Remembering Babylon

Remembering Babylon

Book - 1993
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Baker & Taylor
The award-winning author of The Great World creates a world of eternal divisions in the story of thirteen-year-old Gemmy Fairley, cast ashore and adopted by Australian aborigines during the mid-1840s. 17,500 first printing. $20,000 ad/promo. Tour.

Blackwell North Amer
In Remembering Babylon David Malouf gives us a rich and compelling novel, in language of astonishing poise and resonance, about the settling of the continent down under, Australia, and the vicissitudes of first contact with the unknown.
In the mid-1840s a thirteen-year-old cabin boy, Gemmy Fairley, is cast ashore from a British shipwreck onto the Queensland coast, and is taken in by aborigines. Sixteen years later, three children from a white settlement come upon this apparition: "The stick-like legs, all knobbed at the joints, suggested a wounded waterbird, a brolga, or a human that in the manner of the tales they told one another, all spells and curses, had been changed into a bird, but only halfway, and now, neither one thing nor the other, was hopping and flapping towards them out of a world over there, beyond the no-mans-land of the swamps...of nightmare rumours, superstitions and all that belonged to Absolute Dark."
Possessed of lyrical intensity and always respectful of human complexity, Remembering Babylon tells the story of Gemmy, and of his relation to the whites. Given shelter by the McIvors, the family of the three children, he seems at first to have a secure role in the settlement, but currents of fear and distrust intensify. At once white and black, a man with a voice but unable to speak the language, he confounds all categories that might explain him. To everyone he meets - from George Abbot, the romantically aspiring young teacher; to Janet McIvor, on the verge of adulthood; to the eccentric governor of Queensland himself - Gemmy is a force of nature that both fascinates and repels. He finds his own whiteness as unsettling in his new world as the knowledge he brings with him of the savage, the aboriginal.
In his most accomplished novel to date, David Malouf has written a powerful fiction, informed by a vision of eternal human differences. Remembering Babylon is a brilliant mythopoeia of our unending encounter with the Other.

& Taylor

Thirteen-year-old Gemmy Fairley is cast ashore in northern Australia and adopted by Australian aborigines during the mid-1840s

Publisher: New York : Pantheon Books, c1993
ISBN: 9780679427247
Branch Call Number: F MAL
Characteristics: 200 p. : 22 cm


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Apr 17, 2017

Malouf explores some eternal themes in this historical fiction set in rough and recently settled Australia – cultural splits, communication, identity, a sense of displacement, and Us vs Them. It asks: what is the essence of belonging, and is an equally violent and compassionate look at the complex individual responses to a British boy raised by aboriginals who finds white settlers 16 years later. A psychological study. Usually I like lyrical writing and I did admire Malouf’s poetic prose. But I struggled with the long sentences of many subordinate clauses to the point where, when I got to the end of the sentence many lines further down, I’d have to double check to see the subject and verb. Sad. A measure of our accelerated twittified society.
A favourite quote: ”She loved the way, while you were dealing with them, you had to submit yourself to their side of things”, referring to the bees but metaphorically to the black / white cultural issue.

Jan 04, 2013

This is the story of an edge of the world encounter between the "primitive" and "civilized". Brilliant.


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