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.