It has been announced that the judge’s copy of the 1960 Penguin unexpurgated edition of Lady Chatterley’s Lover from the 1960 trial of Penguin Books under the Obscene Publications Act of 1959 is to be auctioned. This is exciting news to those of us who still wonder nearly sixty years later why the then highly illegal acts of heterosexual buggery that are at the core of the book’s plot were never mentioned by the judge in his summing up and directions to the jury. But it’s not actually the most interesting copy of the Penguin paperback that was on trial. That copy lies […]
In my grandmother’s day, parents in Hong Kong waited a month before celebrating the birth of their baby. Infant mortality rates were high and families didn’t want to introduce their child to the world until they were certain of his or her survival. My grandma was not unusual in burying two of her eight children—one immediately after birth, and the other, aged two, from meningitis. Nowadays, thankfully, the death of a child is a relatively rare occurrence. But that doesn’t stop us from worrying about it. We put gates on stairs and cameras on cars and fences on pools in […]
I had walked back to photograph a dilapidated, colonial mansion glimpsed from the car on the way to our hotel in Pondicherry. A photo of fading grandeur: ochre walls, green-shuttered windows, a collapsing tiled roof. On the roadside, a yellow tuk-tuk was parked next to a royal blue, wheeled cart propped up on bricks. Looking at the photo back at the hotel, I notice a handsome man, long-haired, barefoot. Dressed in an immaculate white kurta and trousers, he had walked into my field of vision when I was taking the photo. I had photographed not what I had seen, but […]
The patella is pearlescent, our instructor muses. Bone, fat, fascia—all shades of white—but the knee bone of this rat shines like a perfect, tiny pearl. The taxidermist stretches the skin back over the leg before cutting the joint with a pair of wire cutters. The image is doubled, I watch her ungloved hands metres away, performing delicate work a millisecond ahead of the streaming screen above. So little holds the skin to the creature, she claims, and it is the same with us. It seems I am a writer obsessed with dead things. That’s how I introduce myself to other […]
Writing memoir is a daunting task. Since the release of my debut book, No Country Woman, a memoir of growing up as a migrant in Australia, I have been asked numerous times what the process was like, and how I have balanced the many competing pressures when writing from personal experience. It’s assumed that writing memoir can be fraught because, inevitably, exploring our own experiences will mean incorporating those of others that intersect with our lives, and doing justice to each person represented in your work can be challenging. The questions I have been asked about writing my book have […]
All the imaginings… I want to read all the stories ever written. I want to know all the imaginings. But much of what I read is that which makes up our day to day. Emails and letters and headlines and newsfeeds. I hurry, but I can’t get through them all. I don’t hurry the imaginings. I try to read one short story every day or so, although sometimes I binge, and I often have a few books on the go at once. There is a bookstack beside the bed, another two in the lounge, and a few in the […]
The Bendego meteorite sits defiantly on a pedestal against a backdrop of the charred remains of the National Museum of Brazil. The world’s largest meteorite first survived a fiery entry through the Earth’s atmosphere and is now one of the few remaining items standing after a blaze that gutted the Rio institution. Losing Brazil’s national museum is on the same scale as losing the Metropolitan Museum in New York or the British Museum in London. It was the largest natural-history museum in Latin America, holding over twenty million collection items. You only had to see the footage of the inferno […]
It is, in a way, an act of withdrawal, and I worry about it sometimes. I am spending more and more time reading and alone. How healthy can that be? But let us be honest: for a natural hermit, it is very healthy, especially when I am fortunate to have a room dedicated to books—a private library. Eight years ago, partly due to good luck and partly due to a desire to put literature at the centre of my being, I left Canberra for a town an hour away, in regional New South Wales. Although I would need to continue […]
Trauma is a strange bedfellow. In its company you binge on adrenaline and will anyone to have a go. Don’t push in front of me. Don’t mess with me. Go on, mess with me.
My faith is a remnant of empire. In 1521 Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan arrived in Cebu, put up a cross and claimed the Philippine islands for Spain. The cross and crown interlock. I grew up conditioned to think religion was a gift. That was certainly the early account from visiting Europeans, who marvelled at the civilising effects of Christianisation in the north and middle islands, in contrast to an intransigent Muslim south and the animistic highland tribes. Even today Filipinos express gratitude for the comforts of faith. In a country riven by poverty and corruption, what else is there to […]
Not only can I tell you what I’m reading, but I can tell you every book I’ve read in the last three years—plus the date I finished reading it. I have a spreadsheet, you see. When I was twelve I read a novel about three sisters, and I remember exactly two details from it. That one of the sisters lost a finger in a cave but managed to get it re-attached, and that the youngest sister kept a diary. Instead of recounting what happened during the day, however, she simply listed the meals she ate. From there, memories of everything […]
you won’t write what’s recorded in written history? and you believe you’ll only focus on things completely forgotten? yeh, I suppose a thread of sun, hang ing on an eyelash a word that came out of a rice-filled mouth all the drops of rain that rushed into the ear in that, forgotten, instant everything born the second they die Ouyang Yu writes in English and Chinese and to date has published 100 books of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, literary criticism and literary translation in both languages. His website is www.otherlandpublishing.com.