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HQ Fiction

Untethered by Ayesha Inoon & The Scope of Permissibility by Zeynab Gamieldien

October 2023, no. 458

The migrant’s story is defined by a push and pull between homelands left and new ones found – past and present, tradition and modernity, family and fragmentation are constantly at odds with each other. The migrant’s child’s story enters a new space of liminality, belonging to two cultures, yet being outside both, creating a potential crisis of identity as profound as a crisis of home. The migrant’s grandchild continues the narrative, unearthing intergenerational fractures.

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By the end of Hugh Breakey’s The Beautiful Fall (Text, $32.99 pb, 349 pp), it is hard to remember that the prologue hinted at stimulating possibilities. In it, Robbie’s past self writes to his present one, explaining that he suffers from recurring amnesia, which strikes every 179 days. Readers could be mistaken for thinking they are in for meditations on time and memory, maybe even on the meaning of a life lived episodically. When it is revealed that Robbie is building an intricate arrangement of 83,790 dominoes in his living room, readers might even imagine a novel that touches on metaphysical themes in the vein of Jorge Luis Borges.

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Is it tautological to describe a work of fiction as ‘family Gothic’? After all, there’s nothing more inherently Gothic than the family politic: a hierarchical structure ruled by a patriarch, as intolerant of transgression as it is fascinated by it, sustaining itself through a clear us/them divide, all the while proclaiming, ‘The blood is the life.’ Yet three new Australian novels Gothicise the family politic by exaggerating, each to the point of melodrama, just how dangerous a family can become when its constituents turn against one another.

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