Thomsen’s The Farm on the River of Emeralds (page 4)
Mortiz Thomsen’s The Farm on the River of Emeralds
page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4

     The revelations didn’t stop once Thomsen left the United States; his first book, Living Poor, is filled with them. But Thomsen was a man of incredible stubbornness, a trait he applied to his belief that he could change the world in true Peace Corps fashion, and one after the other, he finds himself facing up to awful, shattering truths about his convictions. One that nearly does him in in The Farm on the River of Emeralds comes in “Victor,” a chapter near the end of the book on one of their most beloved (and ultimately disappointing) employees. Finally faced with the naked truth that Victor has been robbing Ramon and Thomsen blind, Ramon fires him, kicks him off the farm, shattering the façade of harmony they both had valued enough to turn a blind eye on Victor’s betrayals. It’s the last straw, says Ramon, no more Mr. Nice Guy; the people for miles around steal from them and see that nothing is done and damn the reasons for their thievery or desperation, he’s going to do something about it. Ramon rejects their new ideas for how to run a farm, asking, “do you know how they control the stealing?” at a large coconut farm up the river. Thomsen knows: “Every year they shoot a few thieves right out of the trees.” Thomsen watches Ramon as he leaves for his house that night:

    How he had changed since I first knew him, how hard and sad and stubborn his face. I thought of those two ultimate sins, the two unforgivable sins against life: to murder and to be poor. Poor Ramon. It looked like he was moving toward that awful moment when he would have to commit the first one to get saved from committing the second.

     It never comes to that in The Farm on the River of Emeralds, but the change in Ramon and the disintegration of his partnership with Thomsen loom large in the final chapters. As with Thomsen’s other books, this one raises far more questions than it could ever pretend to answer. Thomsen demonstrates that he is one of those unfortunate souls who must constantly seek out reasons and motivations — what is it that makes a man steal pennies from your pockets as you sleep or punch his wife in a drunken rage or slash his neighbor with a rusty machete? But what Thomsen does best is observe what it is that leads to the way the dramas unfold around him, not taking the outrages and constant thievery and disgraceful behaviors he writes about at face value, never taking the easy route.

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