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Nicholas Jose

The Gleaner Song by by Song Lin, translated by Dong Li & Vociferate | 詠 by Emily Sun

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September 2021, no. 435

The Chinese poet is so often a wanderer and an exile. The tradition goes back to Qu Yuan (c.340–278 BCE), author of ‘Encountering Sorrow’, the honest official who was banished from court and drowned himself in a river, and it continues to our time. During the Sino–Japanese war (1937–45) a group of patriotic early Chinese modernists were displaced from their Beijing universities to an improvised campus in the south-west, where they read avant-garde Western poetry.

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‘Unerring muse that makes the casual perfect’: Robert Lowell’s compliment to his friend Elizabeth Bishop comes to mind as I read Helen Garner. She is another artist who reveres the casual for its power to disrupt and illuminate. Nothing is ever really casual for her, but rather becomes part of a perfection that she resists at the same time. The ordinary in these diaries – the daily, the diurnal, the stumbled-upon, the breathing in and out – is turned into something else through the writer’s extraordinary craft.

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The China Journals: Ideology and intrigue in the 1960s by Hugh Trevor-Roper, edited by Richard Davenport-Hines

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November 2020, no. 426

When the Society for Anglo-Chinese Understanding (SACU) invited Hugh Trevor-Roper, Regius Professor of History at the University of Oxford, to visit China in 1965, he jumped at the chance. It was a decision that all parties concerned came to regret. The eminent historian had a terrible time in China, ‘that land of bigots and parrots’. He didn’t meet the right people. He found no intellectual equals. The interpreters and guides assigned to the group weren’t up to the job. He nicknamed them Cement-head, Duckbottom, Smooth-face, and the Presbyterian.

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In his searching introduction to this immense volume, the editor, Harvard scholar David Der-Wei Wang, refers to the ‘architectonics of temporalities’ by which the project re-maps and re-chronicles Chinese literary history. A New Literary History of Modern China follows the model of the provocatively kaleidoscopic slice ...

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To celebrate the best books of 2017 Australian Book Review invited nearly forty contributors to nominate their favourite titles. Contributors include Michelle de Kretser, Susan Wyndham, James Ley, Geordie Williamson, Jane Sullivan, Tom Griffiths, Mark Edele, and Brenda Niall.

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Originally published in German, Albrecht Dümling’s The Vanished Musicians: Jewish refugees in Australia (Peter Lang), a fascinating compendium of Jewish musicians who found refuge in Australia in the 1930s and 1940s, is now available in Australian Diana K. Weekes’s excellent translation ...

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'Bobbin Up was written in 1958 during eight weeks of the coldest Sydney winter on record', recalled Dorothy Hewett in her introduction to the Virago Modern Classics reprint of her ...

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Books of the Year is always one our most popular features. Find out what our 41 contributors liked most this year – and why.

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In Charles Simić’s book about Joseph Cornell’s assemblages, Dime-Store Alchemy (1992), he quotes his own translation of Croatian poet Slavko Mihalić to describe Cornell’s sculpture ‘Deserted Perch, 1949’, noting ‘the very tiny crack in which another world begins and ends’. Simićmarvels at this ‘Illusionist art ... sleight of hand’.

In the absorbing introduction to the stories in Bapo, Nicholas Jose describes bāpò as ‘an unusual kind of Chinese painting that tricks the eye into thinking it sees a collage of fragments’. Under the disguise of collection and assembly, the painter’s hand creates a trompe-l’œil of torn, burnt, pasted fragments. Jose describes his version as assemblage, and like Cornell, who reinvented discarded scraps and oddments, he finds in bāpò an ‘aesthetic of illusion and salvage, of creative retrieval’.

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The physiotherapist I saw for a pinched nerve in my back not long ago turned out to be an avid reader of fiction. She would work her way through the Booker shortlist each year. But she wouldn’t read Australian novels. As she pummelled my knotted flesh, I wondered if this was the right moment to admit that I was a person who wrote such things. She explained that, having moved to Australia from South Korea as a twelve-year-old, she had been made to write essays at school about a book called A Fortunate Life that she found as painful as I was finding her pressure on my spine.

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