Saturday, June 1, 2013
I have lived in Canada for a little over twenty five years now, and as good as my life here is, it just isn't Australia (to be specific Canberra). I have lived in Canada more than I ever lived in Canberra, and the last time I went home I realised how displaced I was. Everything was sublimely wonderful while I was there, but I knew that it was no longer what was familiar. I had forgotten a lot in twenty years absense.
I have been working on being more Australian since my visit in '06, in the ways that matter to me and in the ways that I was not able to indulge in when I lived there, and one of those was to catch up in Autralian literature ( I had always dreamed of studying it at the Australian National University in Canberra). I have missed out on a lot in my life, and I'm making up for it now. Now that I am free to make some choices, find new interests and indulge in what used to be just impossible dreams.
Phew. That all being said, I thought that the best place to start would be with award winning books and The Miles Franklin Award seemed to be the best of all, the criteria being that the Award is presented each year to a novel which is of the highest literary merit and presents Australian life in any of its phases. It has always been a good way for me to get into something new, reading award winner books. It's a solid method for pointing me in the right direction towards other Australian authors, and publishers.
The Irishman by Elizabeth O'Connor is quite similar to others I have read from that time (the 1920's era), but I found it different too. The slang was unfamiliar (and also quite funny), one phrase in particular referring to someone who talks a lot as a 'magpie' (you would have to have heard a magpie to understand that one, I'm sorry), and after that making the phrase into a verb "magging".
The racist labels for the local aborigines really bothered me, and the attitude towards them was uncomfortable for me too. But I always try to take an anthropological view point to such things. This is what it was like then. I try not to judge, just observe.
The overall feeling though was Australia at it's most basic essence. I could just picture what it was like there in the Gulf Country. Imagine the warmth radiating from the ground, the smell from the Gums and the Tea trees. Billy tea and damper. The storms that would appear out of nowhere in absolute exciting splendor, the black clouds, flashes of lightning and tremendous heart-stopping thunder. That delicious smell of the first bit of rain hitting the ground.
Which brings me to the other way reading such literature affects me. I get homesick. It's not something I like to feel. It makes it easier when I read stories from different eras, because that doesn't seem as real to me, but all the same, I wish I was there, experiencing rather than just remembering it.