AUSSIE AUTHOR IN FOCUS – David Malouf
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.
1978 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.
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
He 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.
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.
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.)
- 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”.
“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
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.
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