'The year is 1947. The great fire of the Second World War has convulsed Europe and Asia. In its wake, Aldred Leith, an acclaimed hero of the conflict, has spent two years in China at work on an account of world-transforming change there. Son of a famed and sexually ruthless novelist, Leith begins to resist his own self-sufficiency, nurtured by war. Peter Exley, another veteran and an art historian by training, is prosecuting war crimes committed by the Japanese. Both men have narrowly escaped death in battle, and Leith saved Exley's life. The men have maintained long-distance friendship in a postwar loneliness that haunts them both, and which has swallowed Exley whole. Now in their thirties, with their youth behind them and their world in ruins, both must invent the future and retrieve a private humanity.
'Arriving in Occupied Japan to record the effects of the bomb at Hiroshima, Leith meets Benedict and Helen Driscoll, the Australian son and daughter of a tyrannical medical administrator. Benedict, at twenty, is doomed by a rare degenerative disease. Helen, still younger, is inseparable from her brother. Precocious, brilliant, sensitive, at home in the books they read together, these two have been, in Leith's words, delivered by literature. The young people capture Leith's sympathy; indeed, he finds himself struggling with his attraction to this girl whose feelings are as intense as his own and from whom he will soon be fatefully parted.'
Source: Publisher's blurb.
Parce que, j'ai voulu te redire je t'aime
Et que le mot fait mal quand il est dit sans toi. (Lois Aragon)
'Over a publishing career spanning a half-century from the early 1960s. Shirley Hazzard published four acclaimed novels: The Evening of the Holiday (1961), The Bay of Noon (1970), The Transit of Venus (1980) and The Great Fire (2003). These novels focus on the intertwined matter of low and loss: they rake her readers into complex moral territory, with the certainties and compulsions of sexual and romantic love tested throughout by individual vulnerability. At the same time, and much in the manner of novels written a century earlier, they take up what Harvard referred to as "public themes," that is, the substantial human matter of political and social life, played out against the backdrop of the globalising world of the second half of the twentieth century.' (Introduction)
'This essay examines two very different Australian literary representations of the event and the site of Hiroshima Nam Les short story "Hiroshima" presents the time leading up to the American bombing of Hiroshima through the unknowing eyes of a child , who will witness the event in the final moments of the narrative. By contrast, Shirley Hazzard, in her fiction and her public writing, represents the period after the bombing through the eyes of Europeans—that is to say, Britons and Australian—visiting the ruined city, basing these observations on her oval experience of visiting the site in 1947. My interest in this essay is with the tensions between these two literary events, separated in time and cohering around a bleariest event that happens outside the frame of the narrative in both cases, and the ways they highlight some of the complications of national literary forms and representations. This point is compounded by the divergences between the two earth , both acclaimed in Australia and internationally. Nam Le arrived in Australia with his family as a child, a refugee, while Hazzard left at age sixteen and insists that she has no obvious or literal homeland. The work of both authors is characterised by global topographies and imaginings; however, Le tells us that the diverse locations of his fiction are based in research, while Hazzard's narratives are demonstrably based on her own experiences.' (Introduction)