'In the mid-1840s, a thirteen-year-old boy, Gemmy Fairley, is cast ashore in the far north of Australia and taken in by Aborigines. Sixteen years later, when settlers reach the area, he moves back into the world of Europeans, men and women who are staking out their small patch of home in an alien place, hopeful and yet terrified of what it might do to them.
Given shelter by the McIvors, the family of the children who originally made contact with him, Gemmy seems at first to be guaranteed a secure role in the settlement, but there are currents of fear and mistrust in the air. To everyone he meets - from George Abbot, the romantically aspiring young teacher, to Mr Frazer, the minister, whose days are spent with Gemmy recording the local flora; from Janet McIvor, just coming to adulthood and discovering new versions of the world, to the eccentric Governor of Queensland himself - Gemmy stands as a different kind of challenge, as a force which both fascinates and repels. And Gemmy himself finds his own whiteness as unsettling in this new world as the knowledge he brings with him of the savage, the Aboriginal.' - Publisher's blurb (Chatto & Windus, 1993).
'What is the present status of imagining a continental scale for literature as it denotes something that is neither national, regional, nor global? How does a continental formation such as Australia’s invite a reframing of the national-global dichotomy so constitutive to the methodologies of world literature? Critical regionalisms, worlding, ‘planetary’ poetics, and systems-based and network analyses of culture, history, and literature all offer rich supplements to national-global thinking, as evidenced by recent developments in world literature theory. This paper turns to the category of continent as one that simultaneously conjures territorial place, geological time-scales, indigenous history, colonial projects, and postcolonial national politics and affiliations. How do these various vectors play out in making and remaking a sense of continental identity? In what ways do literary canons inflect this process? Given the function of canons as a memory discourses of a kind, how do the critical politics of memory structure a reading of Australian, African, Indo-Pakistani, European, or hemispheric American ‘continental literature’?
'This paper does not inventory any of these literatures but rather explores how thinking at a continental scale brings into focus particular aspects of a literary corpus: deep historical time, territorial inheritance, ghost presences of those who were here before, necropolitical violence, ecological being and nonanthropocentric relationality, and more. These aspects turn on various corporealizations or embodiments of a continent (land, canon), but they are also deeply indebted to what might be called continental corpses, that is, the dead who still walk the land, still claim their day, still await their incorporation, and still oblige us to confront the traumatic histories of the past. This paper turns to the landscape of memory, as configured in trauma theory, psychoanalytic theory, and memory studies, in order to theorize the category of continental literature as something distinct from, and certainly useful for, world literature.' (Publication abstract)
'Looking back to the past this paper discusses why Pacific studies and in particular Australasian studies became an area of interest in tertiary education in Europe. What subject areas initiated these studies, and how do past legacies shape the present? With cutbacks in higher education over the past two decades the future of interdisciplinary studies and the humanities looks bleak. At the same time due to global business and increased political communication across borders there is a vibrant interest in and need for such studies among businesses and students. For most Europeans the literature of settler countries, with their European legacy, makes access to ways of thought and culture easier than studies of countries with other mythological backgrounds. In today’s multicultural environment such studies can provide knowledge for an understanding of other cultures and increase tolerance of the ‘other’. Area studies have relevance to our situation in Europe with increased migrancy, not least as a result of Schengen and EU regulations. ' (Author's abstract)
'The essay addresses the poetic dimension of David Malouf's novels, suggesting that a poetics of possibility can be found in all his work. The poetics of possibility is a function both of Malouf’s thematic interest in the future and of his use of poetic language to draw the reader to imagine various kinds of ways of experiencing and knowing the world. The essay draws upon the philosophy of Ernst Bloch to illuminate the utopian dimension of Malouf’s work, whether in seeing the radiance of possibility in simple objects, the silent ‘presence’ at the centre of language, or the possibility of a different kind of future that Australian society might have experienced.' (Publication abstract)
'David Malouf's oeuvre is characterised by a specific treatment of the natural world. Malouf’s sensitivity towards nature is very present in 'Remembering Babylon', inspired by the true story of Gemmy Morrill, ‘lost’ in the ‘wilds’, the novel framed by epigraphs drawn from Romantic poetry. This paper seeks to re-examine this treatment through an ecocritical lens. That is, I seek to explore the novel in terms of its redress of denigrating, exploitative, or idealistic views of human relationships with the non-human natural realm.
'Remembering Babylon' pits characters’ interactions with the natural world in diverse ways and the culminating impression is far from idealistic or apolitical. Ultimately, the novel’s complex rendering of human relationships with place and the non-human animal offers a specific challenge to romanticised visions of place. This argument is counter to some criticism of the novel as idealisation of the natural world at the expense of historically salient political considerations.
''Remembering Babylon' explores the significant political issue of human attitudes to the natural realm in complex ways. In order to reconsider the criticism of idealism, the novel is examined in terms of the genre most closely associated with idealisation of the environment: the pastoral. 'Remembering Babylon' appears to have a complex relationship with what can loosely be termed ‘the pastoral’. The novel revises idealising visions of nature and gently parodies the notion that nature is separate from or a tool of human, cultural concerns, particularly through its figurative and literal foregrounding of the nonhuman animal. The epigraph provides a deliberate and significant signal of Malouf’s challenge to pastoral understandings of nature because the poets cited within it, William Blake and John Clare, arguably offer in their wider body of work what might be termed a post-pastoral ethos that evokes, challenges and thus adapts pastoral idealism of nature. The paper suggests that 'Remembering Babylon' expresses such a post-pastoral ethos, if in a very different context and form from Blake and Clare.' (Publication abstract)
In the brief massacre scene at the end of David Malouf’s 1993 novel Remembering Babylon an unusual weapon of frontier murder is introduced to Australian narrative prose: the swinging stirrup iron. In Alex Miller’s 2002 novel, Journey to the Stone Country, the stirrup iron returns to wreak even more murderous havoc. The stirrup iron functions here to provide a symbolic link to the particularities of violence in colonial Queensland, for it specifically connects the iconic national figure of the cattleman/drover with the killing of Aboriginal people on the frontier. This article examines these texts, and, more briefly, other representations of the Australian cattleman in contemporary Queensland fiction, against a backdrop of recent historical research that reconfigures cattle and their human managers as central to the story of frontier murder and the stealing of Aboriginal land that constituted the colonisation of large parts of Australia, especially of Queensland, in the latter half of the nineteenth century.
David Malouf’s Remembering Babylon (1993) chooses an imagery that evokes a Indigenous-inspired way of dealing with historical experience so as to “heal” the nation. Thus, his fictional attempt at the Reconciliation of mainstream and Indigenous Australia partakes in the official revision of contact history which recognises Indigenous claims upon a de-Aboriginalised past from which an Anglo-Celtic national identity has been constructed. Yet, Malouf’s revision of Australianness is as troubling as the official Reconciliation process proved to be. Malouf’s romantic adaptation of the life of the historic James Murrells—emulating the iconic figure of the white man gone native—replicates the tense 1990s debate on Reconciliation and Apology but takes it out of its political context. Unlike his real-life model, the cultural hybrid Gemmy Fairley is consistently infantilised and feminised at his return to white civilisation, which undercuts his possibilities for agency and takes the reader back to the very tensions in race and gender the narrative underplays but cannot overcome. Whereas Malouf’s subscription to a romantic literary project aims to bring the nation into contact with itself through a healing re-Dreaming of history, this produces a f(r)iction in which re-imagination and distortion of the past uncannily circle through each other, unsettling the political correctness the tale aims to forward. This postcolonial uncanny ambiguity, the result of competing histories and world views, is in tune with the open-endedness of Malouf’s novel: as a postmodern Australian explorer narrative, rather than offering a notion of resolution, its longing for a repaired or “full” Australian identity remains trapped in nostalgia. [From the journal's webpage]
'L’articolo ripercorre il cammino da me seguito nel tradurre David Malouf in italiano: dalla difficoltà di seguire lo scrittore australiano nelle sue scelte stilistiche al desiderio di aderire sia ai campi espressivi da lui prediletti sia a quella chiara nota di leggerezza e precisione che caratterizza la sua prosa. Nel versare in italiano i romanzi di Malouf ho sempre cercato di non esercitare alcun impatto negativo sull’ambiente testuale, sottraendomi alla volontà di dominio sul testo altrui e favorendo un dialogo profondo tra chi scrive e chi offre ospitalità nella propria lingua madre.'
'The article retraces the path I followed in my translation of David Malouf’s works into Italian: from the difficulty of staying in step with the Australian author’s stylistic choices to managing to adhere both to his favourite semantic fields and to that clear note of lightness and precision that characterises his writing. In translating Malouf’s novels my aim has always been to avoid exerting any negative impact on the textual environment, never giving in to the will to dominate the other’s text and trying instead to encourage an intense dialogue between the writer and the translator, offering hospitality in her mother tongue.' (Publication abstract)
Author's abstract: 'A major preoccupation in David Malouf's fiction - particularly in evidence in Remembering Babylon but also in An Imaginary Life - has to do with the relationship between words and things, and with the quest for a kind of language that might be in complete harmony with reality.
At times, Malouf seems to believe this quest can be successful, in spite of the arbitrary and conventional nature of language. But this conviction is undermined by the realisation that language gives shape to reality as we see it, that it is creative rather than simply referential' (99).