At the moment, my hero is Rimbaud’s self in his Les Illuminations. Who knows who it will be tomorrow? And my heroine? Always Lo.... (read more)
Ramona Koval asked Robert Manne what his version of the strange story of Helen Demidenko might be.
Robert Manne: Well there was once, I think, a very strange young Australian woman of English parents, who, for reasons that we don’t understand decided to identify with Ukrainian war criminals. She decided that the Jews had got control of the history of the Holocaust and that a terrible story of what happened to Ukrainians at the hands of Jews had not been told. So she decided to take the name Demidenko because she read in a book that Demidenko was a Ukrainian who had been at Babi Yar where thirty-three thousand Jews were killed. She identified so strongly that she took the name Demidenko and wrote a high school essay in which she imagined what it would be like to be Ivan the Terrible, probably the most monstrous figure that emerges from the killings at Treblinka or at any other extermination camp. She decided to write a novel in which she would adopt the identity, imagining herself to be this daughter of a Ukrainian war criminal, with an uncle who served at Treblinka. And so she wrote a novel. Amazingly enough, not only was her novel published but it won a major award. It so convinced the literary community of its authenticity that it was regarded in 1995 as the best literary work published in the country.... (read more)
Christos Tsiolkas, author of Loaded, is a 29-year-old gay, Greek-Australian who lives in Melbourne. His essays, journalism, and reviews have appeared in the gay press, ethnic press, student, and left-wing journals.... (read more)
Helen Daniel: I find The Sitters very different from The Ancestor Game, which seems to me much more elaborate and complex. This new novel, which is about absence and silence, is an occasion of great economy and restraint.
Alex Miller: I think a couple of times in the book I actually say the story is my secret. In other words, I’m not going to tell you the story, I’m going to leave that out. Having left the story out, this is what’s left, which is always a kind of aim with me, and I think with any writer probably, to try to do as much as possible with as little. To leave it all out.... (read more)
The first draft didn’t have Tristan, this deformed little character. Then I was reading to the kids, Beauty and the Beast. It was very beautifully written, terribly moving – and they were moved. I read it to them many times, thinking it would be interesting to look at that. Then, round about this time, I was walking along the street and glimpsed a terribly deformed young man in a wheelchair. I couldn’t bear to look at him yet I carried with me afterwards a vision, this bright, bright intelligence and this weird twisted-up face. It was quite moving and, having flinched from it, as from a fire or being cut, I began to make myself think about what was in there. That really goes back again to the very beginning of my work, the short stories. In the very beginning I was affected by Faulkner and As I Lay Dying because Faulkner was giving rich, interior worlds to people who you might otherwise pass by. That’s been a continual thing in my work, perhaps.... (read more)
In his latest novel, Moments of Pleasure, Julian Davies continues his exploration of father and son relationships, and of the role of desire in women’s lives. He talks here about his interest in contemporary manners, beginning by answering the question, why so much talk and so little pleasure?... (read more)
Catherine Kenneally: The first thing that strikes me is that there are now two books in a row with Christian symbols on the cover.
Peter Goldsworthy: Yes, well I didn’t have much say in the cover of that one. They showed it to me. Interestingly there was the novel, Honk if You Are Jesus and then a novella called Jesus Wants Me For a Sunbeam – probably more interesting to me because that’s my own work. I’m not sure what that means. Maybe that’s the mythical 1960s generation getting into middle age and starting to worry about death and the afterlife and all that stuff.
I’ve always been fascinated by those almost banal adolescent questions, why is there something rather than nothing. I’ve never fully outgrown them, and maybe you shouldn’t outgrow them. It is the basic question, why are we here?, and all those whys that continue to fascinate me.... (read more)
Award-winning Western Australian poet Philip Salem is both surprised and delighted by the response to his first novel, Playback. Simon Patton spoke to him recently during a brief visit to Melbourne.... (read more)