Slice of Australian gothic takes out Miles Franklin

24 Jun

Yes, I do have a copy of Andrew McGahan’s The White Earth at the moment, from the Salt Mine Library. I shall try to read it over the weekend and let you know what I think. I do know I very much enjoyed his 1988 (1995) which I read some time back.

Meantime I am reading Neil Belton’s The Good Listener: A Life against Cruelty [1998] which was one of the books I proposed to dump, but maybe not now. (It had been a bargain bookshop impulse buy about a year ago.) The book is a treasure. It is profound, responsible, well written, intelligent, absolutely relevant… We need such books in these days. For example, see Heather Mallick, “The Heart of Darkness Beats Clear and Steady in Guantanamo Bay” (2002):

…Torture apologists should try to read Brian Keenan’s An Evil Cradling, about being held hostage in Beirut for five years under conditions similar to those at Guantanamo. Or they might attempt The Good Listener, Neil Belton’s biography of Helen Bamber, the 76-year-old Brit who helped to establish London’s Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture.

Bamber, who is Jewish, spent years helping the victims of Nazis, of the French army in Algeria, of unscrupulous postwar British and American medical researchers. In 1993, when she went to Israel (to help those tortured by Israel and by Arafat), she explained to a jeering court that being hooded was torture. She knew because she had briefly tested it by wearing a hood for an hour and experiencing the claustrophobia, the gagging, the panic.

Later, the prosecutor tried to apologize, saying he was only doing his job. “Bamber said with great restraint — she was feeling very drained — that that was something she had heard in other places.”…

Back to Andrew McGahan:

…Critics have applauded what they have described as McGahan’s brave exploration of “the urgent social and political issues haunting Australians today”.

“I think there is a real sense of something big coming in Australian arts,” McGahan said. “I think Australia is on the verge of something very dark socially and politically, and in response to that there has to be, and there always is in times of social oppression if you want to call it that, the arts always flourished under that oppression and react against it in outrage and protest. I really think that not just novels, but all sorts of arts, in my case fiction, is going to get quite angry, quite bold and quite fierce and be better novels for that. I look forward to that happening and I think it will.

When asked if his message to the nation’s leaders was to “watch out”, he replied: “I doubt they’d be scared of a bunch of writers but it might add up over the years, so they should be.” …

Right on!

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Posted by on June 24, 2005 in Australia and Australian, book reviews, Fiction, History, OzLit, terrorism, Top read, writers


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