Nicolas Rothwell’s Belomor: A New Genre

This examination of the novel form, the tradition of the tale and the structure of “Belomor”‘ is by a close follower of trends in Australian writing, Silke Hesse.

The literary review is a genre all of its own. It is of the first hour and the urgency with which comments on a new publication are required by a media serving the market will seem to excuse rashness and inaccuracies. The review will, moreover, be the characteristic reaction of an individual who must profile himself so as to be a recognizable, even unmistakable voice in the democratic chorus of opinion; that profile may well contain idiosyncratic tastes and personal feuds. But at the same time, and perhaps paradoxically, the review is to be in all essentials the representative voice of society with its notions of good taste, wholesome values, proud national image and skilled craftsmanship. Continue reading » » »

Quicksilver: Reflections

The 2011 Madgwick Lecture, delivered at the University of New England in November

I should like to guide you through three distinct episodes in recent history: one from 18th century Europe, dominated by grand, unstable empires, one from the Australian colonial frontier of almost a century ago, and one from the central deserts, from our own time horizon. Each has its particular ironies, and its angled lessons to impart. I choose them not because I think them simple events, but because I think there is a mysterious, fearful beauty about them all. On one level, I trust that these episodes will seem to hang together as a suggestive sequence, cameos from the retreating past; on another I hope the parallels between my stories, drawn as they are from such different realms, may hint at some regularities in human affairs: and lastly, I have the dream that my examples may encourage you to turn your thoughts inwards – to gaze at the strange stillness we bear inside ourselves. Continue reading » » »

True North: An interview carried in Bookseller and Publisher

From “Bookseller and Publisher” May/June 2009, on The Red Highway and fictional form, the questions put by David Cohen

Q: The Red Highway begins with a detailed account of Czech artist Karel Kupka’s explorations in Australia’s Far North. How did you come to use Kupka’s story as a starting point for the book?

A: Kupka stands as the precursor figure at the opening of this book for a number of reasons: much in his experience seems to mirror what later artists and seekers in the landscape and amidst the societies of north Australia have found: the beauty and the grief of the life-worlds there, the air of complicity that seems to spring up around their travels, the sense of freedom to think and feel deeply, edged by a persistent conviction that the realm they aim to grasp remains elusive. Kupka, I now realize, has served me as a means to focus my own thoughts and sensations, and he has done this because of several elements in his biography that call out to aspects of my own life: he, like me, descends from Prague in Central Europe; his impossible aim is to see and appreciate remote Australia but not do harm in the act of looking and classifying; and the burden of his own being weighs on him very much. He is also a representative of a particular time, an era in the history of the modern world that seems to me to have set and determined our collective fate as a civilization. Continue reading » » »