Sumner Locke Elliott

Although Sumner Locke Elliott spent more than half his life as an American, his native country Australia was, for him, his land of imagination where memory could be both crystallised and transformed and temporal and spatial boundaries ceased to exist. Of his ten published novels, six (or five and a half, as he liked to say) were set in Australia. Not coincidentally, I think, these were his most successful. His death in June, at the age of seventy-three, marked the passing of not only an incandescent literary talent but also a generous spirit, a superior and entertaining wit and, that rarest of all species, a successful yet humble man.

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About Tilly Beamis by Sumner Locke Elliott

April 1986, no. 79

Expatriate Australian writer and now naturalised American citizen Sumner Locke Elliott seems to have written this novel to dramatise his own sense of cultural displacement and identity. Cutting back and forth in time (between 1978 and 1950) and place (Australia and the United States), it traces the attempt of a woman named Tanya van Zandt in New York to retrace the whereabouts and identity of an Australian, Tilly Beamis, who turns out to be (it does not take the alert reader long to recognise) her actual former self.

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