Lucas Smith reviews 'Asylum' by John Hughes

Lucas Smith reviews 'Asylum' by John Hughes

Asylum

by John Hughes

UWA Publishing $24.99 pb, 169 pp, 9781742588261

Two doors, two characters, two colours – black and white – produce a surfeit of grey in John Hughes's short allegorical novel Asylum. Featuring a variety of forms, including manuals for the officials of the regime, personal letters, political tracts, and an inverted retelling of the story of the Garden of Eden in which fully clothed Adam and Eve arrive by boat and God removes their clothes in anger, Asylum is a powerful allegory of Blake's 'mind forg'd manacles'. The swift propellant of narrative change builds a sense of a larger, orderly world which is for some reason being withheld from view. Snippets of bureaucratic reports which employ a god-like tone pepper the narrative. Hughes, the librarian at Sydney Grammar School, and a previous winner of the New South Wales Premier's Award and the National Biography Award for his collection of autobiographical essays, has Ukrainian heritage, and Asylum, with its subtly drawn themes of displacement, liminality, and cultural forgetting, points towards the refugee experience.

Read the rest of this article by purchasing a subscription to ABR Online, or subscribe to the print edition to receive access to ABR Online free of charge.

If you are a single issue subscriber you will need to upgrade your subscription to view back issues.

If you are already subscribed, click here to log in.

Lucas Smith

Lucas Smith

Lucas Smith is a PhD candidate in History at the National Centre for Australian Studies at Monash University. In 2010 he co-edited Farrago. His work has appeared in New Matilda, Eureka Street, The Lifted Brow,and the John Marsden Prize for Young Australian Writers.

Leave a comment

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.

NB: If you are an ABR Online subscriber or contributor, you will need to login to ABR Online in order to post a comment. If you have forgotten your login details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to comments@australianbookreview.com.au. We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.