Sunday, November 22, 2009

A slovene view of Australia. (Criticism).

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IGOR MAVER, A professor from Slovenia, gives a European slant to Australian writing and introduces diasporic Slovene fiction and poetry in Contemporary Australian Literature Between Europe and Australia. The Australian works analyzed are in some way linked with Europe: its settings, culture, literature, sense of place, and individual national identities. Maver addresses cross-cultural influences on Australians as well as on Europeans, and points out that several Australian creative writers draw their inspiration from European locales because the continent offers them the opportunity to measure themselves against "the tyranny of distance." The book includes substantial discussions of Tim Winton, Michael Wilding, David Campbell, Peter Porter, and David Malouf. Maver also focuses on Slovene migrant novelists and poets, including Ivan Kobal, Janko Majink, Victoria Zabukovec, Richard Flanagan, Bert Pribac, and Pavla Gruden.

One of the most substantial essays is on Tim Winton's "European" novel The Riders, which depicts an Australian man's odyssey across Europe, a journey that takes on allegorical dimensions. Mayer finds it significant that Winton "places the story of an Australian man, who sees himself as a 'loser' on various levels of his life, into a European context. By doing so, Winton deftly makes Europe into a symbol of personal defeat, social decadence and spiritual and physical deterioration. In this way he demystifies some of the stereotypes and myths that had been forged about and by Australians, Australia and Europe, respectively, whereby this 'deconstruction' process works reciprocally."

Other essays examine Michael Wilding's non-Australian settings in Somewhere New and Andrew Riemer's personal account of his recent return to Budapest and Vienna from which he had as a child fled to Australia with his family after World War II. Maver focuses on what he calls Riemer's "Search of Self and Australia" as revealed in The Habsburg Cafe. He describes Riemer's memoir as a "fine travel book" that "reflects the images of his [Riemer's] own and of the romantic past that are still alive both in Vienna and Budapest, in the period of the recent major sociopolitical change in Hungary, as seem from the perspective of a Hungarian-born Australian traveller, social analyst and, above all, writer" (5).

In "Four Recent Slovene Migrant Novels in English," Mayer offers an interesting discussion of Slovene disaporic writing published both in English and Slovene in Australia. The most successful of these books are Ivan Kobal's Men Who Built the Snowy and Janko Majink's The Diary of the Submariner, which he discusses along with several other novels.

In the second part of the book Maver looks at the perceptions of Europe revealed in the work of Australian poets. In particular he examines two anthologies, On the Move: Australian Poets in Europe (1992), edited by Geoff Page, and Changing Places: Australian Writers in Europe (1994), edited by Laurie Hergenhan and Irmtraud Petersson. The remainder of the poetry section is devoted to Slovene writing and covers "Slovenia as a Locale in Mainstream Australian Poetry," "Cultural Achievements of the Slovene Diaspora in Australia," and "Slovene Migrant Poetry in Australia Written in English."

Maver's discussions of Australian literature are discerning and informative, and it is always interesting to get the European viewpoint. Still, the introduction of Slovene writers in Australia may well be the book's most significant contribution.

Named Works: Contemporary Australian Literature Between Europe and Australia (Book)

Source Citation
Trikha, Pradeep. "A slovene view of Australia. (Criticism)." Antipodes 13.2 (1999): 144. Academic OneFile. Web. 26 Nov. 2009. .

Gale Document Number:A93231213

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