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‘When my family saw the first train they thought it was a giant caterpillar coming, and threw spears and stones at it. They got real frighted true,’ writes Hilary Williams, an Anangu woman living in Yalata, South Australia, in a new collection, Desert Writing: Stories from Country. (Introduction)
'Until Tom Keneally won the Booker Prize for Schindler’s Ark in 1982, the author bio in his books always included the line, ‘He trained for several years for the Catholic priesthood but did not take Orders’. As a young man, Keneally ran up against a psychosomatic paralysis telling him he could not commit to an institution that frowned on literary pursuits, sent a few of its postulants mad, and showed a lack of charity towards its own. It pushed Keneally onto the street and into writing. Historian John Molony, friend and fellow ex-seminarian, once told Keneally that he would not become a great novelist until he had written the church out of his system. If his publishers thought he had, and dropped mention of his church ties once he got to the Schindler story, in fact, his continued exploration of how mortal weakness, religious ideals and institutional tyrannies are enmeshed has constituted the core of his art over a long career.' (Introduction)
'Heather Rose’s career as a novelist has been pursued with a calm daring. Her four adult novels are notable for their narrative experimentation and for the different ways in which each tests readers’ credulity. ' (Introduction)
'George Gittoes is an autobiographical artist, almost to an obsessional degree, and like his life-long hero, Vincent van Gogh, he is an artist in whom the audience is required to believe, particularly in the sincerity of his autobiographical narrative. ' (Introduction)
'Late last year, in the dying days of the American presidential campaign, the World Wildlife Fund published its most recent Living Planet Report. Published biennially, these reports have long made sobering reading, but 2016’s took that to a new level, declaring that between 1970 and 2012 close to 60 per cent of the world’s wildlife had disappeared, and that without concerted action that figure was projected to reach 67 per cent by 2020. In other words, humans were close to having wiped out more than two thirds of the world’s wildlife in just half a century.'
'Late on a Monday afternoon in April, I cross Buenos Aires to hear J.M Coetzee give a speech. The journey takes two and a half hours. I leave the cobbled streets, antique stores, and tourist crowds of colonial San Telmo, ride the subway to Retiro Station, and catch a commuter train on the Mitre Line that takes me about 25 kilometres north-west of the centre. As we leave the downtown area, broad boulevards and grand public buildings make way for factories, freeways, and drab apartment blocks. I disembark at Miguelete, the second last station, outside the city limits on the edge of the conurbano, the ring of industrial and working-class neighbourhoods surrounding the federal capital. Imagine a version of Western Sydney with upward of ten million residents. Densely populated, growing fast, and vital to winning government nationally, Greater Buenos Aires is hugely important to the country economically and culturally. But because nearly 40 per cent of the population lives in poverty (on the latest figures from the national statistics institute), and because it has been the heartland of Peronism, the populist workers’ movement that has dominated Argentine politics since the 1940s, the conurbano is often represented as a menace in the mainstream Argentine media. When I ask a group of students for directions to the university campus, they lead me through a suburb of low-set cement buildings, pot-holed streets, and rubble. We cut through an old railway yard where carriages lie rusting in long grass, and squeeze through a gap in the chain-link fence.' (Introduction)