Fatima Bhutto

Fatima Bhutto was born in Kabul in 1982. Her father Murtaza Bhutto, son of Pakistan’s former President and Prime Minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and an elected member of parliament, was killed by the police in 1996 in Karachi during the premiership of his sister, Benazir Bhutto. Fatima graduated from Columbia University in 2004, majoring in Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures, and from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in 2005 with a Masters in South Asian Government and Politics. She is the author of two books: Whispers of the Desert, a volume of poetry, which was published in 1997 by Oxford University Press, Pakistan when Fatima was 15 years old. 8.50 a.m. 8 October 2005, a collection of first-hand accounts from survivors of the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan, was published by OUP in 2006. Her third book, Songs of Blood and Sword, will be published around the world in 2010. Fatima wrote a weekly column for Jang – Pakistan’s largest Urdu newspaper and its English sister publication The News – for two years. She covered the Israeli Invasion and war with Lebanon from Lebanon in the summer of 2006 and also reported from Iran in January 2007 and Cuba in April 2008. Fatima’s work has appeared in the New Statesman, Daily Beast, Guardian, and The Caravan Magazine. Her latest book, Songs of Blood and Sword, will be published by Jonathan Cape in Australia this spring.

            Photograph: Benjamin Loyseau
Karachi air
Breathed in through the lungs
Is sickly sweet
Like honeycomb left out to rot
In the warm, unrepentant heat.
Or else,
It is thick, smoky
Like mesquite
The evening scent of  garbarge burning
At the first break of dusk’s early light.
Mynah birds and ravens caw
A jealous chord
Singing to the street.
At midnight
I can hear the poor sweeper man
Sweep sweeping
The moonlit littered roads.
I sleep in bed
Covered in a sheet of sweat.
There is no electricity now
In this deadened August night


I trawl
Middle Eastern airlines, terminals and luggage belts
Stuck alongside students,
Honeymooners in black robes and white thobes
And slave labour, working through the night.
Hiding my name on my boarding passes,
A thumb obscuring the sight of letters, destinations and foreign nights
And inventing new fictions,
And family trees.
My legs are close to clotting
And my bags unnecessarily heavy.
Qatar, Etihad and Emirates
I count them off as lovers
I use in desperate times of need.,
Flying  out every month
Pretending that I’m free,
Subsisting on airline meals.


Parting from Karachi
At departure gates
And onwards worldwide.
I wish it well
My love unkind.
Good riddance,
Memories are dulled as the pilot starts the plane
Nostalgia side swept as stewardesses buckle belts and enquire about meal time.
From above,
Even our city’s lights
Look bright.
Even the noisy traffic
Seems mild,
The congestion meek,
The airwaves clear.
From the sky,
From a passenger plane,
Filled with labourers
Dressed in January sandals
And drinking whisky
They’d never get otherwise,
And singing ghazals
To lull them to sleep,
This mangled city,
This wretched, wretched home
Loses so much heart.
Three days later
My chest hurts for a sound
Of something familiar
An exhaust broken on a motorcycle.
The smell of the salty, smoky air.
The taste off a broken beetel nut
I’d never eat at home
And I imagine
It’s worth
Some of the time.


He moved my body
Pressing gently
On the underside of my knee.
It was winter
When he sold me,
Seventy five degrees
I sleep on tarmacs
Eyes half closed.
I have become an exile
With an open home.
My valise holds all my shirts
And coats
I’m packed for winter
Wearing summer clothes.
I left behind a country once,
I can’t remember when.


Underneath it all
I’m bare boned
Very simply alone.
On white ironed sheets
I wait,
A knock on the ceiling
A boot against the floor
Sticky remote control at the foot of the bed
I cower
Fire escapes winding under my window
And an alarm reminds me
I ordered room service way too long ago.


In nine years
I hardly wrote a red line
The crawl inside me subsided.
In the car,
Sunday, past noon,
The freeway pulled me down
And drudged up my lines.
I spoke for him,
For his embrace,
Coated with warm sweat
In a parking lot,
For the kiss,
And the scrape of his beard
As I breathed him in
One more hurried time.
So, I wrote him these lines,
But mine
I go,
Leaving him,
My only memories
Inside a kiss,
Held in by his lips
In a claustrophobic garage
In which our farewells were disguised.

Rae Desmond Jones

Rae Desmond Jones is a poet much published in the olden days.  His most recent book was Blow Out (Island Press, 2009). After many years spent in the wilderness of local government, including a period as the Mayor of Ashfield, a tiny Principality near Sydney, he has returned to poetry. He does not fear death half as much as being boring.

                                                             Photograph by John Tranter


The Kindly Ones

Mid Summer in the South

            When ice shelves slide softly

Off the edge of Antarctica

            & start to drift North

In the merciless tides,


Three cracked old women

Nudge each other

            Along the broken brick footpath

To the little table outside

            Michelle’s Patisserie.


There are only two chairs

            So the shortest stands in the sun

Beneath an umbrella hat embossed

            With the Australian flag,

In grimy Koala bear slippers.


            The other two slurp Coca Cola

With ice cream, dabbling their straws greedily

            In the brew while the short one

Plants her arms on her waist

            (wrists folded in) & complains –


The large women smile

            & one rolls a cigarette & lights up,

Allowing the smoke to collide softly & inevitably

Against the frozen glass door.


            Through the cloudless haze

The mad women hear the distant hiss

            Of roiling ice & they nod

As a Southerly wind spins & whirls                     

            Across the burning tarmac

Into the light


Silvio the God

Perhaps there is such a thing as a national psyche,

Even when the world is trussed like a turkey

In satellite bands of electronic steel


But have the Italians never shifted

Their long allegiance to Caesar (every woman’s man

& every man’s woman) or Mussolini,


Incarnated in a tanned old rooster

Crowing while caressing the polished boot of Italy,

Parading his erection as evidence of immortality?


Silvio the God will never die while the riches

Of television & the State pile up to choke the doors

Of the courts & the throats of Judges,


He will live forever with his cloud piercing penis.

If he was a woman he would become invisible

& tough like Angela Merkel –


Not that ordinary woman who grows old

Hiding her need for warmth, who instead will plod

To the Church to perform works & pray


To that beautiful male stretched out on the cross

That he should come down to whisper

Gentle words in Latin but instead she must


Bake sweet cakes for her Grandchildren –

Become the carer of the family history (Because

Nobody desires her unless she is useful, or wealthy)


Then she becomes tight fisted & hard,

Dry as a plaster crucifix.


O great Silvio, count your riches & beware.

You may yet find yourself hanging by the heels

In the breeze beside a row of your pretty girlfriends



Three little vampires in blue school uniforms

Sit around a table on the edge of a park


Beneath the trembling leaves of a tree,

Light spattering their lovely hungry faces.


Beside them the concrete path is washed

Clean of all (except a thin crooked line).


It is going to rain soon & the darkness

Teases, as it dances through the weeds.


Eagerly they champ & dribble & clamp

Their jaws, waiting for the starving moon.



Angelina Mirabito: Sad Clown

Angelina’s publications include short stories in Muse and AntiTHESIS, an article in VWC Magazine. Three hour book shortlisted for the 2009 Lord Mayor Creative Writing Awards. She is a recipient of the Eleanor Dark Varuna Writing Fellowship and Rosebank Residency. Angelina is a member of the ongoing Novel Writing Masterclass with Antoni Jach, Creative Writing PhD candidate and sessional tutor. Christos Tsiolkas is currently mentoring Angelina with her novel Disobedience.



Sad Clown


Most people have imaginary friends when they’re kids, especially if they’re lonely kids like Christopher Robin. Mine was a wet cement imaginary enemy.


I met Sad Clown when I was in Grade Five.


Sad Clown watched me through the window. His face was an ivory white canvas with huge black holed eyes swallowing me. Sad Clown never listened when I told him to leave. He’d just stand there crying stainless-steel tears that dried into scratches. Sad Clown waited in the bathroom, my bedroom and at the school bench near the drinking taps. He was so quiet no one except for me ever noticed him. His body was long, his shadow swallowed me.


Sad Clown’s clothes remained like a hot air balloon blackening the sun. He had special powers so I could see him with my eyes open and closed. His bent figure had explodable arms and legs dangling from my eyelashes. Other times he stole my concentration by dancing in front of the blackboard where I once answered the question one times one incorrectly. The class laughed. Sad Clown loved the way my face went red and for the rest of the term he continued to laugh for being the dumbest person he’d ever met.


I don’t know why Sad Clown chose me for a friend because I hated him. He followed me everywhere and stunk of egg wet clothes. He used to hug me all the time when I was busy watching The Gummi Bears, The Smurfs, and The Care Bears. Sad Clown left metal splinters in my skin, so I often spent afternoons in front of the TV scratching them out. Sad Clown smiled cause it hurt when Mother covered me in Dettol and Mickey Mouse and Friends bandaids.


When I started high school Sad Clown came with me. He was more excited than I was. From the very first day he sat next to me on the train. Every morning at the station he’d adjust my hair so it covered my face exactly the way he liked. Then he’d tie a string round my neck with a black balloon attached to the other end. Floating above my head everyone knew not to make friends with me.


I used to see Sad Clown everywhere. He was in the mirror at Gran’s house; eating my popcorn at the movies, vomiting on my homework, breaking the numbers on my calculator and always asking me if my school uniform made him look fat. Sad Clown had dark magic powers if he wasn’t next to me he was looking at me through every window or reflecting off every shiny surface.


I was in Year 10 when I stopped sleeping with my clothes on at night. I never wanted to get undressed with Sad Clown in my room so I never changed into my pyjamas and often avoided showering til it felt worse than being naked. To strip I had to steal some of Dad’s five litre red cask wine, skull it, and wait for it to do its thing before undoing my clothes. It didn’t matter how many times I checked the doors were locked even if it was only for a second it was hard to unbutton my own pants and take off my own bra.


At night every night Sad Clown would walk in circles round my bed with family photos in his hand. Mother always blamed me for stealing them from her photo albums. I told her it wasn’t me. She didn’t care she just wanted an image of her family back. She never believed anything I said. Mother always told me it’s not my fault I can’t tell the difference between truth and tales. She said it’s from Dad’s side of the family. Mother could never have her Kodak moments back because with the photos Sad Clown stole, he’d cut out the people he hated and set their faces on fire. My face was always the first to be cut out and burned.


Sad Clown spoke to me in rhyming couplets. He listed all the ways in which the other girls at school were so much better than me. In the bathtub full of cold water I never dared to turn the hot tap water on. One wrong move made all the difference.  Sad Clown spent hours echoing my thoughts, going through every painful moment of my day. I tried not to think. I tried not to remember but I couldn’t trick Sad Clown, he had a better memory than I did.


Whenever I went to the shops or the library he came with me. He didn’t want anyone to see me so he’d throw black jellybeans at me and laugh until I dissolved in his shadow.


At home, when no one else was around, Sad Clown locked the bedroom door while he painted my face black and white. There was never any point fighting him, I’d learned very early on it was always better to let him do as he pleased. Inside the highlighter-blue walls I’d scrunch my face closed as Sad Clown rearranged my face til it got lost. 


Whenever the phone rang Sad Clown pounced on my hands. Sitting beneath his warning eyes I listened to the phone, hammer by hammer hitting each ring further into my eardrums til the noise couldn’t be beaten in anymore and finally rang out. Sad Clown hated me talking to anyone. Each time the phone rang the cream Telstra handle black, the noise screeched louder in my ears, Sad Clown’s forbidding eyes grew, year by year, day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute larger, darker, hungrier he ate all my colours. I watched the red in my veins turn bruise purple-blue and die black before Sad Clown gave me permission to move.


After I got my first period something inside me changed. Everyone said I was a woman and maybe that was what made it easier for me to start pretending Sad Clown didn’t exist. Even though Sad Clown continued to follow me for a few more years after I’d became a lady, there was always a distance between us. It was like an imaginary line had been drawn and it was more powerful than Sad Clown and Uncle Santo put together. I don’t know where this line came from or how I knew it was there cause I couldn’t see it. I don’t even know what colour it was but whatever that line was made of, neither Sad Clown nor Uncle Santo could cross it.


Sad Clown taught me about the safety that lives inside the colour black and silence, the only place to hide in. Sad Clown never said goodbye or made a big deal about leaving when the doctor adjusted her spectacles and handed me my first prescription for making sadness go away. Day by pill-stilted day, month by pill-paralysed month, gradually, Sad Clown stopped watching me through the window. More months went by, I swallowed more pills and stared at the mirror watching Sad Clown and I dissolve together, a little pill-induced further each day, til we both faded and blended into some kind of sleep-world. Once I stopped taking all the different types of medication, I ended up swallowing over the two years,


I began to wake up


Sad Clown doesn’t even breathe in his sleep.              


Matt Hetherington

Matt Hetherington is a writer and musician who lives in a flat in Melbourne with a really good bath. His most recent collection is I Think We Have (Small Change Press, 2007) http://www.smallchangepress.com.au/. He is also on the board of the Australian Haiku Society http://www.haikuoz.org/



For Davids


“The cage opens.  The canary closes its eyes.”

~ David Stavanger, “Everyday Magician”



the canary sings like a canary.


it dreams of flying through the morning without moving;

its claws clutch at the perch,

but it is the yellow light only that rushes past,

and it sits almost still, tasting nothing.


within the darkness of the everyday coalmine’s heart

it falls into sleep with its black beak open,

seeing only caves of night

which suddenly bloom into fields of yellow air.

it warbles of false dawns in the lives of happy families

which sound like early morning warnings;

it rises like a puff of cigarette smoke,


and drifts over crumpled fields and the need to wake up;

it skims over seas of yellow clouds

inside which perhaps are sleeping the hooded dead.


a drop drips from the ceiling.

a candle flickers in the draught the open door left.

someone has left the gas going.

gravity is holding on.


the canary sings like a canary.

the cage closes.

the canary opens its eyes.



                                               Starving Girl, Calcutta



acting or not, it didn’t matter

                   she didn’t need

                                    to pretend

                                    to be

desperate or debased or beyond despair

                                what she was

                                             could not be hidden


i was only trying to leave the country

now trapped in the back of a taxi

                                in a midday traffic jam

she clutched at me

                                      through the open window

          sobbing, chanting, imploring, wailing

                                          not even in english

(why didn’t the driver do like he did with the others

                                             and tell her to go get lost?)


i felt for coins but had none

so (keeping my notes for the next stage to the airport)

                                       as if it could help

                                                          i blessed her repeatedly


                                         and for a whole two or three minutes

                                                                           we stayed there

stuck in the spokes of the hideous, sacred wheel


                                                               at last the traffic moved forward

and she returned to her tribe under the plastic sheeting

while we drove upwards

                                       onto the rabindra setu bridge




Lone Bird Collecting Twigs


   “ Ah, my friends from the prison, they ask unto me

      How good, how good, does it feel to be free?

      And I answer them most mysteriously

      ‘Are birds free from the chains of the skyways?’ ”


     ~ Bob Dylan, “Ballad in Plain D”



in the middle of anywhere

                      letting its song waft where it does

the contours of its mouth a tree to climb cliffs of falling from


                         i frown gratefully into the horizon’s setting

              to see a baby looking

like she makes mandalas and angels with her eyelashes


below clouds like the brows of a father who cannot cry

           below the moon like a large clump of dirt

            below a jet-black eyeball staring through our ashes

                  yet while i give my own sight to the screen

              and it takes it

there is rarely a bad day


                        i have a craving for earlobes

and want to write a poem without nature

                         as lazy as the rain as usual

or maybe more like an el salvadorian gentleman

            who must eat even when not hungry

and cannot sleep even when he is tired


still through the voice of the indifferent wind

a question comes asking                “is it fair to love clouds

more than the sun, but less than sunlight?”


the answer is ‘yes’ if you don’t ask the question

but this one

teaching me how to breathe




James Stuart

James Stuart’s most recent works include: online poem-world The Homeless Gods (www.thehomelessgods.net); Conversions, an exhibition of poetry in translation (Chengdu, Suzhou and Beijing); and, The Material Poem, an e-anthology of text-based art and inter-media writing (www.nongeneric.net). He was a 2008 Asialink Literature Resident in Chengdu, China, supported by the Australia Council and Arts NSW.





Guangdong sidewalk


It’s time to savour your European life. At the airport

she combs her hair back into the Third World War:


Style is effortless the same way it’s easy

to have something unless everyone wants it too.


What emerges from urban pixellation is the greyest

of mysteries, furtive glance down an original side street.


You take each such image & let it vibrate

beneath the weight of two dialects, a single script.


I would join the chorus, though here

we pass only as much as one remains.


Soon the administrator’s garden, meandering,

revelation in the updraught of a smog-free sky.




May 2009 – Chengdu, Sichuan, China


A private celebration: mother

weeps; string of cameras carries

this likeness to row upon row of the remote.

What can you feel when the day turns to stone?


On a white beach south-west of Santiago

they feel it too: goose bumps in the cool sea breeze;

frosted glasses of Piña Colada; space afloat,

emptied. Handfuls of silence that pock-mark the air.


Then the unfolding of tides, lightly creased

linen of a surface which entombs

such reactions: nameless black water

layer upon layer of the stuff.


Skimming back across oceans to where a coordinated

wail rings out, appeasing humiliation

with pronouns & possessives

igniting public squares & campuses,

propane fists, their uranium hearts:

emotions when definite become

sharp, cut through whole crowds. This atonement

for the reckless anarchy of earth.


Against a sunset human shadows are

as paper dolls, barbs of phosphorescent light.

Finally, the arrival of the dead in wave

upon wave of photographs, spliced

narratives: unfurling,

an open wound, its destructive pomp.





Dim sum, the city’s great tradition: the captain of the steam cart

makes a beeline for our table across the vulgar carpet

then zig-zags port-side at the last minute.


We conceal disappointment behind the rain checks:

what can’t you find in a supermarket these days!?

In Aisle 4: plantation palm oil & the latest flavonoids.

Aisle 6: a numinous stream of crockery & chopsticks.


Ours was a world less innocent than such winding threads

of fluoro strip-lights & the gradual advent of disposable nappies.

For old times sake, let’s label our prejudices for the sample jars.

We’ll examine them tomorrow, over an ice-cold mango drink

in the laced shade of these hat brims,

though such a colonial taxonomy is sure to kill the mood.


Today remains your day. From his shrine, the North God

delegates aesthetic decisions as to the appearance of his idols –

that old fraudster! When the whistle blows, migrant workers

swim beneath the bridge and back to their dormitories,

a procession of orange hard-hats and flip-flops.


If you have ever seen such a sight

you are either immortal or a liar – for only now,

in the fragrant patio of dusk, do a pride of rosewood lions

pad out from the razed mangroves & prowl the foreshore

pawing at a rattan ball marked Made in Burma.



Solrun Hoaas

Solrun Hoaas spent formative years in China and Japan. She discovered theatre as a student in Oslo and Kyoto, where she also trained as a Noh mask maker. An award-winning film-maker, her work was experimental, exploring cross-cultural themes. Her short film At Edge was a discovery of the Australian bush through the eyes and voice of the poet Judith Wright. The film can be purchased from Ronin http://www.roninfilms.com.au/feature/753.html Solrun submitted work to Mascara Literary Review four months before her death in December 2009. This is the bio she submitted to our editors:

Melbourne-based Solrun Hoaas has returned to poetry after years of filmmaking. Her poems appear in Going Down Swinging , Holland 1945, Arabesques Literary Review, Softblow Poetry and Writing Macao.  







The Tailor from Noumea

My favorite winter coat
was made by a tailor from Noumea
at ninety-four, yellow cravat
beret cheekily cocked, crooked smile
wide as a welcome.

My coat one of a kind
patchwork of the finest fabrics
remnants from a factory long closed
midnight blue and grey wool blends
mustard suede for rubbing elbows
elegantly tailored, inside pockets
lining stitched with equal care.

The pattern was his own design
fashioned for civilian internees
sent from the northern pearling towns
and scattered Pacific islands
to incarceration at chilly Tatura.
Undaunted, he set up a sowing factory
for women in the camp, and there
the coats were made, all uniform
in maroon-dyed heavy wool,
to keep them warm through five
or more long wartime winters.

The tailor himself, born a Japanese,
was shipped  from New Caledonia –
his first involuntary visit to Australia –
as a civilian, but  enemy alien.
A lifetime business left behind,
his French no currency here,
he made the best of his confinement.

And when the war was over,
and he was ‘repatriated’ – not home,
but to impoverished Japan, a stranger there,
he started up again, stich by stich,
his handwritten sign in Yokohama,
still there –
‘Murayama, Tailleur Elegant.’
He had retired, but showed me around
the remains of his small factory,
ends of fabric still on the shelves.

One day a heavy coat arrived by mail.
A tailor-made Tatura model, lined and
multicoloured in thirteen different fabrics.

I wear it often, cloaked in memories of
his cheeky smile,  wide as a welcome,
and tales of proud resilience
to injustice, his story still  untold.


The Key

 I am standing at a castle.
There is a map of an archipelago.
This is where I want to go.
The quickest way to get there
is to sail around the world.
I try to open the door of the castle,
but can’t work out which key to use.
There are so many on my key ring.
A Eurasian girl walks past and
opens it for me. Easily.
She has her own key, bent in a V,
and shows me how it fits
in the hole. She hands me
her key and a guidebook.
I step through the door.
I am standing on a cliff
with a steep drop to the sea.
A man and a child were with me
and have gone back down.
They called me. I didn’t answer.
Wonder if the old walls might crumble.


The Platform

I should have been dead at eight
if logic governs destiny.
A heavy wooden platform fell on me
in the camelia garden at Aotani.
But maybe many years ago,
before a war had devastated
a thriving shipping port
and the ruined owners of a
Swiss-style Japanese mansion
were forced to sell my childhood home,
their platform held an orchestra,
violinists, sax and piano players,
as guests flirted and danced.

Why it was propped up outside
along the wall I still don’t know.
Most days it held up God’s word,
sermon, cross and organist.
As often, it was my incurable
curiosity that got me into strife. I pried
a wooden stopper loose at  base.
Precarious already, the platform toppled.
I still remember the thud, the cries,
the breath squeezed out of me.
My mother’s amazement that
I was not dead, not even a tiny rib
crushed with the sudden impact.
‘She’s a tough little girl,’ they said.
But even now I hear the gasp,
a moment when breath was suspended
and feel  the ponderous weight
of that preacher’s platform
crushing down on me.
What  music of ancient delight
was it, that carried and  lifted its weight?


My algae


My nights are star sand
sifting too slowly
through the hourglass
of diminishing dreams.

They could cut through
a mangrove forest once,
clearing a path to
a shimmering source.

Now, haunted by hollow accounts
and birds of credit pecking
at each lidless moment,
capturing the pitiful sandman.

Nothing left by morning but
drained waking and
marinated memories,
the shamisen serenades
of a tousle-headed fisherman
with a towel around his head,
who says,  ‘You’re hard
to take with chopsticks.’



Peardrops on eyelids
swollen with purple curses
persimmon percussion,
the taste of tart  guitarstrings                       
too taut, snapped
brittle as bone ballads,
a yellow weeping violin
harmonizing with
the azure blue smells
of early morning
synthesis of sleepless nights.



Bones of flimsy fibres,
my algae entwine the body
locking it in a brutal embrace,
every step inviting a bolt
of lightning to strike jolting
flames into tender joints.

Better sing for your breakfast
than beat your head
against the bedstead,
waking fibrous with myalgia.




Patrick West: Spurned Winged Lover

Patrick West has been published in The Penguin Book of the Road (Ed. Delia Falconer, 2008), The Best Australian Stories (Black Inc.) in 2006 and 2008, Southerly, Going Down Swinging, Antipodes, and many other places. Besides being a fiction writer, he is also an academic, essayist, scriptwriter and poet. Patrick is currently a Senior Lecturer in Professional and Creative Writing at Deakin University, Melbourne campus.






Spurned Winged Lover

Someone, somewhere, switched a radio on, switched on a kettle for tea, adjusted the volume, and . . .


“. . . in financial news, the Governor of the Reserve Bank, Martin Gould, announced today that he would be taking early retirement and stepping down from his position at the end of the year. Analysts have been expecting this announcement for some time and market reaction was muted. Interest rates are expected to remain on hold for the eleventh consecutive month after Tuesday’s Bank meeting despite recent strong housing market indicators combined with wages growth and inflationary pressures. Meanwhile, in other news . . .”


. . . somewhere, someone, a woman, switched a radio off. Alice Gander had her books to attend to. ‘Observed this morning’, she wrote in copperplate, ‘a white-fronted tern (non-breeding) cowering half dead on the back lawn. I was able to approach almost to touch it. According to Slater, the species is an accidental visitor, or vagrant, in these parts. Some of the locals have been giving it a hard time. The storm must have blown it in from the ocean.’


Alice sugared her tea. What twitcher could be better blessed? Airy doppelgängers in the mirrored surfaces of Sydney’s skyscrapers aside, the squalls blowing hard off the Pacific met with no obstacles before they gusted into her closely watched garden. How many lost souls, rare fowls borne high over NSW, had dropped on Alice’s doorstep down the years?


Martin’s face still itched from the pan-caking before the media conference. The make-up girl always laid it on too thick, he thought to himself, made him look like—he wasn’t sure what it made him look like (owlish perhaps?). He got up from his office desk. A small mirror hung on the back of the door. But before he could get to it, a sharp knock sounded.


When the Asian crisis hit, and every galah with column inches to fill was screeching for one thing one day, and the very opposite the next, not many on the board had sided with Martin. But Lloyd Collins had. Former blue-chip speculator with the blue eyes, and ambitious as hell underneath, his next birthday was one of those with a zero at the end. His enemy? Time.


“Fronting those press bastards gives anyone a mother of a thirst. A man’s not a camel. Are you up for a beer or several?” The two men drank at The Waterloo after success and after failure. And the bigger the success, or the bigger the failure, the more that they drank.


As he grabbed his jacket from the hook behind the door, Martin suddenly glimpsed himself. Read my lips, he thought: “Not a camel and not an owl.”


Instantly Lloyd swivelled as if a skater on (thin) ice. “Got something to say?”


Martin thought he hadn’t said it, but he had said it. . . .


“No mate, nothing to say.”


The announcement of the tern’s presence could wait until the club meeting on Sunday evening. Alice had a feeling it could do without the ocean for a little while.


It was warm for the last days of autumn. Martin and Lloyd undid the top buttons on their shirts, and tugged slightly at their ties, as they walked to The Waterloo. Jackets were slung over shoulders. Journalists and other financial types were at the bar, mobiles like amulets, and they decided to sit outside—although lunchtime’s news was already stale.




“Thanks Lloydie. Get one for yourself too.” He could still smile.


Stepping into The Waterloo from the glare was like falling down a coal pit—not that Lloyd had ever been into one of those. He tripped a little on the way to the bar. “Are you next in line?” Lloyd took a second to see who was asking. It was no-one. Just some cub reporter.


“Can’t you see that I am?” A moment passed before he got it. “No comment. Get lost.”


Alice’s town was high on a mountain on the slope facing the sea. The sea, which was out of sight. Population of town: 2 854. Height above sea level in feet: 2 854. The tourists were wrong to think that someone, somewhere, was having them on. The sign was right. And it made the inhabitants feel chuffed, as if somehow they each had special possession of twelve inches of the mountain responsible for a view that reached almost, if not quite, to the ocean.


Lloyd held the frothing glasses high out in front of his chest, like offerings of frankincense, incense or myrrh, as he backed through the door, and once more into the sunlight. One elbow brushed over the sign ‘No Work Boots, Dirty Clothes or Singlets Allowed.’ When it came to getting plastered, Lloyd was the perfect nationalist. Two VBs clattered together.


“Get that down you.”


“Just watch me. I’ll murder it.”


Yellow Caterpillar machines were chomping at the earth on the work site across the road. The clinking of glasses was lost in the roar of machinery. And in the yells above the roar.


Martin gently blew the froth of his beer across the street. Lloyd could never resist a metaphor—in every monthly meeting there was a bit of poetry. “That’s all we’re doing to the economy. Blowing bubbles at it. We need to scare the markets badly before New Year.”


“I’ll make some noises on Wednesday and that’ll be enough” Martin said. (And then: “Can I be straight with you? With Patricia gone my heart’s just not in it anymore.”)


‘Observed a pair of spur-winged plovers feeding by the dam,’ wrote Alice.


Martin thought he had said it, but he hadn’t said it. . . .


“But they’re onto you mate. The proof’s right before your eyes.” He pointed. Two men in white shirts had pulled up across the road. One of them was getting a pair of hard hats from the back seat. Martin jolted into alertness just in time to see the men grinning at each other as they entered the work site. Cigarettes were being offered to the drivers of the Caterpillars.


“Do you really expect me to nudge the rate next week just because I saw a couple of developers handing out smokes on a Friday afternoon? That’s full moon stuff, Lloydie.”


“There are worse reasons,” said Lloyd (who was trying to think of one).


“And much better. Any high school economics student could tell you. I’ll say that we’re monitoring the situation constantly.” (Can’t he hold his horses a bit longer? I’m not gone yet. This bloody politics is exactly why I want to leave.)


That and Patricia’s death, of course—six months, two weeks, one day ago now. . . .


“My shout, Lloydie.”


“You’re a legend.”


The white-fronted tern had finally found the bird-bath and Alice was settled in at her living room window with a pair of binoculars. Its chest was trembling. “I’m sorry you had to end up here like this,” whispered Alice. And although it was only a whisper, and she was fifty feet away behind glass, the bird seemed, for an instant, to cock its head in her direction. Alice shushed herself. A good bird-watcher should appear never to be there at all.


From autumn ending, to summer beginning, Alice watched her white-fronted tern survive in her backyard. One night she woke, as if from a nightmare, with the thought that it had gone back to the ocean. “Why am I so concerned about you?” she said to herself. There had been several further entries in her list of new birds for the area since the tern. Just yesterday, a rare species of wren that you normally didn’t see until you were on the plains far below.


All the members of the local bird observers club had been around to see the famous tern that had rejected the ocean for the terracotta billows of Alice’s bird-bath. Once she’d been a new arrival herself. Each member had added her then, at that first shyly joined twitchers’ excursion, to privately kept lists of exotic creatures encountered. Now she was the club secretary and very good at it too. Sometimes she dreamed of even more lofty promotion. . . .


In the end, Lloyd was it. And that evening he did his best to drink The Waterloo dry.


And summer came to a sudden end, with an out-of-season storm, and just as suddenly, although he could have afforded to live anywhere in the world (Bermuda, Burma or Belgrade) Martin was there in the town, at his first meeting of the local bird observers club.


For he needed new pastimes now. And as a boy he’d kept pigeons once, riding his bike great distances through the suburbs, with the birds snugly in a wooden box with breathing holes, strapped to the rack. They always beat him home, but would sometimes circle for hours, before entering the loft made of packing cases sawed in two, as he watched from the ground. “So who got home first really?” his mother had asked once, pouring a red cordial.


“That’s a wonderful story. But domestic pigeons are a real pest up here,” said the club secretary, as she took down Martin’s details and made up his membership card. It was the first new member in two years. “Gould, you’ve got the right name for our group at least.”


After introductions, there were the reports on fresh sightings and strange behaviour. Martin ventured that he’d seen some magpies while he was driving around town yesterday, looking at houses. They had smiled not unkindly at that.


Finally the president cleared his throat. It was the meeting to elect new officials for the year ahead. “Unlucky you,” whispered Alice to Martin, who was sitting alongside her.


Everyone was happy to continue as they were, except for one, who had a funny feeling about money.


“I’ll do it,” said Martin.


(Lloyd would have loved this.)


“Are there any other nominations?” No-one spoke up. “I therefore declare Martin Gould elected treasurer,” said the president.


“I can show you the ropes if you like,” said the ex-treasurer.


“I’ll manage,” said Martin.


As the meeting drifted into chit-chat about chats over coffee, the president came over.


“Do you mind me asking what you did before retirement?”


“Mr President,” replied Martin (he who had spoken to real presidents in his day) “once upon a time I did very boring things with numbers.” He typed in the air as if at an imaginary keyboard. “Now, tell me more about these binoculars I should be buying.”


“Now he’s one of us,” said Alice, and walked towards the window to gaze at the sea that couldn’t be seen, even on the clearest of days, at 2 854 feet.


The next day, the sign at the entrance to the town still gave the same population figure, but who can doubt that the residents would have walked at least a foot taller, if they had known that the ex-Governor of the Reserve Bank was now living amongst them?


‘It’s funny how little we mean to people up here,’ Martin emailed Lloyd, who didn’t reply.


It was almost a year before Alice worked up the courage to invite Martin to her place to complete some paperwork for the club. “I suggest that we get an ABN but don’t register for GST,” said Martin, as she showed him around her garden. By the bird-bath was a little cross. Having forgotten it was there, Alice gave the cross a casual tap, as if it were only a gardening stake or the like, when she saw that Martin was about to ask something or other.


Of course she knew by now that he used to live in Sydney. “Do you miss the ocean?”


“It’s much better up here. I’m not sure why people are so keen to retire to the coast. Once you get used to the sound of the waves what else is there to do?”


“Our little town is dying. They say the bank is going to close down next year and we’ll have to drive over an hour to do our banking. Don’t they make enough money already?”


“It’s no good, I know,” said Martin.


A honeyeater had alighted above the grave of the white-fronted tern.


“What’s that?” he asked, pointing. Martin still didn’t know all the names.


“That’s an eastern spinebill,” she said, and swallowed hard. Soon there were three of them, using the cross as a perch to make dashes across the bird-bath: Father, Son and . . . Alice caught herself before going on with a thought she couldn’t be certain wasn’t blasphemous.


“You’re not happy, Alice, are you?”


“I’m not happy, I’m Alice,” she said, and smiled at the sheer silliness of that.


They shared a pot of tea in her living room with views towards the ocean. Swallows and swifts were silhouettes in the sky whose precise species could not be determined under such conditions. Their darting flights were like thin black cracks along which segments of heaven might suddenly fracture and fall to earth.


Alice wasn’t sure if she was drinking with Martin after success or after failure.


“Would you like another cup? Or perhaps some more of those biscuits?”


“Don’t get up Alice. I’m perfectly content as I am.”


In The Waterloo, so close to the ocean you can almost smell the salt over the scent of beer when the wind blows from the east, Lloyd was drinking with a crew-cutted journalist.


“Do you remember the first time we met?”


“I think I told you to get lost.”


“To be precise, you said ‘No comment. Get lost.’ That was the day Gould said he was going.”


“Thank the lord for that!”


“He stuffed up pretty badly, don’t you think?”


“Off the record?”


“Lloydie. . . .”


“Anyway it was obvious to anyone who knew him. He took his wife’s death pretty badly and made some poor decisions. We’re all still suffering from that. He’s up the bush now.”


The courtship habits of hundreds of birds were no mystery to Alice. On the next club outing, she pointed out to Martin the remains of a nest that had once seen the birth of an oriental cuckoo. The others weren’t interested and had kept going along the winding path.


Should she risk it now? No-one could be closer than two or three turns of the track away.


“I know you’re still in love with Patricia.”


The next moment the sky was full of martins. Martins everywhere. Swarms of martins, cutting the sky into the tiniest of pieces. Surely, surely, it was going to fall now. Her one hope had been pushed over the side of its nest by an impostor. She had seen a cuckoo actually do this—the cruel kindnesses of nature. Alice felt as if her heart were swarming.


He could be firm, Martin, when he needed to be. Quite calmly, he made an echo of his previous question: “What bird is that?” And this time Alice looked where he was looking.


“It’s called a spurned winged lover.”


How foolish, how embarrassing, to have said that. . . .


“Alice, I. . . .”


“I should never have said anything.”


The spur-winged plover took to the air. Now the ex-treasurer of the bird observers club (the woman who felt funny about money) was rushing back with news of an exciting discovery just up ahead.


“It’s a first for us,” she gushed. “Do come and see it.”


“Alright,” said Alice. But there was something she wanted to point out to Martin first.


Broken shells of cuckoo and another species of bird were pressed into the dirt by the edge of the path. But that wasn’t what she wanted to show him.


“The spur-winged plover is really quite unremarkable around here,” she said, and, for now, Martin Gould and Alice Gander each agreed to leave it at that.


Then began a cycle of wild swings and outlandish corrections, predictions of disaster topped by predictions of catastrophe, compensations where none were required and the loss of resolve where resolve was all that anyone had. The numbers told the story but a million wild acres of newsprint made certain no economic hornet’s nest was left unprodded. To fall harder than your neighbour had fallen became almost a badge of honour. People really did end up sweeping Wall Street who once had worked there. People really did just disappear.


“International conditions . . .” Lloyd Collins started, but even he knew that was hopeless, and on TV and radio you could hear the hesitation in his voice as the words spilled from his mouth in increasingly confused combinations. At least, as one journalist put it, the end, when it came, was clean. The Governor of the Reserve Bank fell on his own sword.


As for interest rates? Well, what was Bradman’s test cricket average? “Smart arse,” said Collins, under his breath, at the journalist with the crew cut and the premature baldness. Then, just a fraction louder, “What’s that on your head? The recession you had to have?”


A couple, somewhere, switched a radio on, switched on a kettle for tea, adjusted the volume, and . . .


“. . . in financial news, the Governor of the Reserve Bank, Lloyd Collins, announced today that he would be retiring from his position effective immediately. Analysts have been expecting this announcement for some time. According to the ABC’s chief financial commentator, Ian Peacock, ‘once the tortoise got away the hare was never going to catch up. The Reserve Bank was blowing bubbles into the hurricane.’ Meanwhile, in other news . . .”


. . . somewhere, two people, a happily engaged couple, switched a radio off.


“What will happen to him do you think?” asked Alice.


“I don’t know,” Martin answered, smiling. “Maybe he’ll move in across the road. After all, ex-Governors of the Reserve Bank are quite unremarkable around here.”





Jorge Palma: translation by Peter Boyle

Jorge Palma, poet and storyteller, was born in 1961 in Montevideo, Uruguay, where he still lives. For many years he has worked for newspapers and radio stations, and has also run creative writing workshops, both poetry and prose. His poetry collections are Entre el viento y la sombra (1989), El olvido (1990), La via láctea (2006), Diarios del cielo (2006) and Lugar de las utopias (2007).





 Peter Boyle (b. 1951) lives in Sydney. His first collection of poetry Coming home from the world   (1994) received the National Book Council Award and the New South Wales Premier’s Award. Other collections include The Blue Cloud of Crying (1997), What the painter saw in our faces (2001) and Museum of Space (2004). His most recent book Apocrypha (2009) is an extensive collection of poems and other texts by a range of imaginary authors.




Un Rio Ancho Con Sabor A Otoño

Del rojo al verde
se muere el amarillo    

Tú que tienes la precisión
prendida en la solapa:
¿a cuánto estamos hoy?

El olor de la tierra húmeda
trae en los bolsillos
noticias del mundo:
del rojo al verde
se muere el amarillo;
de mi casa       al mercado
se mueren los niños
en el desierto.

Los noticieros hablan
de la guerra
y el cielo avanza.
Los noticieros hablan
de tormentas de arena
en el desierto
y los pájaros emigran
en mi cielo de otoño.

Mientras enciendo un cigarrillo
mientras la ropa
se seca al sol
se mueren los niños
en el desierto.

Del rojo al verde
se muere el amarillo.

Y las casas son abandonadas
por sus dueños,
y las viudas dejan flores
en la mitad de las camas
y se marchan,
se cubren la piel
con sus trapos de viuda
con sus pañuelos de luto
con sus ropas de humo
y caminan
por el borde del cielo
y caminan por las orillas
del mundo.

En mi patio con macetas
caen flores del cielo
y caen también
pájaros atravesados
por el sonido de la guerra,
y se despiertan las madres
bajo otro cielo
y en los mercados
las frutas, los pescados,
los pregones, no tienen
sonidos de luto,
ni hay viudas huyendo
a las fronteras
ni hay temblores de tierra
ni nadie sacude vidrio molido
de las mantas
ni los curas barren los escombros
de las catedrales y las iglesias
ni en mi cielo de otoño
contemplo esta mañana
la inmensa peregrinación
de ataúdes y pañuelos
que en algún lugar del mundo
se desatan; el polvo, la arena,
el desierto abrasador,
donde dicen estuvo el Paraíso
el Paraíso anhelado
a punto de perderse,
donde un niño sueña todavía
que tiene brazos
una familia, y sus piernas
inquietas de doce años
corren por las inmensas
arenas y salta, busca
nubes, desafía las leyes
de la física, soñando
por las tierras de Ur
a la sombra monumental
de las ruinas de Babilonia.

Del rojo al verde
se muere el amarillo.

Entre tu pecho
y el mío
se muere el amarillo.
entre tus alas y mi sueño
se muere el amarillo.
Entre tus piernas
y las mías
se muere el otoño,
a cuatro metros del cielo
por venir
a cuatro gotas de lluvia
o de rocío
a tres días de un disparo
demoledor y ciego
a dos minutos de la gloria
o el fracaso
a un segundo que aguarda
goteando el alba
tu boca de luz
tu llama
para contrarrestar acaso
ese grito que vuela incesante
entre dos ríos que llevan
la muerte
ese aullido que cruza el cielo
las tormentas el calor
un grito que cruza
el desierto, tu pecho
tu morada
y golpea como un puño
de acero
las ventanas de mi cuarto,
aquí, en mi pequeño cielo
de otoño,
demasiado lejos
de los hombres recién rasurados
que no volverán a sus casas,
de las mujeres
que conversan en la puerta
de un mercado
sin saber que esa noche
dormirán con la muerte;
de los que cantaron
en las duchas
por última vez, hermosas
canciones de veinte siglos,
y no supieron nunca
de nosotros y este río
ni del nombre del río
que nos nombra y atraviesa
con su mansa identidad.

Aquí en el Sur,
donde envejecemos
mirando los ponientes.

Wide river with autumn fragrance

From red to green
yellow dies.         
      G. Apollinaire

You with the latest essential
glittering on your lapel,
do you even know what day it is?

In my pockets
the smell of damp earth
brings news from the world:
between red and green
yellow dies;
between my house and the shops
children die
in the desert.

The news speaks of war
and the sky moves forward.
The news talks of sandstorms
in the desert
and birds migrate
in my autumn sky.

While I light a cigarette
while the clothes
dry in the sun
children die
in the desert.

From red to green
yellow dies.

And the houses are abandoned
by their owners,
and widows leave flowers
on the middle of their beds
and walk away,
their skin covered
in widows’ rags
in handkerchiefs of mourning
clothes of smoke
and they walk
along the sky’s edge
and they walk by the shores
of the world.

On my patio with its pots
flowers fall from the sky
and birds fall
transfixed by the sounds of war,
and mothers wake up
under a changed sky
and in the marketplaces
fruit, fish,
the cries of people buying and selling,
don’t bear the weight of any
sound of grief,
there are no widows
fleeing to the frontiers
and no earthquakes
and no one removes ground-up glass
from their shirt-sleeves
and priests don’t sweep rubble
out of churches and cathedrals
and in my autumn sky
this morning I don’t contemplate
the enormous journeys
of coffins and handkerchiefs
that in some place in the world
will fall apart; dust, sand,
burning desert,
where they say Paradise was,
the longed-for about-to-vanish Paradise
where a child still dreams
he has arms
a family and legs,
the restless legs of a twelve-year-old child
who runs across immense sands,
leaps, looks for clouds,
defies the laws of physics, dreaming
in the lands of Ur
in the tremendous shadow
of a ruined Babylon.

From red to green
yellow dies.

Between your breast and mine
yellow dies.
Between your wings and my sleep
yellow dies.
Between your legs
and mine
autumn dies,
in four metres of sky
where four drops of rain
or dew
are falling,
three days from a blind
blast of gunfire,
in two minutes of glory
or disaster,
in one second of watching
dawn fall drop by drop
your mouth of light
your cry
to counterbalance perhaps
the scream soaring without pause
between two rivers
that carry death,
this howling that comes to us
across skies
storms dry heat,
a scream that crosses
the desert, your heart
your dwelling place
and like a steel fist
pounds against
the windows of my room,
here, in my small
autumn sky,
too far
from the freshly shaven men
who will never return home,
from women
chatting in a shop door
not knowing that tonight
they will sleep with death,
from those who have sung in the shower
for the last time, beautiful songs
gathered from twenty centuries,
those who never knew of us
and this river
or the name of the river
that names and crosses us
with its gentle identity.

Here in the South
where we grow old
watching the sunsets.



Michelle Cahill Reviews The Gothic, Postcolonialism and Otherness Ghosts From Elsewhere by Tabish Khair

The Gothic, Postcolonialism and Otherness, Ghosts from Elsewhere


By Tabish Khair



ISBN 978 0 230 23406 2






Tabish Khair’s, The Gothic, Postcolonialism and Otherness, Ghosts from Elsewhere provides new readings of how the colonial/racial Other is negotiated through Gothic tropes in the work of colonial and postcolonial writers. Khair describes how the Gothic genre first emerged in a Eurocentric context as a narrative engagement with displacement, terror and the racial Other. He is less concerned with how postcolonial literatures reconstruct identity using Gothic characters and settings, an area that has already received much attention. His concerns are with the “invasion” of the centre, rather than with depictions of the racial Other in the colonies. This interest leads him to evaluate the theories of subjectivity and difference, of emotion and identity which are relevant to Gothic and postcolonial literary texts as they test the boundaries between Self and Other, between home and elsewhere.


Khair’s career as an expatriate Indian poet, novelist, critic and academic equip him to write the kind of book that might appeal to both the creative and critical reader. He writes with clarity, restraint and erudition. There is a fluidity to the way in which he references the relevant historical, philosophical and literary influences and traditions which shape his arguments. The book’s ordered structure comprises essay chapters which develop a hardly surprising binary dialectic that weighs the strengths and failures of the Gothic against those of the postcolonial. The scope and frame of the research here is sensibly delineated to Gothic writing from the British empire in English and its postcolonial counterpart. Khair’s interpretations of how the Gothic arose and how it may be read is, to his credit, always appropriately and carefully referenced. These interpretations extend beyond theories, to a review of historical research, such as the work of Nabil Matar and R Visram which documents the presence of Moors, Jews, Arabs and Indians in the port cities of Elizabethan, and later eighteenth century England. Khair’s own research in travel writing acknowledges the entry to England of black American soldiers, slaves, servants and lascars after the American War of Independence, as well as settlers returned to the motherland from the colonies.


Further historical excavation is undertaken to locate colonial Gothic texts: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is read with consideration to Malchow’s theory that slave revolts in the Caribbean were contemporary influences. The negroid depictions of Frankenstein, the racial depictions of Satan and the racial associations of cannabilism are elucidated with purpose. A chapter devoted to the evolution of the Satanic imaginary describes its gradual emasculation from the era of the Middle Ages when science and alchemy, when piety and barbarism were not seen as absolute opposites. Sketching the development of Gothic literatures as a reaction to the logocentricity of the Enlightenment, Khair shows how, as a literature, it engages with Otherness, and the fear provoked by the Other, be it Satan, demon, vampire, monster, immigrant; racially or sexually different.


The “invasion” of England by outsiders from the colonies, and the terror this stirred in ‘the literature of nightmare,” to quote Elizabeth MacAndrews, is narrated as a half-presence, a ghosting of the racial Other in Gothic literatures. Khair adopts familiar critical perspectives in his book, observing how these characters and presences are partially narrated. He argues that either they have hidden origins, like the protagonist of Lewis’ The Monk, or they remain obscure and mysterious, like the Indians in The Moonstone, or like Bertha Mason, Rochester’s mad Creole wife in Jane Eyre, who becomes the protagonist of Wide Sargasso Sea. Khair alludes to how this reversal of dramatic tension as a narrative choice is a familiar and potent postcolonial strategy.


Influenced, perhaps, by Terry Eagleton’s Lacanian analysis of the law in Heathcliff and the Great Hunger, Khair gives an insightful reading of Heathcliff as a terrorist, a displaced and disturbing persona from elsewhere attacking the centre and the heart of English civilisation:


Imagine an intelligent dark-skinned person, slipping into the countryside of a peaceful European country from somewhere disturbingly ‘postcolonial’, lying dormant for many years and then snaring the families that harboured him in a net of violence, revenge and terror. It might sound like an account of the so-called ‘sleeper agents’ that organisations like Al Qaeda are said to send into the heart of Europe, but actually it would be one way of describing Heathcliff. (p 64)


To know the nature of terror is vital to a deeper understanding of globalisation, this book suggests. Moreover, we are reminded that terror has economic causes; the choice to be local or global is essentially one of the empowered. Khair’s concerns expand thus into contemporary colonial encounters and to social contexts of racial and religious intolerance. Terror is that which threatens or complicates identity. “I am Heathcliff!”  Catherine speaks, in what is arguably one of the most profoundly disturbing and beautiful passages in English literature. Drawing from and quoting notions of alterity proposed by Levinas, Buber, Bhabha, Todorov and de Certeau, Khair convincingly shows how “the relationship of ‘elsewhere’ to home is also the relationship of the Other to the ‘Self’.” (71)


Khair’s analysis of the philosophies and critical studies on emotions draws from the work of Nussbaum, Punter, even Aristotle. Emotions which arise when the self interacts with the Other have the potential to destroy or complete. Emotions are evidence of alterity, exceeding the language of the speaking subject. It’s an engaging theme in the book, and a turning point for its premise. Khair shows how this is problematic for postcolonial narratives, which seek to narrate the Other predominantly in language, and to avoid what he describes as “the negative half of the rationality-emotionality binarism.”(97) The Spivakian question of whether the subaltern can speak facilitates his perspective that the Other exists in a language beyond the language of the Self. He argues that since the subaltern is constituted by a relationship of power, and since language is an agency of power, so the Other, when narrated in the language of the Self,  becomes the subaltern, reduced to the same.


Some repetition of these ideas in the book borders on tautology, and perhaps an inclination to over ponder the philosophies at the expense of textual analysis. This is noticeable in the analysis of Peter Carey’s eponymous Jack Maggs, a novel which intertextualises with Great Expectations. According to Khair, the alterity of Magwitch is created by Dickens’ gaps and silences, whereas, Carey’s Maggs is narrated with such detail that his otherness is erased. Yet Carey’s novel is also a contested space. Hermione Lee notes the many overlooked Other(s) in Jack Maggs: hurt children, freaks, prisoners, the displaced and the dispossessed. Khair’s analysis does expose the problematics for transparent or easily consumed narrative tropes. He is critical of conflated forms of hybridity which are deficient in, or careless about structure, having no cause for a relation to the real. While he gives due respect to writers like Rushdie and J.M. Coetzee, who narrate, speak and write back to the Empire, he highlights their extensive reliance on the language of the Self. This materiality, while being a strategy of empowerment, carries with it, for Khair, a predicament of its own. The Gothic, with its transcendent elements creates a space of ambivalence. It locates an imaginary for the excesses of terror and horror, where the Other resides.


This book may be open to criticism for its very binarism, the way it pivots Self and Other, materiality and space, verbosity and the non-verbal as opposites, since this establishes a criteria founded on dialectic tensions. There is a subsequent tendency to shape the author’s analysis towards the philosophical and away from the literary or the cultural, although he is always responsible and careful in how he negotiates this path. In some instances one wonders if a more literary analysis of postcolonial texts is warranted. The Gothic, Postcolonialism and Otherness is intrepid and objective in its critique of postcolonialism and in its defence of the tangential possibilities of Gothic narratives. The book is an important text, particularly for its transhistorical (and ethnographic) analysis of colonial Gothic fictions. With a compelling scrutiny it explores how the ambivalences and tensions of consciousness are constructed and narrated.






MacAndrew, E. Gothic Tradition in Fiction. New York: Columbia University Press, p3

Eagleton, T. Heathcliff And The Great Hunger.Verso: London: 1995, 46

Hermione Lee reviews Jack Maggs by Peter Carey http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/1997/sep/28/fiction.petercarey


Chris Brown

Chris Brown lives in Newcastle. He is writing a collection of poems to be titled hotel universo.







the first coffee doesn’t wake you

you sleep in     then go out   

09:26 and or 28 degrees

but that was minutes ago  

cooks hill books every room

in the house its own genre

half of fiction skimread

like a stylus skating dust  

in the audible distance

know the song not the title

nor the words     no more

than the melody really – the song?

on tiptoes handpicked the lady

and the little dog and other stories      

alternate title try future cruelties –

tonight ol’ petrov’ll tell the beggars of Ukleyevo:

god’ll feed yer at which political point

i’ll say no more     or fall out of the poem




Hesitant Apostrophe


Don’t apologise for your ideas –

I actually liked that one, the way

you describe the light, rounding

the corner, the ice only vapour

on the glass. Things this close


to you. The irises and therein

the kind of longevity we quantify

in an afterlife! The early game.

The wind like nothing we’ve ever seen.

And things we know. I like it. I mean it.