Issue Details: First known date: 2010 2010
AustLit is a subscription service. The content and services available here are limited because you have not been recognised as a subscriber. Find out how to gain full access to AustLit

AbstractHistoryArchive Description

There is a symbolic moment early in David Malouf's Remembering Babylon (1993) when the nearly-naked Gemmy Fairley, the prodigal 'whitefella' who has grown up amidst mid-nineteenth century Australian Aborigines, tries to bridge a communication gap with the white villagers of a Queensland settlement and strips off the meagre strip of cloth tied at his waist. Gemmy can offer no more than a generally incoherent babble, and that strip of cloth, itself the remains of a jacket, is the only "proof of what he claimed" (Malouf 3) in his wild biographical gesticulations. It is a key moment because it draws attention to a cultural anxiety that is no secret in the novel: the villagers are all uneasy about Aborigines, "those presences they are unable or unwilling to acknowledge" (Brady 95), and Gemmy is a fundamental problem because "the settlers see themselves as a different species from the Aborigines" (Brady 96). Gemmy's appearance reveals an uncomfortable truth: colonial subjects can slip into that Aboriginal realm designated by Western imperial-colonialism as the degenerated Other.' (Author's introduction)


  • Epigraph: By nature I mean that problematical thing called human nature, which I find difficult to dissociate from animal nature. —David Malouf, interview with Paul Kavanagh (249)

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

  • Appears in:
    y Ariel vol. 41 no. 2 April 2010 Z1893052 2010 periodical issue 2010 pg. 75-88
Last amended 9 Oct 2012