David Malouf, prolific Aussie writer and literary star, has a new novel Ransom making the round of reviews. Good news for those who know his work but I was a bit skeptical so I turned from the new novel to his 1993 title Remembering Babylon. I bought a nice hardback on the secondary market for $9.23; however, a new paperback copy sell for $10.20 on amazon.com. This is a treasure to stash away for a boring trip, a weekend visiting the in-laws, or a conference center located in one of Dante’s outer circles.
The story is tight and pure Aussie. In the mid-1840′s, a gutter child from London is forced to serve as crew member on a British vessel. He falls ill and is put adrift off of Queensland; and yes, he survives among the Aborigines. As his memory of his white past fades, he seeks out a white settlement with the words, “Do not shoot! I am a B-b-british object!” So far I have given you only a small part of the first chapter so I will stop and not spoil the book for you.
Every character is given the attention and craftsmanship usually reserved for one leading character. Each character walks the landscape. The landscape walks and talks, remembers and avenges, surrounds and absorbs. Only the Aussies and Icelanders seem to consistently accept the landscape in all its manifestations as an evolutionary persona. A character can live with it but never against it.
This little book is one you will be delighted to share with a best friend. Save yourself and your friend from airport trash. Charles Marlin