Archive

The Art of the Engine Driver by Stephen Carroll & Summerland: A Novel by Malcolm Knox

by
November 2001, no. 236

If history is a graveyard of dead aristocracies, the novel is their eulogy. It is now, for instance, a critical commonplace to explain the young Proust’s entry into the closed world of France’s nobility as an occurrence made possible by its dissolution. Close to death, holding only vestigial power, the fag ends of the ancien régime lost the will or ...

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The cover illustration of Peter Porter’s selection of essays shows a mosaic from the Basilica di S. Marco, Venezia, in which Noah leans out from the wall of the Ark and releases the questing dove. The last words of the selection go ...

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These days I am no longer sure what is memory and what is revelation. How faithful the story you are about to read is to the original is a bone of contention with the few people I had allowed to read the original Book of Fish … certainly, the book you will read is the same as the book I remember reading ... ... (read more)

Tigers and ‘the Silk Road to Istanbul’ feature in Part I of ‘1969’, the opening poem in this volume, which traces a hopeful setting forth into the undiscovered spaces of Asia and Europe. It is playfully exotic even while the homeward pull of a relationship envelops perception like a cloudscape:

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Following True Stories, published in 1996, The Feel of Steel is Helen Garner’s second collection of non-fiction. It comprises thirty-one pieces of varying lengths. Longer narratives such as ‘Regions of Thick-Ribbed Ice’, about a hair-raising trip to Antarctica, and ‘A Spy in the House of Excrement’, about the outcome ...

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The episode of the refugees on the MV Tampa raised two separate problems, one moral, the other legal. To see both issues in perspective, it is useful to recall the facts that precipitated this unlikely crisis.

The refugees, most of them claiming to be from Afghanistan, embarked on a boat in Indonesia and headed for Australia. It began to sink. The master of the Tampa, quite properly, rescued them. He was about to take them to Indonesia when some of them threatened to commit suicide if they were not taken to Australia. He considered that many were in need of urgent medical help. He sailed towards Christmas Island and radioed for help, but none was given. He was asked to turn away, but considered the risks to life too great. Thus it was that 450 refugees found themselves in Australian territorial waters.

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Travelling to the Association for the Study of Australian Literature (ASAL) conference on the morning tram, I marvel at Melbourne’s sophistication and self-regard. In Swanston Street, new sculptures honour John Brack’s satire of Melbourne’s regimented workers, while in front of the State Library there’s a classical portal half buried in the pavement, as if the ancient world lies below. At the Trades Hall in Carlton, the framed wall directory is ‘Heritage Only’, so I follow the photocopied paper arrows to the conference venue. There’s more historical self-consciousness here than in the new National Museum in Canberra. Banners assert the importance of eight hours’ work, recreation and rest, and there is a massive socialist realist representation of good Australian workers toiling to keep the country alive. We’re in the sacred place of the Left: Frank Hardy, Stephen Murray-Smith, Judah Waten surely haunt us here. 

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Of all major South-East Asian nations, the Philippines is least known in Australia, and rarely studied, even in our universities. The material and historical differences between the two countries seem to have blinded us to the interests our two countries share. Australia did not support the long Filipino struggle for independence, as with Indonesia’s, nor actively oppose it, as with Vietnam’s. Nonetheless, both countries were part of SEATO and supported US involvement in Indo-China. Within ASEAN, the Philippines has often been the country most sympathetic to greater links with Australia, and the Philippines is regarded as a high-priority country for development assistance by Ausaid.

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In February 1974, Robert Rose, a twenty-two-year-old Australian Rules footballer and Victorian state cricketer, was involved in a car accident that left him quadriplegic for the remaining twenty-five years of his life. The tragedy received extensive press coverage and struck a chord with many in and beyond the Melbourne sporting community ...

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Attending a poetry festival is not normally considered a life-threatening event (not even if you are prone to deep vein thrombosis from constant sitting) but when I told my family I was going to Struga, I was greeted by worried looks and expressions of deep concern. Struga is in the Republic of Macedonia. Just days before, Macedonian hotheads had set fire to a mosque in Prilip (not that far from Struga) in revenge for the death of a Prilip policeman in a road-mine explosion planted by Albanian terrorists. The hair-trigger tensions in that country were clearly dangerous, and possibly escalating.

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