AUSSIE AUTHOR IN FOCUS – David Malouf

In support of the AUSSIE AUTHOR READING CHALLENGE I’m hosting in 2010 (sign-up here) I will be posting a series of articles highlighting great Aussie Authors and their books you may be interested in. Today I’m putting the spotlight on DAVID MALOUF.
David Malouf was born in Brisbane, Australia in 1934, of Lebanese and Spanish parents. He studied at Brisbane Grammar and then Queensland University before travelling to Europe and Britain. Malouf worked as a teacher for some time in England and then returned to Australia in 1968, to teach at the University of Sydney.

JohnnoHe was first known for his poetry collections, Bicycle and Other Poems (1970) and Neighbours in a Thicket Poems (1974).

His first ever novel Johnno, the semi-autobiographical story of a young man growing up in Brisbane during World War II, was published in 1975.

An Imaginary Life1978 saw the release of the Malouf’s second novel, An Imaginary Life.

In the first century A.D., Publius Ovidius Naso, the most urbane and irreverent poet of imperial Rome, was banished to a remote village on the edge of the Black Sea. From these sparse facts, Malouf has fashioned an audacious and supremely moving novel. Marooned on the edge of the known world, exiled from his native tongue, Ovid depends on the kindness of barbarians who impale their dead and converse with the spirit world.Then he becomes the guardian of a still more savage creature, a feral child who has grown up among deer. What ensues is a luminous encounter between civilization and nature, as enacted by a poet who once cataloged the treacheries of love and a boy who slowly learns how to give it. [Amazon.com]

Praise for ‘An Imaginary Life’ : “A work of unusual intelligence and imagination, full of surprising images and insights…One of those rare books you end up underlining and copying out into notebooks and reading out loud to friends.”–The New York Times Book Review

Fly Away PeterHe then won The Age Book of the Year fiction prize in 1982 for his novella, Fly Away Peter, about three acquaintances and their experience of World War I.

The Great World: A novel
In 1991 Malouf won the Miles Franklin Award for The Great World. He received the Commonwealth Prize for Fiction and the Prix Fémina Etranger in France for this title also.
For the two men in this novel, war was supposed to be a testing ground. But it proved to be an ordeal of a different kind. Spanning 70 years of Australian life, from Sydney’s Cross to the backwaters of the Hawkesbury River, this is a novel of lost innocence and witness. [The Book Depository]
His Booker Prize-shortlisted novel Remembering Babylon (1993) is set in northern Australia during the 1850s amid a community of Scottish immigrant farmers whose isolated existence is threatened by the arrival of a stranger, a young white man raised from boyhood by Indigenous Australians.
Other awards for this novel included the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize (South East Asia and South Pacific Region, Best Book) and the first International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.
Other recent novels from Malouf include The Conversations at Curlow Creek (1996) and Untold Tales (1999).

Malouf has also had various short story collections published – Antipodes (1983), Dream Stuff (2000), Every Move You Make (2006) and The Complete Stories (2007). (Follow title links to Amazon for more information on each title.)

The Conversations at Curlow Creek
Dream StuffEvery Move You MakeThe Complete Stories (Vintage International)
David Malouf also enjoy’s writing plays. He wrote librettos for Patrick White’s Voss and for Baa Baa Black Sheep, and in 1988 wrote the play Blood Relations.
Malouf has been a stalwart of Australian literature:
  • In 1987 he was made an Officer of the Order of Australia for his services to literature;
  • Awarded the Pascall Prize for Critical Writing in 1988;
  • In 2000, he received the Neustadt International Prize, awarded writers for the body of works created throughout their literary careers; and
  • In 2008 he won the Australian Publishers Association’s Lloyd O’Neil Award for outstanding service to the Australian book industry.

Despite all his success over four decades, Malouf remains very humble. His thoughts on being a writer:

“I totally reject the idea of being representative in any way. This whole idea of role models. It’s a terrible idea. I don’t like the idea of being some kind of representative consciousness of the country. You do what you do, the way you do it, out of a kind of necessity. I can’t see how that would be useful to anyone else”.
In an interview with the Weekend Australian Magazine in July 2008, Malouf said:
“I knew that the world around you is only uninteresting if you can’t see what is really going on. The place you come from is always the most exotic place you’ll ever encounter because it is the only place where you recognise how many secrets and mysteries there are in people’s lives”.

See this link for video of David Malouf’s speech on Australian culture and writing at the Mildura Writer’s Festival in
2008.

Malouf’s latest work Ransom: A Novel was published in 2009.

What happens when a young prince falls in battle and his body is spirited away to be desecrated and dishonoured? His death is the battle price of another young man’s death, but what price dishonour and a father’s grief? In this exquisite gem of a novel, David Malouf shines new light on Homer’s “Iliad”, adding twists and reflections, as well as flashes of earthy humour, to surprise and enchant. His version opens with Achilles, maddened by grief at the death of his friend Patroclus. From the walls of Troy, King Priam watches the body of his son Hector being dragged behind Achilles’ chariot. There must be a way, he thinks, of reclaiming the body – of pitting compromise against heroics, new ways against the old, and of forcing the hand of fate. Dressed simply and in a cart pulled by a mule, an old man sets off for the Greek camp… Lyrical, immediate and heartbreaking, Malouf’s fable engraves the epic themes of the Trojan war onto a perfect miniature – themes of war and heroics, hubris and humanity, chance and fate, the bonds between soldiers, fathers and sons, all newly burnished and brilliantly recast for our times. [The Book Depository]

Praise for Ransom:

“Lithe, graceful . . . Deeply moving . . . Nothing short of magical. Malouf’s prose is delicate, marvellously alert to the natural world and endowed with a quality that has one name only: wisdom.”
—Sydney Morning Herald

“Fiction, in Malouf’s hands, becomes the art of rendering the world coherent. For this we must be grateful.” —The Australian Literary Review

* I haven’t read a Malouf title yet myself, but I have my eye on An Imaginary Life

A selection of reviews of David Malouf’s titles from other book bloggers:
An Imaginary Life – Shigekuni
Remembering Babylon – A Novel Approach
Ransom – The Historical Novel Review
Ransom – ANZ LitLovers LitBlog

Bibliographic content sourced from wikipedia.org; Photo from auspost.com.au

The BookDepository

Comments

  1. says

    i accidentally bought Ransom, i thought it was by an author that i had read in high school. actually, i had read malouf in high school, which feels like a hundred years ago, and hated it at the time (likely it was just too deep for me at the time, i really should have another look!). when i got home and worked out who malouf actually was -previously despised author – i groaned. but seeing as i'd bought it already i read it and really enjoyed it. it is written with such skill it is a marvel. at times it did leave me a little cold, i felt like i was reading an example of 'how to write perfect literature' but overall it was amazing. can't say i want to read any of his other books however, it must be the scarring from high school :-)

  2. says

    Thanks for the kind words about my review, and for posting the link to my blog:)
    I really like the concept of the author-in-focus, it's a great resource for anyone interested in OzLit and I really appreciate the work you put into it.
    Lisa, ANZ LitLovers

  3. says

    PS to my earlier comment: I've put a link to your blog from mine, but it's only linked to this page about Malouf. Could you please add tags to all your posts that are Aussie Authors in Focus, so that if we enter 'Aussie Authors in Focus' in your search box, a list of all the posts you've done come up? Then I can add the URL for *that* list to my links, which would be better still.
    (You can see where I've done this on my blog…I tag all my posts about Ulysses 'Ulysses, by James Joyce, Disordered Thoughts of an Amateur' and that way all my Ulysses posts can be found really easily, and it also shows up on my tag cloud.')
    Cheers
    Lisa

  4. says

    Hey there,

    I stumbled across your blog and I saw that you're a dedicated follower of literature, so I wanted to drop you a line and let you know that I'm currently setting off an a journey you may be interested in. My goal is to read all of the Pulitzer winning novels in one year and write a memoir about my experiences. I would love it if you checked it out and gave me some feedback as I journey along!

    You can follow me at http://www.thepulitzerblog.blogspot.com

    Cheers,
    Drew

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