'In Gould's Book of Fish (2003), author Richard Flanagan manages to invent a format in which content and style account for historical events on Sarah Island, Tasmania in the 1820s, yet he does so in a manner that is not in the least objective, disinterested or fact-orientated. The perspective of Gould's Book of Fish's (Flanagan, 2003) first-person narrator is highly subjective, usually unreliable and always less than truthful. Flanagan (2003) thereby shows that literature can provide a form of knowledge that differs from historical truth, but without being its dialectical opposite. Literature can construct a non-referential narrative space in which experiences unfold that hardly unimaginable. Literature can show the urge and desire to understand historical events that are terrible to relate to. It can invent a story that can account for the consequences of a violent colonial system. Yet, above all, the novel stresses a desire to render stories of unspeakable horrors through what can be call the “becoming-fish” of its first-person narrator. This desire expresses a hyperbolic love of each and everyone, one which extends so far as to even include all the other wonders of this world in its account too. By depicting convicts and natives as loving and lovable persons, author Richard Flanagan (2003) refrains from reducing them to the colonial conditions in which they were caught up. He thereby offers a point of view that differs from Giorgio Agamben's (1998) highly influential account of “bare life.” I will take this perspective, in which life and its conditions cannot be lumped together, as a point of departure from which to criticise Agamben's (1998) transhistorical and transnational account of biopolitical determinations of life.' (Publication abstract)
'Irony is an underlying factor of magical realist fiction. Richard Flanagan’s novel Gould’s Book of Fish (2001) is imbued with a particular kind of irony that results from a gap between a contemporary reader’s lament for a lost pre-modern world, that of Indigenous Tasmanians, and the book’s eponymous nineteenth-century narrator’s rage about the disappearance of that culture, one which the British convict cannot fully comprehend. Flanagan exploits and plays with this irony by using a range of epistemological magical realist techniques and associated metafictional devices. This enables Flanagan to navigate around his position as a white settler author to indirectly portray Tasmanian pre-colonial society. The novel creates a second type of irony by attacking the European Enlightenment as being a tool for imperialist domination and the subjugation of Indigenous societies, while at the same time the text upholds the Enlightenment’s humanitarian ideals. Gould’s Book of Fish, therefore, plays a critical role in the development of magical realism in contemporary Australian fiction.' (Publication abstract)
'This book is about how Australians have responded to stories about suffering and injustice in Australia, presented in a range of public media, including literature, history, films, and television. Those who have responded are both ordinary and prominent Australians–politicians, writers, and scholars. All have sought to come to terms with Australia's history by responding empathetically to stories of its marginalized citizens.
'Drawing upon international scholarship on collective memory, public history, testimony, and witnessing, this book represents a cultural history of contemporary Australia. It examines the forms of witnessing that dominated Australian public culture at the turn of the millennium. Since the late 1980s, witnessing has developed in Australia in response to the increasingly audible voices of indigenous peoples, migrants, and more recently, asylum seekers. As these voices became public, they posed a challenge not only to scholars and politicians, but also, most importantly, to ordinary citizens.
'When former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd delivered his historic apology to Australia's indigenous peoples in February 2008, he performed an act of collective witnessing that affirmed the testimony and experiences of Aboriginal Australians. The phenomenon of witnessing became crucial, not only to the recognition and reparation of past injustices, but to efforts to create a more cosmopolitan Australia in the present. This is a vital addition to Transactions critically acclaimed Memory and Narrative series.' (Publisher's blurb)