Félix Calvino’s short novel tells the story of a young man who moves to Australia to escape Franco’s Spain. The strange thing about the book (given that its author has spent so long in Australia) is how unlike contemporary Australian literature it is. David Malouf has championed Calvino, but then there has always been something essentially Mediterranean about the author of Ransom. Flaubert was uncompromising in his belief that the author’s opinions and even ideas should remain absent from a work of literary art. If the French master thought the novel of ideas was a degraded thing, what would he have thought of the Australian ‘novel of issues’, the books (we all know them) that might have been written off the back of an episode of Q&A. Alfonso bolsters no Australian cultural myths, nor does it succumb to the equally tiresome genre that is ‘myth debunking’.
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