Written originally for a French audience to inform them about the richness of Australian writing, The Great Australian Novel – A Panorama now appears in a remastered English version. It is a story of Australia, its people and ideas, its history and geography as revealed through the exciting genre of the Australian novel.
As the title indicates, the book has an innovative cinematic structure containing 35 inserts: Close-ups of an author, low-angle shots for the greats – novels and/or authors, panoramic views for themes or the career of specific writers and bonus items such as a bibliography and an index.
The author speaks directly to the reader in a free-flowing narrative that is concerned with involving the reader emotionally and intellectually. Highlighted along the way are contributions by women, non-Anglophone and Aboriginal authors, as well as the most recent trends in writing.
A timely book for the general reader that will stimulate an interest in Australian literature.
Nicholas Jose has generously prefaced the book. Excerpts:
"The Great Australian Novel is, of course, a mythical beast which, if it ever came along, would overshadow the hundreds of novels that go to making up Australian fiction. This panorama is an incomplete quest through a terrain in which the many varieties of Australian novel line up in historical continuum as they respond to changing creative possibilities, divergent in their individual striving for achievement, yet also asking to be read against broader social and political contexts, patterns of literary tradition and innovation, and the shared thematic concerns that Vernay outlines.
His guiding principle is to see Australian literature on its own terms rather than, as is often the case, as a subsidiary of the Anglophone subset of world literature, to be placed according to the favoured methodologies of Anglo-American academia (usually, ironically, translated French theory). This requires him to separate Australian fiction from its British beginnings, tracing its differentiation through the inventive agency of authors as they take steps of their own, according to inward and outward necessity—migration, dispossession, marginalisation, experience without precedent, political commitment, and a determination to be heard, to be published, to gain recognition and reward. Vernay’s is a decolonising project that brings a vitalising perspective to Australian literary studies.
Starting with various ‘firsts’ for Australian fiction, the panorama proceeds through an impressive range of authors, in which obscure figures join well-known names, high mixes with low, and commercial or genre fiction challenges the literary. Marcel Aurousseau appears beside Miles Franklin; Walter Adamson, Don’o Kim and Antoni Jach with David Malouf and Eva Sallis. There’s a series of close-ups on seminal works, such as Clara Morison (1854) by Catherine Helen Spence, praised for its embodiment of ‘the possibility for women to free themselves [from] patriarchal chains’. Vernay is wide-ranging in adducing scholarship, especially from outside Australia, that sees the local through new eyes. His approach is original, even polemical; the style relaxed, and sometimes pointed. ‘There is a certain loquaciousness among Australian writers,’ the author notes as a puzzle to be investigated, an ‘abundance’ linked perhaps to ‘an anxiety of not belonging’. There is much to argue with here—one doesn’t have to agree with every claim or interpretation—and the sensation of being provoked within a coherent overall analysis is pleasurable. [...]
The outside gaze illuminates what the insider cannot see, especially when that gaze focuses on what most distinguishes the inside, what makes it what it is. Alexis de Tocqueville’s enduringly prescient Democracy in America was the result of a nine-month tour in 1831-32 in which the author appreciated the paradoxes of his subject and was able to see its idiosyncrasies and shortcomings as part of a larger whole. D.H. Lawrence diagnosed ‘the withheld self’ in the settler Australian psyche after an intense few months’ visit in 1922. Vernay’s observations are more deeply grounded in scholarship than those of Tocqueville or Lawrence, yet like theirs are enlivened by enthusiasm, sensitivity and engagement. He participates in the quarrels and triumphs of Australian literature. Whether this panorama is surveyed in its French or English versions, whether in the classroom where it will be useful or elsewhere as a general introduction, we owe Jean-François Vernay a debt of gratitude for his generous intervention".
Jean-François Vernay is the author of Water From the Moon: Illusion and Reality in the Works of Australian Novelist Christopher Koch
and Panorama du roman australien des origines à nos jours.
Marie Ramsland, Chevalier des Palmes académiques, is an conjoint lecturer at the University of Newcastle, Australia. Her translations include Hanoi Blues by Jeanne Cordelier and The Culverin by Michel Tournier.
The front cover illustration is a painting by Sydney artist Charles BILLICH.
Please note that BROLGA has the rights for AUSTRALIA ONLY, and so the book can only be purchased in Australia. Jean-François Vernay still hold the rights for all other English-speaking countries. UK and US publishers are welcome to get in touch with the author for a US/UK edition. vernay[at]yahoo[dot]com
The author acknowledges the financial assistance of the New Caledonian Government, the Southern Province and the Mission aux Affaires culturelles.
AVAILABLE NOW from PAN MACMILLAN AUSTRALIA
J'adresse mes plus vifs remerciements à Pierre Frogier, Président de la Province Sud, à la Cellule de Coopération régionale du Gouvernement, et à la MAC.
Aussi, un grand merci plus personnel à Sandra, Marie Paule et Emmanuelle, sans oublier Jean-Brice de la Maison du Livre pour avoir accompagné ce projet.
Je suis très touché que Marie Ramsland ait eu la gentillesse de me contacter pour traduire mon livre et que Nicholas Jose ait accepté de préfacer mon livre, et je tiens à leur exprimer ici ma plus grande gratitude.
Ceux qui souhaitent se procurer à Nouméa un exemplaire de ce livre traduit à 4500 CFP, prière de composer le 926670.