Print this page

Stephanie Guest on Finding Australian Literature at the University of Melbourne

Reviewed by
February 2012, no. 338

Stephanie Guest on Finding Australian Literature at the University of Melbourne

Reviewed by
February 2012, no. 338
I can name many Australian creators of literature. Let not our historians depress them with proofs that they are merely creators of Australian literature.
(W.A. Amiet, Meanjin Papers)

I first discovered Australian literature in Argentina. While I was there studying Argentinian literature at the University of Buenos Aires in 2009–10, I spent many nights hunched over the table in our dingy kitchen with one of my housemates, Teresa. We would pick over the politically infused vernacular of the short stories that I was reading for my class on ‘Problems in Argentinian Literature’. Most days I caught bus number 168, the same route on which Julio Cortázar’s short story ‘Ómnibus’ is set. My encounter with the city became an encounter with its literature. I lived near calle Garay, and walked along it wondering about the possibility of the infinite nutshell window in a Borges basement. Around the corner from my apartment, in the small independent bookshop La Libre, I found a book of contemporary Australian poetry translated into Spanish by Colombian poets. Included were poems by Les Murray. On the cover was a horizon of orange desert, with ‘AUSTRALIA’ in a huge font. At once a rush of recognition and homesickness; then a flush of embarrassment trying to explain to my Argentinean friend why I had never read anything by the famous Australian poet.

From the New Issue