Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Twyborn Affair Patrick White

I recently re-read Patrick White's The Twyborn Affair (Jonathan Cape, ISBN 0-224-01733-0). This book was published in 1979, so it's over 30 years old now. How does it stand up?
Surprising well.
Many people make the mistake of thinking that White has no sense of humour. To me, this book is one of his funniest, but admittedly his sense of humour is not for everybody, and it is oftentimes very black.
I read this book in the light of David Marr's biography of "the monster of all time" and White's own autobiography Flaws in the Glass. With these in the back of my mind, the character of Eddie Twyborn, who is also the beautiful young woman Eudoxia Vatatzes and the aging Madam Eadith Trist, becomes similar to White himself.
The book can be read as a veiled memoir.
Eudoxia is young White playing with an older boyfriend (or two or three) in the London demi-monde before World War II. While Eddie Twyborn's experiences mirror those of White as a jackaroo in Australia before World War II, it is also possible to interpret this as his artistic experience at Dogwoods at Castle Hill. His dogged work as a writer in a historically hostile environment, forced into a man's persona, fits this allegory easily. The rape of Eddie by Prowse can then be interpreted as a clear attack on the artist, White being savaged by his Australian critics. That Prowse later allows Eddie to sodomise him to atone for the rape is a sign of White being accepted. Perhaps it is a joke too; this may well be White's interpretation of his being awarded the Nobel Prize.
Eadith Trist is White glorying in his later years. There is a man under the ample disguise of the whoremistress, but it is Eadith who is finally accepted as a daughter by the mother who had rejected Eddie.
And it all ends in destruction through the image of the London blitz, with Eddie/Eadith dying on the pavement just moments from reunion with his/her mother.
The Twyborn Affair -- a book about how an artist, or perhaps a man, sees himself. A recurring them in White's work. The Vivisector charts how a painter is condemned to paint the truth, or the truth, at least, as he sees it. The Twyborn Affair reveals how White saw himself. He did not spare himself any pity. This is a ruthless self-analysis.
But don't forget also to laugh. The joke is, ultimately, there's no joke.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Asialink Writing Residencies

Applications for 2011 residencies are now open, and close on 10 September 2010.

The Asialink Writing Residency Program, which began in 1997, is a unique opportunity for Australian writers of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, history, essays, playwriting, young adult fiction, blogs, new media and interactive content to live and work for an extended period in Asia. As well as giving talks, workshops and media interviews residents have worked on themes as diverse as Merle Oberon's mysterious origins, Jewish communities in Calcutta, foreign journalists in Beijing, historical fantasy in Japan, the politics of unification in Korea, multiculturalism in Malaysia, mythology in Vietnam, and connections between Australian Aboriginal communities and Indonesia.

Grants of up to $12,000 go towards travel, living and project expenses, and afford recipients a unique opportunity for international cultural exchange, in-depth research and sustained time on creative work.

Hosts vary from Australian Studies Centres and University Literature departments to artist retreats, writers centres and publishers. Applicants also have the option of proposing their own host organisation.

Click on the headline to this blog entry to find the application form and more details.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Transparency and graffiti

The photo above was taken by me in the Reichstag, the German Parliament House in 2009.

We know that there was a fire in the Reichstag in 1933 orchestrated by the Nazis as a means of giving more power to Adolf Hitler. In the Second World War the Reichstag was damaged further.

When the Russian forces came to Berlin in 1945, they partied in the ruined Reichstag. To show their contempt for the regime they had just displaced, Russian soldiers wrote their names and other graffiti on the stone walls of the Reichstag. That's what you can see above.

Much of this was covered up in renovations in the 1950s when the building served as the parliament for West Berlin, but after the fall of the Mauer (Wall) in 1989, the Reichstag, which sat right on the border between East Berlin and West Berlin, was renovated again to become again the centre of German parliamentary power.

It was decided to leave the graffiti on view, as a sign of transparency. The great glass dome on top the Reichstag is another symbol of transparency in government.