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Patrick Allington questions ‘What is Australia, anyway?’

June 2011, no. 332

Patrick Allington questions ‘What is Australia, anyway?’

June 2011, no. 332
‘Arran Avenue, Hamilton, Brisbane, Australia ... Why Australia? What is Australia, anyway?’ 
(Dante, in David Malouf’s Johnno)

Some footy talk before the book chat: I saw Wayne Carey play once, in Adelaide. He was a puppeteer that day. You would have needed a panoramic view – television doesn’t capture it – to appreciate that his every movement dictated when and where his teammates and opponents ran, jumped, kicked, handballed, tackled, and hit. Carey had it all: strength, stamina, ingenuity, and goal sense; he was a genius in a crisis. According to journalist Mike Sheahan, he was the best player of all time.[1] Yet Carey never won the code’s highest individual award. The AFL awards the Brownlow Medal to the ‘fairest and best player’ in the home and away season, as voted by umpires. On the field, Carey possessed a confidence in his own ability that metastasised into arrogance. He backchatted umpires; he threw his weight around, especially in the early years; he was ‘happy to use low-level violence’.[2] Wayne Carey, often the best, was rarely the fairest.

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Comment (1)

  • I read this very enjoyable article and then Googled the "Premio Strega", Italy's most prestigious literary award, given to an "Italian author" who can write about any subject and set the story in any place. Umberto Eco's "The Name of the Rose" which won it in 1981 had hardly an "Italian" character in it although it was set in northern Italy. Of the two protagonists one was English and the other from what is now Austria. The Miles judges would have a fit trying to sort that one out, especially given that there was no such thing as Italy at the time. The Italians have no identity issues whereas clearly Ms Franklin did. She clearly intended that candidates would be set in Australia, not always but preferably in the bush, and have descendants of the English or Irish as protagonists. Our Prime Minister's Prize makes much more sense. Just give it a proper name, as Patrick Allington suggests, and let the Miles go on its merry way. I'd rather just celebrate our great novelists.
    Posted by Moreno Giovannoni
    24 June 2011

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