Everything Is Just Dandy!

Fredy Perlman – The Strait

The Anarchist Library

Author: Fredy Perlman
Title: The Strait
Subtitle: Book of Obenabi. His Songs
Date: 1988
Notes: Black and Red, Detroit.
Source: Scanned and OCR’d from the original book by a librarian

A Note to the Reader:

An early death kept Fredy Perlman from finishing the two-volume account of Robert Dupre’s forebears who lived on the Strait and in the surrounding woodlands. In both volumes, "Book of Obenabi. His Songs” and "Book of Robert Dupre. His Tales,” narrators recount familiar historic events as individuals indigenous to the region might have experienced them.

Fredy intended to present The Strait as texts written down by Obenabi’s nephew, Robert Dupre, in the 1850s. In 1851 Obenabi presumably told (or sang) his narrative to Dupre in Detroit’s prison hospital, uncle and nephew having been jailed as conspirators who opposed construction of a railroad across Michigan.

In addition to Obenabi’s songs, Robert Dupre was to be credited with preserving the tales of his aunt Wabnokwe. This history purports to be based on journals Obenabi’s sister kept throughout her life, and it constitutes Book II of The Strait. As a French-speaking resident of Detroit, Dupre wrote both narratives in French.

Fredy planned to present himself as the translator of Dupre’s manuscripts. His ostensible link to the text was through Ted Nasibu, a twentieth-century "rememberer” who was a fellow-printer at the Detroit Printing Co-op on Michigan Avenue. Both Ted and his friend Tissie appear in an earlier Black & Red publication, Letters of Insurgents. Through Tissie, Ted became acquainted with Robert Avis, Tissie’s cousin and Dupre’s great-grandson.

The Prologue situates Avis in a hospital bed in 1984. The surroundings combined with his anguish transport him to his great-grandfather’s side as the latter listens to his uncle Obenabi in 1851. At the beginning of Chapter 1, Obenabi, who also carries the name Jacob Burr-net, is recounting the experiences of his thirty-second year, events which occurred in 1826.

This volume of The Strait was essentially complete at the time of Fredy’s death in 1985 but a few minor changes were appropriate. In Chapter 9, I used Fredy’s outline to write some missing paragraphs. A few inconsistancies remain, but I hope they are minor.

With some misgivings, I have added the chronological dates on the right-hand pages. Although each page of Fredy’s manuscript mentions the year in which the events occurred, I doubt that he planned to include them when publishing the book. I feel they aid the reader in situating the story so have retained them.

Fredy did intend to append a glossary, but the rudimentary one provided here is mine, not his.

John Ricklefs designed the cover.

The photos are by Frank Jackson.

Lorraine Perlman March 1988


Early morning’s undone dream pulls me back to its activity, makes waking seem death, gives reality a fearful aura.

"It’s time for your surgery, Mr. Avis,” says Madge May the nurse. I’m here as object for treatment, there’s nothing to fear, nothing supernatural; diagnosis and remedy are determined by procedures accessible to all, and what is each of us but a product at a different stage of processing, transformed by labor into a more finished if not more perfect product ?

Orderlies Gabe Godfroy and Bill Wells prepare the bed on wheels, as Tom Williams the intern notes schedules and circumstances on his pad, while elsewhere the various specialists- bookkeepers, administrators, technicians, surgeons, nurses-are activated by the commander-in-chief, Dr. Cass, like an army, like meshing gears of clockwork, with an efficiency in stark contrast to my malfunctioning, inefficient bodily organs, defying death and disease with Organization and Confidence. Ifs impressive what they can do nowadays.

All I ever feared was failure to sell myself on the labor market, and this fear was dispelled by qualifications acquired in school, experience in teamwork gained in military service, and finally the benefits, good money and insurance earned in industry. My self-assurance grew with my confidence in the solidity of my environment, in its unbounded power to capture unprocessed raw matter (whether rock or tree or bodily organ, or a shy street kid like me, Robert Avis), define it with a fixed concept that holds under all conditions, reduce its inessential qualities to mathematical entities in order at last to transform it by technological processes into a product freed of its primal imperfections and shaped for insertion into the process that produced it.

Alongside my self-assurance grew a secret pride, not of a mere impressed spectator, but of an active participant who had mastered a machine anyone with drive can learn to handle, the pride of a product and agent ofthe machine determining destiny.

Procedural indications following the diagnosis of my abdominal discomfort strengthened my unshaken confidence in the organization that encompasses occupational hazards as part ofthe original intention, removes a diseased colon as easily as birdsnests and trees from the path of a highway, banishes death to the company of dragons in the museum of curios. Someone with drive doesn’t succumb to nature’s caprices.