In an age in which Australia’s richest man, packaging heir Anthony Pratt, embarrasses himself almost daily on social media, it can seem rather humdrum to be reminded of the mediocrity of our cultural, political and financial elites. But every now and then comes a shining example to focus the mind on the incessant ordinariness of our ruling class. On Tuesday night the State Library of Victoria hosted the eighth Keith Murdoch Oration. The library, Melbourne’s bibliographic and architectural jewel, was cleared of its patrons so that the city’s elites could play dress-up, enjoy some food and wine, and hopefully raise […]
The theatricality of an election campaign is unavoidable. A nationwide appeal to fifteen million voters needs a touch of showmanship. A good act helps to alert voters to their civic responsibility. Throwing the switch to vaudeville, in Keating’s memorable phrase, is a useful skill for the leading actors in the drama. But the six-week election campaign, with its frantic movement and manufactured events is an elaborate confidence trick. A conspiracy between political parties and their willing accomplices in the media, abetted by myriad barrow-pushing groups, the campaign is not what it pretends to be. Voting is compulsory, after all. Most […]
In My Defence The shelf was empty. Alarmed, I checked atop drawers and desks; the kitchen bench; the arms of chairs in the living room; in backpacks and cupboards. Nothing. I sifted dirt in the backyard, climbed the lemon tree to scan the horizon, pawed through the dimness behind the couch. The books had gone. I crept to the back shed. It was the last place they might expect me to look. Inside, I witnessed the final stages of a mutiny, a scene from Jacques-Louis David’s The Tennis Court Oath. From the disparate territories of my house, dozens of […]
I wake to news of Notre-Dame de Paris burning. The feelings come in a blur, hard to tell apart. I withdraw and recognise shock, sadness, a sense of loss. Then confusion at the dimensions of this response, followed by resentment at the ways people are quick to minimise it. It is a building. No one has died. It is not the sum of culture. It might yet be restored. Perhaps it is a feature of our time to be so stoic. It is not long ago that the Bamiyan statues of Buddha were destroyed, and the ancient Semitic city of […]
In a 2016 Meanjin essay one of this country’s most celebrated writers, Alexis Wright, asked us a fundamental question in relation to storytelling and the role of the writer. ‘What happens when you tell somebody else’s story?’ she asked, in a thoughtful piece of writing that did not demand that white Australia not engage with the story of Aboriginal people (as some have concluded). In addressing the question, Wright asked of each of us, Aboriginal and ‘settler’ both, that we give deeper consideration to the act of telling stories and take greater responsibility for the decisions we make as writers. […]
After your world ended for the third time, you walked. The gold ring on your right hand heavy and the blue band around your left wrist even heavier. ‘Rip-off fitbits’ was how Intisar had described them three years ago, as the two of you sat on the couch in the living room of your then new apartment, staring down at your clasped black hands.
From a young age, names preoccupied me. As a child I didn’t like my name and I would often daydream about changing it. Na’ama (in Hebrew, נעמה) was too heavy for me.
We sat on the porch that winter and
talked of murder, imagined bodies trapped
beneath the breaking crust of the field.
The house whistled with broken windows,
the lead veins running through the glass…