Traumatic Silences in Contemporary Australian War Fiction
Silence is an essential component of any war story. Not simply what the characters don’t say, but why they don’t say it, what they recognize in others as remaining unsaid, and what remains unrecognized because it is unsaid. In war fiction, lyrical and structural techniques are employed to portray silence. Silence is often the result of trauma, and this traumatic silence is focused on the battles, imprisonment, death, injury, and loneliness of war, and the unexpected consequences of the disruption that war creates. In Australian war fiction, the figure of the Anzac soldier is used to explore ideas of traumatic silence. By negotiating how the unalloyed, positive attributes of the Anzac soldier fit into the reality of combat life, and later, repatriated life, authors of Australian literature have fertile ground for writing about silence and trauma. In this paper, I explore three different literary expressions of traumatic silence: the paradoxical double image in The Wing of Night by Brenda Walker; unspoken intimacy and the intimacy of the unspoken in The Great World by David Malouf; and the veneer of saturating detail in After the Fire, a Still Small Voice by Evie Wyld.
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