Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Australian Fiction

Finished October 9
The Incredible Journey by Catherine Martin
My mother-in-law spotted this in a book sale and thought of me. I'd never heard of it before, but it was first published in 1923 and is one of the first depictions of an aboriginal character in fiction. The author was raised to think of aboriginals in a more enlightened way than most in her time, and, as she says, "in order to put on record, as faithfully as possible, the heroic love and devotion of a black woman when robbed of her child".
There is an introduction to the edition I read that places this novel historically and gives some idea of just what a stir it made at the time. Martin was born on the isle of Skye and grew up in South Australia following the Highland clearances.
The book follows the character Iliapa, an aboriginal woman who went after her son when he was stolen away by a white man. Interestingly, the book was published right around the same time as the state parliament passed a law increasing the state's power over aboriginal children, including allowing them to be taken from their parents.
While still depicting some prejudices of the time, it speaks to the aboriginals as being treated with injustice by whites and having the same intellectual capacity. Definitely ahead of its time and an interesting work in the history of Australian literature.

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