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“the tyranny and convenience of distance”

August 17, 2011

Don Pemberton made an interesting statement :

“it is a complex fate to live in Australia. Historically, every kind of Australian came a long way from somewhere else; such people understand both the tyranny and the convenience of distance.  The first humans to arrive were dark-skinned and came from South-East Asia, it is thought, some 40,000 years ago. Much later immigrant settlers were convicts and soldiers, gold-diggers, and developers, freedom-seekers from Europe, refugees – to name broadly some of the significant kinds of people.  If we unlayer the identities of those who can be imagined to have lived on one site in suburban Sydney… we come to perceive a complex interconnectedness between disparate inhabitants of an awesomely generous and challenging land: their sense of belonging differs only in degree.”  He goes on to refer to Australia’s relationship with the land, observing that “the mythic potentialities of the land have always been recognized in Australia as immensely challenging. This is apparent to anybody who investigates white people’s attempts to understand the awesome wisdom of the Australian aborigines’ knowledge of Dreamtime. It is apparent, too, when you listen… to the depth of silence in the bushland….” (p166)

Interestingly, as Pemberton concludes, he writes: “Now, however, it is becoming clearer to contemporary writers that the Australian landscape is inexhaustible in the journeys of discovery that it enables. Go west, young man? In Australia, the journey may be to the west; but equally – to mention only journeys in space – it may be to the surf beaches and myriad coral colors of the north-eastern coastline; or to Bali, or Vietnam…. The dimensions of mythic experience in Australian children’s literature are wide indeed.” (p167)

(my emphases) Don Pemberton (1990) ‘Sources of Resilience: Australian Books for Children and Adolescents” Children’s Literature Association Quarterly 15(4); 166-167

I think a similar statement could be made of New Zealand.  How this experience of distance has influenced our psyche – and how it is experienced in our literature might be worth considering – and perhaps it connects in some ways to the Australian experience… as well perhaps as those of other ‘diasporic’ peoples… Our connections with different places come in many guises…

A question: Where are journeys taken to/from in New Zealand literature?


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