Issue Details: First known date: 2009 2009
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In researching The Secret River (SR) Kate Grenville mobilised apocryphal stories in two ways: by employing and discarding a family apocryphal story; and by creating an alternative history of the Hawkesbury River settlement that is potentially apocryphal. Analysing SR as apocryphal oral family history and as national collective memory further clarifies its cultural and literary context. Grenville deliberately revives a hidden story of Australian settlement in which Indigenous people are massacred, for the purpose of writing against the historical canon - her reconciliatory gesture as a privileged beneficiary of her ancestor's presumed dispossession of Indigenous people. Whether or not SR finds its place in Australian collective memory, its reception exposes points of tension between historical fiction writers and historians. This paper focuses on the way Searching for the Secret River (SFSR) explicates the contradictions and anxieties embodied in Grenville's fictional text, rather than on the text itself, and her shaping of apocryphal narratives in particular times. Recent contretemps over the credibility of Australian historical fiction make an investigation of apocryphal stories timely. The Secret River, a literary transformation of historically unreliable, archetypal stories speculates about an alternative hidden history and has been economically successful; it bears the hallmarks of apocryphal stories. Source:

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Last amended 16 Jul 2009
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