Tony Hughes-d’Aeth reviews 'Taboo' by Kim Scott

Tony Hughes-d’Aeth reviews 'Taboo' by Kim Scott


by Kim Scott

Picador $32.99 pb, 271 pp, 9781925483741

When a new novel from Kim Scott appears, one feels compelled to talk not only about it as a work of fiction by a leading Australian writer, but also about its cultural significance. In this sense a Kim Scott novel is an event, and Taboo does not disappoint.

Scott’s novels Benang: From the heart (1999) and That Deadman Dance (2010) each won the Miles Franklin Literary Award and each dealt with a core element of Aboriginal experience. Benang was a spiralling treatment of the mechanisms and psychic effects of the assimilation policies of the twentieth century. Its narrator, Harley Scat, hovers up and away from the archive of his mangled ancestry, only to be repeatedly brought crashing down. The novel, like Alexis Wright’s Carpentaria (2006), fell within the international mode known as magical realism, albeit adapted to the particular traumata of Indigenous Australia. Harley’s problem was to discover exactly how it was that he became the ‘first-born-successfully-white-man-in-the-family-line’ and how the hell he could ever escape that success.

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Published in August 2017, no. 393
Tony Hughes-d'Aeth

Tony Hughes-d'Aeth

Tony Hughes-d’Aeth is a senior lecturer in English and Cultural Studies at the University of Western Australia. He is the author of Like Nothing on this Earth: A literary history of the wheatbelt (UWA Publishing, 2017) and Paper Nation: The Story of the Picturesque Atlas of Australasia, 1886–1888 (Melbourne University Press, 2001).

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