'Landscape of Farewell ... is the story of Max Otto, an elderly German academic. After the death of his much-loved wife and his recognition that he will never write the great study of history that was to be his life's crowning work, Max believes his life is all but over. Everything changes, though, when his valedictory lecture is challenged by Professor Vita McLelland, a feisty young Australian Aboriginal academic visiting Germany. Their meeting and growing friendship sets Max on a journey that would have seemed unthinkable just a few short weeks earlier.
'When, at Vita's invitation, Max travels to Australia, he forms a deep friendship with her uncle, Aboriginal elder Dougald Gnapun. It is a friendship that not only gives new meaning and purpose to Max, but which teaches him the profound importance of truth-telling in reconciliation with his own and his country's past.' (Publisher's blurb)
'From at least the early 1990s, when the Hawke Labor Government introduced reconciliation legislation into the Australian parliament, the concept of reconciliation has attracted criticism from both the political left and right. While some have complained of it as a predominantly white undertaking, others have seen it as a threat to the unity of the Australian nation-state. Following the election of John Howard in 1996, reconciliation met fierce resistance from the Federal Government itself, with Howard rejecting the recommendations of the 1997 Bringing Them Home report and refusing to apologise to Indigenous Australians for their ongoing sufferings at the hands of British colonialism. This is the political climate that provides the backdrop for the five novels, all written between 2002 and 2007, which Liliana Zavaglia examines in White Apology and Apologia: Australian Novels of Reconciliation (2016). In her book, Zavaglia deliberately chooses to focus exclusively on works by Anglo-Australian writers to examine how whiteness operates in contemporary Australia. Though she conceives of her primary texts as characteristic of a liberal whiteness that ‘worked to counter [the] political attempts [by the Liberal government] to silence the Indigenous rights and reconciliation movements’ (1), she argues that they, at the same time, articulate the ‘double movement of apology and apologia’ (3) typical of whiteness in Australia. Etymologically, ‘apology’ and ‘apologia’ are cognates of the Greek and Latin apologia, respectively. Despite their common roots, however, they differ significantly in terms of meaning, for while the first implies remorse, the latter, a later borrowing of the Latin form, indicates defence and justification. By identifying moments of both apology and apologia, Zavaglia suggests, the novels she discusses reveal the ‘discourse of liberal postcolonial whiteness [to be] a riven and conflicted site, driven in a hopeful quest to heal its relations with the other, even as its normative traces continue in the legacy bequeathed to it by its colonial foundations’ (21). What then follows is an elaborate investigation of this divided and disrupted nature of Australian whiteness, as it manifests itself in contemporary Anglo-Australian fiction.' (Publication abstract)
'This article scrutinises Alex Miller’s Landscape of Farewell (2007) through the lens of massacre. It explores the troubling implications of the novel’s sustained analogy between the generational effects for Indigenous Australian perpetrators of a massacre and the children of Nazis, and questions the novel’s capacity to contribute to reconciliation, in spite of drawing upon many of reconciliation’s key tropes. Drawing on the insights of comparative Holocaust studies, this article unpacks the novel’s representation of massacre and genocide, and the subtle comparison between Indigenous belonging to country and Nazi attachment to national space. Finally, through the work of Dominick LaCapra, it scrutinises the obfuscatory representation of the perpetrator, and the novel’s seeming projection of a form of perpetrator guilt onto the Indigenous subject.' (Publication abstract)
'This book takes as its subject a body of recent fiction by white liberal writers produced in the wake of the profound cultural, political and legal transformations that have taken place in the field of Indigenous rights since the 1990s. Two milestones of this period are the High Court of Australia’s Mabo ruling on June 3, 1992, and the Rudd Labor Government’s national Apology to Australia’s Indigenous Peoples on February 13, 2008. The novels explored in this study are Alex Miller’s Journey to the Stone Country (2002) and Landscape of Farewell (2007), Andrew McGahan’s The White Earth (2004), Kate Grenville’s The Secret River (2005) and Gail Jones’ Sorry (2007). Each of these novels was written in the period between 2002 and 2007. These were the years when the Indigenous rights and reconciliation movements had all but disappeared from the national political agenda through the interventions of the Howard Liberal Government. These works attempted to counter these silences as acts of literary activism, which strived to reignite the politically stalled processes of reconciliation. Through the medium of fiction, they kept Indigenous justice issues before the reading public, provoking discussion and stirring debate.
'White Apology and Apologia engages in close readings of the Mabo ruling, the national Apology and this body of fiction as a form of cultural history, which reflects important aspects of black/white relations in the past twenty-five years. Together, these legal, political and literary texts reveal a tension that arguably came to define this period. This tension fluctuates between a reconciliatory impulse of sorrow for Indigenous loss and the defensive desire to offer exits for white culture from the ongoing demands of a violent settlement history. Taking shape as twinned register of white longing, this conflicted cultural drive is the focus of this study.
'Each of these novels has had a significant reception and impact. All were shortlisted by the Miles Franklin Award with two taking out the coveted prize. While much critical attention has been given to their fictional explorations of reconciliation and the colonial past, this is the first study to focus on the novels as a collection of cultural artefacts from a brief but remarkable time in Australia’s recent history. In their attempts to explore Indigenous loss and dispossession, the novels can be seen as complex literary engagements with issues of the greatest moment in the contemporary public sphere. Together, they provide a significant snapshot of an ambivalent postcolonial culture in flux.
'Through an exploration of these important documents and texts of reconciliation, this study is able to offer symptomatic close readings of Australian liberal whiteness in the process of coming to terms with its troubling history. Providing new insights into how legal, historical, political, and literary discourses can influence each other in the quest for justice, White Apology and Apologia attempts to understand the relation between Australian literature and the culture that produced it. In the process it reveals the riven state of Australian postcolonial whiteness itself, which has been transformed by the legal, political and cultural shifts of the 1990s, yet which paradoxically resists its own deconstructions even as it longs for the dismantling of its own hegemony. The double movement of apology and apologia explored in this timely and important study is a startling reminder of the unresolved nature of the traumatized colonial legacy bequeathed to Australian settler culture by its history, and which continues to accompany white liberal discourse in its quest to heal its relations with the other.
'White Apology and Apologia is an important book for Australian literary and cultural studies collections.'
Source: Publisher's blurb.
'Arthur Miller's novels exhibit a nuanced and subtle understanding of the forces, from the erotic to the platonic, that drive humans to connect with each other and in the process confront our shared mortality.' (Editor's abstract)
In this article, Ronald A. Sharp focuses 'on explaining and illuminating [Landscape of Farewell's] profound view of friendship and on celebrating the radiant artistic achievement of representing and embodying that vision in fiction.'