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Telling Terror in Contemporary Australian Fiction

Tino Dallmann

After the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, terrorism as a literary theme has flourished in Australian literature. This book examines how terrorism as a theme has been represented in five exemplary novels and elaborates a distinctively Australian approach to the topic. The novels taken into consideration focus on strategies of fictionalisation rather than the actual violence or the threat of it. By doing so, the author argues, Australian literature provides a powerful antidote to the widespread fear of a terrorist attack. Without competing with media and political sciences, this book underlines the contribution literary studies can make to the expanding field of terrorism research.
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IV. Conclusion: Telling Terror in Australian Post-9/11 Fiction


Recent Australian terrorism fiction presents itself as surprisingly political as many critics have argued (Gelder and Salzman 240; McCann, Professing 44; O’Reilley 295–296). As this discussion of five post-9/11 novels has shown, it can be read, above all, as a critical assessment of the Howard government at the turn of the century. Terrorism as a theme is linked to questions of immigration politics, to the recognition of Aboriginal land rights and to different forms of racism that reach back to the establishment of Australia as a British settlement. This thematic approach of connecting past and present forms of violence does not only take into account that ‘terrorism’ at first referred to violence emerging from the state, as Janette Turner Hospital’s novels openly address; it can also be seen as a distinctively Australian approach within the range of post-9/11 fiction. Writers of recent terrorism fiction, as David Marr insisted, started “looking Australia in the face” (par. 23) and did actively engage with the re-emergence of nationalist thinking and the racial tensions in the country since the 1990s.

As a consequence of the entanglement of these themes, terror tends to come from within in many Australian post-9/11 novels. At an individual level, it originates from the minds of the characters and is closely connected to complexes of guilt. Mather Hawthorne in Due Preparations for the Plague has to cope not only with the loss of his wife, but also with his own responsibilities of having been involved...

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