'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Given shelter by the McIvors, the family of the children who originally made contact with him, Gemmy seems at first to be guaranteed a secure role in the settlement, but there are currents of fear and mistrust in the air.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).
In a society where migration plays a significant role our identities become ambivalent to ourselves and only partly legible to others. This article will reflect on the role of the written word, political, social, and literary, as a narrative of multiple homes. Among the issues which determine the discourses and narratives of ‘multiple homes’ and ‘unhomely belonging’ are language and language politics (situational or real), beliefs about identities as solid and identifiable, constant border-crossings as central to many people’s lives, and the collision of social and cultural codes in the meanings and practices assigned to ‘the foreigner’.
'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)
'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)
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]
This article examines the portrayal of settlers as consciously differentiating their whiteness from what they regard as inferior races and cultures and discusses white Australia's process of reconciliation with Aboriginal Australia.