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The Australian Novel 1830-1980

A Thematic Introduction


John Scheckter

This volume introduces the reader to a powerful and rewarding territory: the Australian novel. Both drawing from and rebelling against the power of Europe. Australian writers asserted from the beginning that experience «down under» demands thorough observation and thoughtful expression. Exploration of the vast land, framed by the horrors of penal establishment and challenged by encounters with Aboriginal cultures, produced novels of irony and expectation, cynicism and celebration - works that demonstrate the flexibility and unflinching clarity that remain characteristically Australian down to the postcolonial present.


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3. Criminal Elements 81


Chapter Three Criminal Elements Before I built a wall I'd ask to know What I was walling in or walling out, And to whom I was like to give offense. Frost, "Mending Wall" The history of a nation does not merely record events. Other considerations demand attention, however evanescent or incidental they may seem to actual chronology. In addition to noting what happened, we also benefit by considering what might have happened-the psychological impact in the present of possibility considered in the past. Individuals hardly think in straight lines, and the composite of their activities, the nation in this sense, comprises the permutations of their directions and voices. If we are to understand the workings of a mind or a culture beyond accepted causalities and official assertions, we must take into account all the turns and loops and jogs, the lingering meditations, the anxieties that outlast the foreboding which prompts them, the misplaced undying affections. Sometimes the distractions and fantasies have a greater effect upon behavior than reality has. And sometimes reality is enough to handle. When we consider possible futures as individuals, we habitually and necessarily construct a variety of models which begin with roughly equal validity, and gradually prepare our expectations and responses according to those which seem more plausible. We constantly project fictions, that is, with ourselves at the center. Whatever the procession of subsequent events, the discarded models persist in memory: the sense that we have been afraid, confused, or excited will continue to influence our...

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