'Isaac, a Greek Australian in his late 20s, spirals out of control when he's forced to confront his own family's cursed legacy on his first trip to Europe - with the continent's haunted past and troubled present pressing in on him.'
Source: Inside Film website
Epigraph: To a saintly man
- So goes an Arab tale-
God said somewhat maliciously:
'Had I revealed to people
How great a sinner you are,
They could not praise you.'
'And I,' answered the pious one,
'Had I unveiled to them
How merciful you are,
They could not care for you.' (Czeslaw Milosz)
In a wide-ranging interview, Tsiolkas discusses film and television adaptations of his work, critical reception of his work, his politics, the role of sex in his books, and what the description of his books as 'controversial' might mean.
'On the publication of The Slap, Christos Tsiolkas has become a major figure in the literary life of Australia and beyond. This article examines whether this novel continues the concerns of his earlier fiction, especially those of his first novel Loaded, or whether, in style, content and characterisation, it abandons what many would see as a predominantly queer literary and political project in favour of addressing the concerns of mostly middle-class and straight inner-suburban Melburnians. It questions whether the shift in themes and characters has been the reason the book has gathered so much more attention than his previous works. Does the novel overtly address the so-called 'mainstream'? And if it does, is there a corresponding shift away from Tsiolkas's previous concerns? I argue that while it does appear to occupy more middle ground, the novel in fact performs a queering of that space, not only via inclusive characterisation but also via narrative and literary technique. In doing so, Tsiolkas enacts a profound ethics of inclusion that has ramifications for conceptions of the Australian nation.' (Author's abstract)
Catherine Padmore's article seeks to understand the 'spectral effect' of Dead Europe. She explores 'two (out of many possible) main ideas, both of which involve a form of literary possession. These are:
1. The strategic use of the ghost story form to produce uncanny effects;
2. The lingering and difficult question of whether or not this novel is anti-Semitic.' (p.53)
Padmore concludes: 'Dead Europe can disturb readers on a number of levels. It uses traditional ghost story techniques and encourages reader identification with a confronting character to create a compelling literary possession not simply between characters within the book but between book and reader. In this way it provokes, but does not answer, multiple questions. Lodged in me, the novel's ghosts continue to provoke, unsettle and disturb, long after reading has finished.' (p.62)
David Sornig explores the idea that Andrew McCann's Subtopia and Christos Tsiolkas's Dead Europe render 'versions of Berlin, and engage the narrative uncertainty of the fall of the Berlin Wall in a way that can be read to follow from Derrida's exploration of the logic of the ghost, the hauntology he describes in Specters of Marx, which suggests that the presence of the past should be interrogated not as a final post-Historical object, as Fukuyama [in The End of History and The Last Man] might suggest, but rather as this heterogeneous inheritance, as multiple as its iterations'.
Sornig discusses the ways in which McCann's and Tsiolkas's narratives 'weigh the eschatological status of Berlin'.
'In two recent Australian and New Zealand novels, Christos Tsiolkas' Dead Europe (2005) and Elizabeth Knox's The Vintner's Luck (1999) respectively, Europe is cast as hell according to the matter of abjection and the temporality of the sublime. As Kristeva theorises this relationship, "the abject is edged with the sublime. It is not the same moment on the journey, but the same subject and speech bring them into being." (1982:11) This essay investigates these two moments arguing that the irruption of the abject or shock of the sublime also enacts a temporal disturbance. In Dead Europe and The Vintner's Luck, the immanence of the abject and sublime is figured according to an insistence on embodiment, propelled by homoerotic and perverse desires and haunted by an irreducible otherness. This essay takes up the theme of ASAL 2007 "the colonial present" in its consideration of temporality and substance - the present, and presence - in these two novels that flesh out queer spaces within individual and national identity.
'These two texts, individually, but perhaps more potently in their conversation, figure queerness as the becoming and undoing of the subject, the locus of a necessary impossibility and a queer opposition to the logic of opposition.
'This essay analyses The Vintner's Luck, and Dead Europe in order to show, via the rhetorical operations of queerness, how the dark matter of literature, by seeping into impossible spaces, opens up new possibilities.' (Author's abstract)