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Image courtesy of Giramondo Publishing
y separately published work icon The Garden Book single work   novel  
Issue Details: First known date: 2005... 2005 The Garden Book
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  • Epigraph: O where is the garden of Being that is only known in Existence
    As the command to be never there, the sentence by which
    Alephs of throbbing fact have been banished into position,
    The clock that dismisses the moment into the turbine of time?
    (W. H. Auden, For the Time Being)
  • Epigraph: Writing letters, however, means to denude oneself before the ghosts,
    something for which they greedily wait. Written kisses don't reach their destination, rather they are drunk on the way by the ghosts. It is on this ample nourishment that they multiply so enormously. Humanity senses this and fights against it and in order to eliminate as far as possible the ghostly element between people and to create a natural communication, the peace of souls, it has invented the railway, the motor car, the areoplane. But it's no longer any good, these are evidently inventions being made at the moment of crashing. The opposing side is so much calmer and stronger; after the postal service it has invented the telegraph, the telephone, the radiograph. The ghosts won't starve, but we will perish.
    (Franz Kafta, Letter to Milena Jesenka)

Affiliation Notes

  • Associated with the AustLit subset Australian Literary Responses to 'Asia' as the work contains an Australian character of Chinese heritage.

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

    • Artarmon, North Sydney - Lane Cove area, Sydney Northern Suburbs, Sydney, New South Wales,: Giramondo Publishing , 2005 .
      person or book cover
      Image courtesy of Giramondo Publishing
      Extent: 316p.
      ISBN: 1920882103
Alternative title: 园书
Transliterated title: Yuan shu
Language: Chinese

Works about this Work

“Am I Chinese before I Am a Woman or Am I a Woman First?” : Gender and Racial Melancholia in Brian Castro's The Garden Book Zhuoling Tian , 2022 single work criticism
— Appears in: Journal of Australian Studies , vol. 46 no. 4 2022; (p. 434-449)

'The female protagonist in The Garden Book is the site of both imaginary and symbolic fantasy, as well as the melancholic real. In this article, I explore how a Chinese-Australian woman comes to inhabit a melancholic position of racial and gendered difference, and how Brian Castro, through his portrayal, deconstructs identity markers such as race, gender and nation. Born and raised in Australia, Swan is a legitimate Australian citizen. However, her Asian appearance and gender identity compromise her legitimacy as a subject of the Australian nation-state. The Chinese-Australian woman as image and fantasy of Oriental femininity becomes a spectre, an “Other” haunting the history and memory of white Australia. Castro’s writing shows how racial and sexual difference constructs and deconstructs identity, individual as well as national. In Swan’s case, gendered racialisation derived from imperialism disrupts the coherence of national citizenship. Reading the character of Swan as presented through the eyes of the men in her life, this article provides an alternative site where what is excluded, disavowed and lost in white Australia becomes visible. Swan’s racial and gendered melancholia allows us to see imperial violence and colonial eroticism at the heart of cultural essentialism and nationalism.' (Introduction) 

Transpatriation Processes and Early Twenty-First-Century Transcultural Novels in the Global Age Arianna Dagnino , 2016 single work criticism
— Appears in: Border Crossings 2016; (p. 204-217)

'Why focus on transcultural novels? Because, historically, the novel represents one of the earliest examples of a global cultural literary product related to the modern age. In its planetary travels, it has become a literary mutant in the transnational arena of world literature or, as Eileen Julien would say, it has become a creole form, 'a global forma franca, the privileged and prestigious form beyond the nation's border...' (Introduction)

y separately published work icon Transcultural Writers and Novels in the Age of Global Mobility Arianna Dagnino , Lafayette : Purdue University Press , 2015 8887143 2015 single work criticism

'In Transcultural Writers and Novels in the Age of Global Mobility, Arianna Dagnino analyzes a new type of literature emerging from artists’ increased movement and cultural flows spawned by globalization. This "transcultural" literature is produced by authors who write across cultural and national boundaries and who transcend in their lives and creative production the borders of a single culture. Dagnino's book contains a creative rendition of interviews conducted with five internationally renowned writers—Inez Baranay, Brian Castro, Alberto Manguel, Tim Parks, and Ilija Trojanow—and a critical exegesis reflecting on thematical, critical, and stylistical aspects.

'By studying the selected authors’ corpus of work, life experiences, and cultural orientations, Dagnino explores the implicit, often subconscious, process of cultural and imaginative metamorphosis that leads transcultural writers and their fictionalized characters beyond ethnic, national, racial, or religious loci of identity and identity formation. Drawing on the theoretical framework of comparative cultural studies, she offers insight into transcultural writing related to belonging, hybridity, cultural errancy, the "Other," worldviews, translingualism, deterritorialization, neonomadism, as well as genre, thematic patterns, and narrative techniques. Dagnino also outlines the implications of transcultural writing within the wider context of world literature(s) and identifies some of the main traits that characterize “transcultural novels.”' (Publication summary)

Writing Asian Poetry in English Nicholas Jose , 2013 single work criticism
— Appears in: Mascara Literary Review , June no. 13 2013;

'If you open a collection by a contemporary Australian poet, you’re likely to find poems in forms derived from various Asian literary traditions: haiku, ghazal, tanka and other verse forms that originate in the swathe of cultures from the Arabian Gulf in the West to Japan in the North and Indonesia in the South. This is not new, of course. Nineteenth-century French poets, including Baudelaire, were attracted by the pantoum (pantun), a traditional Malay verse form. John Ashbery and other Americans followed suit in the twentieth-century. Contemporary Australian poet Mike Ladd acknowledges this lineage in ‘Pantuns in the Orchard’ (Island, Spring 2011), a recent essay about his experiments with the form during a residency at Rimbun Dahan in Malaysia.' (Author's introduction)

Miles Franklin : Castro on List Deborah Bogle , 2013 single work column
— Appears in: The Advertiser , 27 March 2013; (p. 23)
Toccata and Fuge in a Postmodernist Key Ingrid Wassenaar , 2005 single work review
— Appears in: The Weekend Australian , 20-21 August 2005; (p. 12)

— Review of The Garden Book Brian Castro , 2005 single work novel
Fertile Soil of Our Past Peter Pierce , 2005 single work review
— Appears in: The Age , 27 August 2005; (p. 5)

— Review of The Garden Book Brian Castro , 2005 single work novel
The Meaning is Beside the Point James Ley , 2005 single work review
— Appears in: The Sydney Morning Herald , 10-11 September 2005; (p. 19)

— Review of The Garden Book Brian Castro , 2005 single work novel
A Most Fertile Garden Katharine England , 2005 single work review
— Appears in: The Advertiser , 10 September 2005; (p. 10)

— Review of The Garden Book Brian Castro , 2005 single work novel
The Avant-Garde Minder Melinda Harvey , 2005 single work review
— Appears in: Australian Book Review , October no. 275 2005; (p. 34)

— Review of The Garden Book Brian Castro , 2005 single work novel
Bush Ascetic, with Martini Susan Wyndham , 2005 single work column
— Appears in: The Sydney Morning Herald , 8-9 October 2005; (p. 20-21)
When the Past Isn't Past : A Role for Fiction in Australia's History Wars James Ley , 2006 single work criticism
— Appears in: The Times Literary Supplement , 19 May no. 5381 2006; (p. 23)
Discusses the extent to which contemporary Australian literature is preoccipied with the past.
Prize for Tale of Two Torn Loves Dorothy Illing , 2006 single work column
— Appears in: The Australian , 13 September 2006; (p. 7)
Unpacking Castro's Library, or Detours and Return in 'The Garden Book' Bernadette Brennan , 2007 single work criticism
— Appears in: JASAL , Special Issue 2007; (p. 25-36) Brian Castro's Fiction : The Seductive Play of Language 2008; (p. 175-190)
Brennan argues that while 'Castro's writing has always engaged obliquely with ethical concerns' there is a sense through the characters and dialogue of The Garden Book 'that the narrative, while remaining true to more abstract questions of writing, memory, desire and death, wants us to think deeply and urgently about the consequences of the politics of fear currently operating in Australia'.
Australian Fiction 2005-2006 Thomas Shapcott , 2006 single work review
— Appears in: Westerly , November vol. 51 no. 2006; (p. 108-119)
Last amended 13 Jul 2021 12:39:12
  • Dandenong Ranges, Melbourne - East, Melbourne, Victoria,
  • 1900-1999
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