Skinnydipping, naked hiking, you name it… naked outdoor adventures are great to read about! I’m going to profile here some examples from a couple of recent novels I’ve read that are getting a decent amount of attention: Sea Monsters by Chloe Aridjis, and Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James.
Sea Monsters (2019) is an atmospheric tale of a 17-year-old who leaves her home in Colonia Roma (in Mexico City, the same neighborhood that gave its title to the recent film by Alfonso Cuarón) to escape to Zipolite, the well-known beach in Oaxaca state, Mexico. Zipolite is an official nude beach as of a few years ago, but this novel takes place in the 1980s when it was still unofficially a nude beach. The plot, for my purposes here, is unimportant, although I can summarize that it has to do with the main character’s disillusionment as she passes into adulthood. But the scene where she finally decides to get into the ocean (after a couple of weeks at the beach already) is worth citing, for what it shows about her decision:
“[…] I decided, despite my reservations, that the time had finally come to obey the ocean’s call. Nudity was optional, I reminded myself, yet that afternoon I surprised myself by conceding halfway. I never expected to but found it oddly natural; after all, the only way of becoming someone else was to ignore the voices that spoke up, alarmed and protesting, as I pulled off my T-shirt, unwrapped my skirt, and unhooked my bra. If I deliberated I would reverse, so without giving it another thought I ran into the water, the sea as warm as the air, and let myself wade in up to my waist.” (p. 140)
There is little related to nudity beyond this brief episode, which is, at least, affirmative. What I find interesting is that the author, Chloe Aridjis, is the daughter of Homero Aridjis, a Mexican writer of Greek heritage whose story about a nude beach, in his collection Playa nudista, I reviewed some years ago. His story, in Spanish, takes place on a nude beach in the Netherlands; his daughter’s story, in English, takes place on a nude beach in Mexico. Although neither story’s plot really has all that much to do with social nudism, both generations of Aridjis do seem drawn to the life-affirming power of being immersed in a sea of flesh at the nude beach.
Black Leopard, Red Wolf (2019) is Marlon James’s widely anticipated first volume of a projected “Dark Star” trilogy. It’s been hyped as something of an African Lord of the Rings, which I would say is somewhat apt, although it is much more violent and sexual than Tolkien’s work. The main character is known as Tracker, and he prefers to be nude. As he says early on in the novel, “The old ways called out to me before I even left and I wanted to take every piece of garment off. […] The lion needs no robe and neither does the cobra.” (pp. 8-9)
While the societies through which Tracker moves seem mostly tolerant of clothes freedom, he does experience a city where the people show that combination of tolerance for violence, but aversion for nudity, that characterizes much of the Western world today:
“Night in Kongor. This city with a most brazen love for war and blood, where people gathered to see man and animal rip flesh, still shuddered to see anyone bare it.”
“This is what I learned from the Kongori and why they hate nakedness. To wear only skin is to wear the mind of a child, the mind of the mad, or even the mind of the man with no role in society.”
Tracker has no choice but to accommodate, and uses loose robes when necessary. But in the end, on the very last page of this loooooong book (640 pages), he reaffirms his clothesfree preference:
“Losing them [his companions] made me think of losing everything else. Cutting everything loose. I took the holster off my back, pulled my belt, and stepped out of my tunic and loincloth. I started walking north […] ”
Neither Sea Monsters nor Black Leopard, Red Wolf fits the category of “naturist fiction,” nor would that have been the intent of either author. But both works do allow characters to develop or to maintain preferences for naked outdoor adventures!