Re.press, $25 pb, 175 pp
The Trip is what happens when Ancient Greek mythology is mixed with Australian history. In a breezy 175 pages, George Papaellinas provides a rewriting of Homer’s Odyssey. He also revisits various highlights (and lowlights) from our country’s past. The result is an amusing and highly idiosyncratic read.
Papaellinas’s novel is narrated by the god Odysseus, or ‘Oddy’, as he is commonly known. In the opening pages, Oddy is ‘an old guy’ who is working ‘in the retirement village up the road from the pub’. He would rather spend time at the pub, but is instead participating in the ‘Work For the Dole Scheme’ set up by ‘John-John Howard’. Mr Howard is the ‘terribly conservative’ and ‘puritanical’ prime minister of Australia (called ‘Arfstraya’) who is ‘outraged’ at the idea that senior citizens such as Oddy might be living off the public purse.
The elderly Oddy admits that his most energetic activities nowadays include ‘drinking beer all day’ and ‘rolling the oldies over in their beds’. However, he does admit to having made Forrest Gump-style appearances in various famous historical moments. We read about Oddy cooking ‘kebab sangers’ at Gallipoli, having a drink with the ‘corrupt coppers’ Burke and Wills, and working as a jockey for his ‘big brown mate’, Phar Lap. Oddy also reminds readers that he is a ‘wog’ and a ‘migrant’, but that his ‘story is a very Arfstrayan one. It’s full of winners and losers, insiders and outsiders.’